James McGregor DSO was born at Houston, Renfrewshire, Scotland, son of John and Agnes (Wilson) McGregor. He came to Canada in 1903 as a civil engineer and in 1906 was resident engineer for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, at Viking Alberta.
He enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force and after arriving overseas, was soon at the Western Front in France attached to the 3rd Battalion, Canadian Railway Troops.
By the beginning of 1917, the Canadian Corps (four divisions), had moved north from the Somme, to the Artois Plain entrenching itself on a line running from Ecurie to Souchez. A brief respite ensued while plans were laid for an Allied seizure of the formidable German fortification of Vimy Ridge.
At 5:00 in the morning on April 9, 1917, Canadian forces, in driving snow and sleet and under a barrage of artillery fire, began their assault on Vimy Ridge. An hour later they had taken the first line of enemy trenches and by mid afternoon had captured the crest of Vimy Ridge except for two positions which fell three days later. More than 4,000 prisoners were taken, some of them found chained to their machine guns.
On October 30, 1917 in the mud and driving rain, Canadians carried out their assault on the Passchendaele Ridge and captured it by November 10th. The cost had been horrific: Approximately 16,000 casualties, all for a paltry ground gain of four and one half miles.
The outcome of the war was still in doubt when at 5:00 a.m. on March 21st, 1918, through a blanket of heavy white fog, 64 German divisions attacked the Allied line on a 54 mile front between St. Quentin and Arras. As part of a three pronged drive, it aimed at splitting the British and French armies and gaining a quick victory before the American presence on the Western Front could be felt. It succeeded in advancing to within 10 miles of Amiens and reaching the Marne River 40 miles from Paris, but by the beginning of June the drive had petered out and the Allies were counterattacking all along the line.
At 4:20 a.m. on August 8, starting at Amiens, France, without the customary artillery bombardment, but supported by tanks, the Canadians charged forward on a front five miles wide. In 100 days, the Canadians had penetrated a distance of 14 miles from the Amiens salient. They captured 8,000 prisoners and 100 guns. This was the beginning of the end of WW1 with the Allies as victors.
Major McGregor’s award of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) was made on His Majesty’s birthday and listed in the London Gazette on June 3rd, 1919 with no citation.
Commissioned Officers appointed to the DSO must first have been "Mentioned in Despatches". Because of this condition many detailed citations were not available for the London Gazette.
Postwar, McGregor became a Superintending Engineer with the Canadian National Railways, based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.