H.F. McDonald was born in Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan on November 22, 1885 – just two weeks after Louis Riel was hanged in Regina.
He went to Upper Canada College in Toronto and then McGill University in Montreal, graduating with a B.Sc.
He obtained his commission as an Alberta Land Surveyor September 12, 1912.
He enlisted for active service in Winnipeg at the outbreak of World War I. He was wounded at St. Julien in 1915 and the Somme in 1916. He won several honours and ended the War with the rank of Brigadier General.