The son of Robert James and Mary Jeanie MacLaren, Donald Roderick MacLaren's family moved from Ottawa to Calgary, Alberta, in 1900, where MacLaren attended public schools and Western Canada College. In 1911, his family moved to Vancouver. MacLaren attended McGill University in Montreal from 1912 to 1914, but left the university due to an illness and returned to Vancouver where he completed a surveyor's course and worked as a fur trapper for several years with his father.
MacLaren joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1917. With 54 victories, he was the highest scoring ace to fly the Sopwith Camel. MacLaren scored his final victory on 9 October 1918. His combat career came to an end the following day when he broke his leg while wrestling with a friend. Following the Armistice, he helped form the Royal Canadian Air Force before retiring to begin a career in civil aviation. MacLaren became superintendent of Canadian Airways, Ltd. before being named Assistant to the Vice-President in charge of operations for Trans-Canada Airlines in 1937. He was also the founding father of the Air Cadet League of Canada and was invested into Canada's aviation hall of fame in 1977.
Also listed as Donald Rodrick MacLaren in the London Gazette.
T./2nd Lt. Donald Rodrick MacLaren,
Gen. List and R.F.C.
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. On one occasion, when on low bombing work, he bombed a long-range enemy gun 9,000 yards behind the lines, obtaining from a height of 200 feet two direct hits on the gun truck and two on the railway track alongside. When returning to our lines he encountered a hostile two-seater machine, which he shot down crashing to earth. He then attacked a balloon, which burst into flames, and finally, observing another enemy two-seater plane, he engaged it and eventually succeeded in crashing it to earth. He has set an excellent example of gallantry and skill to his squadron.
Supplement to the London Gazette, 22 June 1918 (30761/7417)
Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC)
Lieut. (T./Capt.) Donald Roderick MacLaren, M.C.
Accompanied by two other pilots, this officer attacked four enemy aeroplanes; all of these were destroyed; he himself fought two down to within 200 feet of the ground, destroying both. The two pilots who were with him each accounted for one of the remaining two. It was a well-conceived manoeuvre ably carried out, reflecting credit on all concerned. This officer has in four and a half months accounted for 37 hostile aircraft and six balloons, displaying great resolution and exceptional tactical ability.
Supplement to the London Gazette, 21 September 1918 (30913/11253)
Distinguished Service Order (DSO)
Lieut. (A./Capt.) Donald Roderick MacLaren, M.C., D.F.C. (FRANCE)
Bold in attack and skilful in manoeuvre, Captain MacLaren is conspicuous for his success in aerial combats. On 24th September he and his patrol of three machines attacked a formation of six enemy scouts, although the latter were protected by sixteen other enemy aircraft at a higher altitude. Firing a burst at point-blank range, this officer shot down one in flames. In all he has accounted for forty eight enemy machines and six kite balloons.
Supplement to the London Gazette, 8 February 1919 (31170/2032)