Donald McDonald (Service No. 5959)
(1888 - 1962)

Donald McDonald (Jnr) was born in Laverton in 1888 to parents Donald McDonald and Elizabeth McDonald nee Bellenger. They were married in 1867 in Victoria and had been long term residents with Donald (Snr) having worked for the railway and all eight of their children were born within the district. At the time of his enlistment Donald’s father had recently passed away and his mother was living at Jamison Street in Laverton. Donald (Jnr) was working as an Explosives Labourer.

At the age of 28 years and five months Donald McDonald swore his oath and enlisted in the AIF on 27 March 1916. After an extended period of training at Royal Park Donald was appointed to the 23rd Battalion’s 16th Reinforcements on 25 September 1916 and prepared to embark overseas. On 2 October 1916 Private McDonald embarked from Melbourne on HMAT A71 Nestor and arrived in England six weeks later.

On 4 February 1917 Private McDonald embarked at Folkstone for France with the 23rd Battalion. They fought in the second battle of Bullecourt in May 1917 where they had captured all of their objectives and held them until relieved. On the first day of that battle the 23rd Battalion suffered more casualties than on any other day of the war. Later in 1917 the 23rd moved to the Ypres sector in Belgium and in October of 1917 they participated in the battle to secure Broodseinde Ridge.

23rd Battalion at Lost Ridge, Mont St Quentin

October 1917 saw the battalion in the Anzac and Muhle support trenches west of Zonnebeke Lake. During the day’s fighting their casualties were high with one officer killed and four officers and 32 other ranks wounded. One of those was Private McDonald who received a severe gunshot wound to his right knee (1st occasion). After five months’ treatment and convalescence Private McDonald was sent to the Sandhill Camp to prepare for his return to the front. He embarked from Southampton on 20 March 1918 and marched back into the 23rd Battalion on 26 March 1918. At the time they were then fighting at Catacombs in the Somme Valley.

In April of 1918 the battalion were part of the force that repelled the German ‘Spring Offensive’. After this Private McDonald and the 23rd saw action in the battles at Hamel (4 July 1918) Amiens (8 August 1918) and Mont St Quentin (31 August 1918) and Germany’s ultimate defeat. Private McDonald was wounded in action (second occasion) on 28 August 1918 while the battalion was moving into the front line near Herbecourt.

He received multiple gunshot wounds to his right leg and small (severe) shrapnel wounds to his back. After receiving treatment at the 6th Australian Field Ambulance and the 2nd General Hospital at Havre he was invalided back to England on 31 August 1918 where he was admitted to the 1st Southern General Hospital at Edgbaston Birmingham. On 23 September 1918 he was transferred to the 3rd Auxiliary Hospital at Dartford to convalesce and remained with them until 16 October 1918.

Just prior to Private McDonald returning to his battalion the armistice was signed and it was decided that he would stay within England rather than return to France. He returned to Australia aboard HMAT A67 Orsova on 8 January 1919 and disembarked at Melbourne on 27 February 1919. Private McDonald was discharged on 6 April 1919.

Private Donald McDonald was one of a group of soldiers that had enlisted from Laverton who were welcomed home at a celebration held in the Laverton State School on 14 October 1919. Mr John Henry Lister, MHR, presented each soldier present with a ‘suitably inscribed medal’. He then received his Victory Medal while he was employed at the Inspectorate of Explosives on 15 November 1922. It was also around this time that Donald left the district.

We know little of Donald after 1922 but we are aware that Donald McDonald moved to Hawthorn where he passed away in 1962 at the age of 74 and was buried in Fawkner Cemetery.

References:

  1. ancestry.com.au
  2. https://www.aif.adfa.edu.au/showPerson?pid=195852
  3. https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=1839982
  4. The Werribee Shire Banner Roll of Honor, 27 July 1916, p.1.
  5. The Argus, 21 October 1918, p.8.

Research by: Graeme Reilly (ALHS)