No.205 Private Hugh Robertson McDonald
Hugh Robertson McDonald was born at Footscray in 1892, to Angus McDonald and Mary Ann McKenzie. They had married in Victoria in 1874 (3151/1874) and had eight children:
- Margaret McDonald - born 1875 at Ballarat (6820/1875)
- Mary McDonald - born 1877 at Donald (2053/1877)
- Angus Duncan McDonald, born 1879 at Star (12277/1879)
- Flora McDonald - born 1883 at Star (19921/1883)
- William John McDonald - born 1885 at Star (13780/1885)
- Annie Isabella McDonald - born 1887 at Footscray (19830/1887)
- Urquhart Hugh McDonald - born 1889 at Footscray (3573/1889)
- Hugh Robertson McDonald - born 1892 at Footscray (32628/1892)
[There were over 30 men with the name "H. McDonald", who enlisted and served in the A.I.F. during the Great War, and none have an obvious link to the Werribee district.
The Werribee Shire Banner’s Roll of Honor stated that “H. McDonald” was from West Footscray, and the man that has been selected was born in Footscray. He is the closest match.]
During his school years, Hugh McDonald spent 18 months with the Senior Cadets, in 'B' Company, 1st Battalion.
Prior to the outbreak of war in 1914, Hugh McDonald was living at Terry Street, Deepdene (Canterbury), where he worked as a clerk.
At the age of 22 years, Hugh Robertson McDonald swore his oath to serve in the A.I.F. at Melbourne on 1 March 1915, and went to the Broadmeadows Camp for initial training. He completed his training on 29 March 1915 and was appointed as a Private with 'A' Corps, 23rd Battalion, in the 6th Infantry Brigade.
Private McDonald embarked from Melbourne per HMAT Euripides A14 on 10 May 1915, as a member of 'A' Company, 23rd Battalion, 6th Infantry Brigade. They then sailed to Egypt where his unit underwent advanced training until June 1915.
The 23rd Battalion, as part of the 2nd Australian Division’s 6th Brigade, landed at Anzac Cove in early September. They had embarked from Alexandria per H.T. Haverford and H.T. Southland on 30 August 1915.* While sailing near the island of Lemnos, the Haverford was struck by a torpedo. It was able to reach Lemnos, where the wounded were hospitalised. After a two day break, the battalion continued on to Anzac Cove per the steamer Partridge, and they landed at 11pm on 4 September 1915. Once ashore, they were given the responsibility of manning one of the most trying parts of the Anzac front line - Lone Pine. The fighting there was so dangerous and exhausting that battalions were relieved every day. The 23rd manned Lone Pine, alternating with the 24th Battalion, until they left Gallipoli in December 1915.**
Return to Egypt
After evacuating Anzac Cove, the battalion returned to Egypt via the island of Mudros. The battalion disembarked at the Port of Alexandria (ex the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force), on 27 December 1915. Once they were ashore in Egypt they were transferred to the Australian Camp in Tel-el Kebir.
It was during this time of reorganisation that on 10 January 1916, Private McDonald went absent without leave for 35 hours. For this breach of discipline, he was sentenced to 4 days in detention, and an automatic loss of 2 days' pay.
After completing his punishment, Private McDonald was transferred from 'A' Company to the 6th Infantry Brigade M.G. Coy Details (Machine Gun Company Details). [The actual date when this occurred is not recorded in his service file.]
The 6th Infantry Brigade H.Q., the M.G. Coy., and the 21st Battalion sailed from Alexandria to France per Minnewaska on 19 March 1916. The 22nd Battalion sailed from Alexandria in the Llandovery Castle on 20 March 1916, and the 23rd and 24th Battalions sailed on the same day, per the Lake Michigan.
For an unrecorded reason, Private McDonald embarked from Alexandria on 19 March 1916, (separately from his Unit), and sailed to Marseilles per the S.S. Osmarich***, where he disembarked on 30 March 1916.
Private McDonald had become dangerously ill on the voyage, and once his ship had docked, he was admitted to the 'British Section' of the Lahore Indian Stationary Hospital in Marseilles, suffering with cerebro spinal fever****.
After a period of treatment, he was pronounced 'Out of Danger' on 20 April 1916, and he was sent to convalesce at the No. 2 Australian General Hospital.
His recovery was very slow, and on 7 June 1916 he was transferred to the No.2 British Hospital at Havre. They decided to evacuate him back to England, and three days later he sailed on the Hospital Ship Panama.
Back in England, he was admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley, for treatment of his cerebro spinal meningitis. His parents had been informed by letter that their son had been admitted to hospital, suffering from a 'mild illness'. After three weeks of treatment, he was discharged to Tidworth, on 27 June 1916, to convalesce.
On 2 August 1916, Private McDonald was transferred from the No.1 Command Depot to the No.2 Command Depot at Weymouth. After serving there for over two months, he was taken on the permanent establishment of the Depot, on 25 October 1916.
Private McDonald remained at Weymouth for over a year until 12 January 1918. He was then transferred to the M.G. Details Grantham for two months until he was taken on strength of the Permanent Cadre of No.2 Com Depot on 1 March 1918. As part of this move, he was appointed as an E.D.P. / Sergeant. [Extra Duty Pay}.
(Soldiers could be appointed to act as N.C.O.s in Reinforcement Camps, at the discretion of the camp commander. The men would revert to their substantive rank after they marched out of the camp.)
His instructing duties only lasted until 22 May 1918, when he reverted in rank to Private, prior to his returning to Australia.
Private McDonald embarked on 14 June 1918 for his return to Australia. He sailed on the 'D12' H.T. Essex, and his medical condition stated that he was in need of a 'Change', and that he was still debilitated with cerebro spinal meningitis. He disembarked at Sydney on 1 August 1918, and then travelled overland to Melbourne, where he was discharged as medically unfit, on 10 September 1918. Just one month before the war ended.
After returning to civilian life, Hugh was recorded as living at Dunvegan, Terry Street, Deepdene, and working as a clerk.
In April 1922, Hugh Robertson McDonald applied for a block of land at Redcliffs (near Mildura), under the Discharged Soldier’s Settlement Act. After an initial approval was granted on Lot 526, his application was cancelled in November 1923.
In 1924, Hugh Robertson McDonald was working as a Salesman, and lived at 57 Carlingford Street, Elsternwick. In the same year, he married Ivy Florence Turner, and they moved to 67 Clarendon Street, Northcote.
Between 1928 and the early 1950s the family lived in the Brighton area of Melbourne, and Hugh worked as a Secretary and then as a civil servant.
At the age of 64 years, Hugh McDonald died on 17 January 1957 at Brighton, Victoria.
His funeral was held at the Bathurst Memorial Chapel in Elsternwick, and he was cremated at Springvale Botanical Cemetery. His wife Ivy, had predeceased him by two years. Funeral Notice for Ivy McDonald –The Argus 24 January 1955, p.13.
His death and funeral notices appeared in The Argus 19 January 1957, p.24., “He was the beloved husband of the late Ivy, and loved father of Bill and Alan.”
His son William Walter John McDonald (who was a dental surgeon) wrote to Victoria Barracks in Melbourne on 6 April 1967, asking for his late father's Gallipoli Medallion.
Medals and Entitlements:
- 1914-15 Star
- British War Medal
- Victory Medal
Name on the Werribee Shire Oak Board: "McDONALD, H"
The name “McDonald, H, West Footscray” first appeared in the Roll of Honor, Werribee Shire Banner, 13 February 1919, p.3.
* 23rd Battalion Unit War Diary - https://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/awm-media/collection/RCDIG1005266/large/4959533.JPG
** 23rd Infantry Battalion History https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/U51463
*** The correct name is hard to determine. It could be S.S. Osmarich, Osmaniel or Clomarich?
**** Cerebro Spinal Fever – infectious disease characterised by inflammation of the tissue surrounding the brain and spinal column. Usually caused by a bacterial infection.
Unit War Diary
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