No.5959 Private Donald McDonald
Donald McDonald (Jnr) was born in 1888 at Laverton to Donald McDonald (Snr) and Elizabeth Bellinger (or Bellenger). They had married in Victoria in 1868, and had eight children.
Their children were:
- William McDonald, born 1868, Wyndham
- John McDonald, born 1869, Wyndham
- Mary Jane McDonald, born 1871, Wyndham. Died 1873 at Wyndham
- Thomas McDonald, born 1873, Wyndham. Died 1873 at Wyndham
- Barbara Ann McDonald, born 1876, Wyndham
- Elizabeth McDonald, born 1878, Wyndham
- Margaret McDonald, born 1884, Werribee
- Donald McDonald, born 1888, Truganina
The McDonald family were long-term residents of the district, and all of their children were born in the Wyndham area. At the time of his enlistment Donald’s father had died, and his mother was living at Jamison Street in Laverton.
One year earlier, an article in the Werribee Shire Banner, 29 April 1915, p.2 stated – “for its male population a greater percentage of volunteers, claims Laverton for their home or have enlisted from there, than any place the same size. The Government explosives reserve guard has been an excellent recruiting ground. In addition to a Lieutenant, a Sergeant Major and Sergeant and a dozen privates have transferred to Broadmeadows.”
At the age of 28 years and eight months, Donald McDonald swore his oath and enlisted in the Australian Infantry Force (A.I.F.) at Melbourne on 27 March 1916.
Between 11 April 1916 and 8 May 1916 he completed his basic training, and he was then sent to 'D' Company, at the 23rd Depot Battalion, Royal Park for two weeks (between 9 May and 26 May 1916.) He was with 'A' Company of the 24th Depot Battalion between 26 May and 17 June 1916 before being sent to the Langwarren Camp between 17 June and 10 September 1916. After this extended period of training, Donald was appointed to the 23rd Battalion’s 16th Reinforcements, at Royal Park, on 25 September 1916, and prepared to embark overseas.
On 2 October 1916, Private McDonald embarked from Melbourne per HMAT Nestor A71. After a six week voyage he disembarked in England on the 16 November 1916, and marched in to the 6th Training Battalion at Larkhill.
In the middle of January 1917 Private McDonald was admitted to the Fargo Military Hospital in Birmingham suffering with influenza. ** After two weeks of treatment he was able to resume training at Larkhill prior to going to France.
On 4 Feburary 1917, Private McDonald embarked at Folkstone per S.S. Arundel for France. After time in the depots in France, on 31 March 1917 he was taken on strength with the 23rd Battalion*** while they were resting at Becourt in France.
The 23rd Battalion 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 Battalion moved to the Ypres sector in Belgium, and in October of 1917 they participated in the battle to secure Broodseinde Ridge.
On 3 October 1917, the Battalion were in the Anzac and Muhle support trenches, west of Zonnebeke Lake. During the day’s fighting their casualties were high, with 1 officer killed, and 4 officers and 32 other ranks wounded. One of those was Private McDonald who received a severe gunshot wound to his right knee (first occasion).
He received treatment in the 3rd Casualty Clearing Station, before being transferred to the 10th General Hospital at Rouen. In need of further specialised treatment, he embarked for England per hospital ship H.S. Warilda, and on arrival he was admitted to the 1st General Hospital at Stourbridge Buckinghamshire on 15 October 1917.
After five months’ treatment and convalescence, Private McDonald was sent to the Sandhill Camp at Longbridge Deverill 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. 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. Then followed 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, when he was granted leave.
On 30 October 1918 he marched in to the No 4 Com Depot at Hurdcott. While there the Armistice was signed, and it was decided that he would stay in England, rather than return to his unit in France. He spent his time waiting for a passage home at the Overseas Training Brigade at Long Deverill.
Private McDonald returned to Australia per Orsova on 8 January 1919, and disembarked at Melbourne on 27 February 1919. He was discharged from the 3rd Military District on 6 April 1919.
Private D 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 Lister, M.H.R., presented each soldier present with a “suitably inscribed medal".
Werribee Shire Banner 23 October 1919, p.2.
Donald McDonald then received his Victory Medal while he was employed at the Inspectorate of Explosives on 15 November 1922.
Around this time Donald McDonald left the Laverton district, and because there are multiple men of that name in the electoral rolls, the remainder of his life is too difficult to research. There is no indication in his military file to say when he died.
Medals and Entitlements:
- British War Medal
- Victory Medal
Name on the Werribee Shire Oak Board: “McDONALD, D”
The name “McDonald, D – from Laverton” first appeared in the Roll of Honor, Werribee Shire Banner, 27 July 1916, p.1.
His first wounding was reported in the Roll of Honor, Victorian List, published in the Weekly Times 08 December 1917, p.32.
His second wounding was included in the Victorian Casualties List No.435, which was published in the Melbourne Argus 21 October 1918, p.8
A Donald McDonald was buried at Werribee in 1940, aged 71. (born 1869)
A Donald McDonald was buried at Werribee in 1912, aged 67. (born 1845) Possibly this was Donald’s father.
* Truganina Explosive Reserve history
** Influenza viruses, type A – Two large outbreaks occurred in 1916-17 at large military camps. These were Etaples in N.W. France, and at Aldershot in S.W. England.
*** The 23rd Battalion was part of the 3rd Battalion of the 6th Brigade.
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