William Thomas MCDONALD MID

MCDONALD, William Thomas

Service Number: Officer
Enlisted: 21 August 1914
Last Rank: Captain
Last Unit: 4th Infantry Battalion
Born: Stawell, Victoria, Australia, 16 June 1880
Home Town: Forest Lodge, City of Sydney, New South Wales
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Electrical employee, NSW Tramways
Died: Killed In Action, France, 16 August 1916, aged 36 years
Cemetery: Courcelette British Cemetery
Memorials: Glebe Roll of Honor, Glebe War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

21 Aug 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Lieutenant, Officer
20 Oct 1914: Involvement 4th Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières , --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '8' embarkation_place: Sydney embarkation_ship: HMAT Euripides embarkation_ship_number: A14 public_note: ''
20 Oct 1914: Embarked 4th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Euripides, Sydney
25 Apr 1915: Promoted AIF WW1, Lieutenant, 4th Infantry Battalion
1 May 1915: Promoted AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, 4th Infantry Battalion
12 Mar 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Captain, 4th Infantry Battalion, Promoted at Tel-El-Kebir, Egypt.
16 Aug 1916: Involvement Captain, 4th Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières , --- :awm_ww1_roll_of_honour_import: awm_service_number: awm_unit: 4th Australian Infantry Battalion awm_rank: Captain awm_died_date: 1916-08-16

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Biography contributed by John Oakes


William Thomas McDonald enlisted on either 19th or 21st August 1914. William Thomas McDonald gave his ‘trade or calling’ as ‘Electrical Employee’.

William Thomas McDonald declared his age as 34 years and 2 months, and therefore had a birthdate in June 1880.

The NSW Government Gazette shows William T McDonald as working at Ultimo in 1908 and Randwick in 1911 and 1914 as a pitman in the Electrical Maintenance Branch of the Tramways. William Thomas McDonald enlisted at Randwick.

McDonald gave as his next of kin, his wife, Helen, living in Forest Lodge, and claimed to have served in the 25th Infantry in South Africa for 16 months, and to still be active with that unit, holding the rank of Warrant Officer. His number on enlistment was 3.

He embarked HMAT ‘Euripides’ at Sydney on 20th October 1914, with the honorary rank of Lieutenant dating from 3rd September. He was appointed as Quartermaster. He was formally appointed to 2nd Lieutenant on 1st May 1915 and Lieutenant on 25th April 1915.

After further training in Egypt McDonald embarked ‘Lake Michigan’ at Alexandria on 5th April 1915 and landed at Gallipoli on Anzac Day. On 1st May he was appointed Assistant Adjutant.

On August 6th he was wounded with a gunshot to his shoulder at Lone Pine. He was admitted to the 2nd Australian Field Ambulance and then a Casualty Clearing Station before transfer to the hospital ship ‘Gascon’ for passage to Malta where he arrived on 16th August. He was admitted to the Blue Sisters Hospital. On 5th September he embarked Hospital Ship ‘Garth Castle’ for England.

On 11th December 1915 William McDonald was Mentioned in Despatches of Sir Gen Ian Hamilton for services rendered in connection with operations at the Dardanelles.

‘On Aug.6th. this Officer’s Company was told off to capture the left end of LONE PINE. On arriving there his Company Commander and 2nd in Command were killed and he himself wounded. He took charge and personally superintended the building of a barricade whilst he kept back the Turks. He was wounded a second time during the night of Aug. 6th. and 7th. but remained on his post until the afternoon of Aug. 7th. when compelled to go to the dressing station. During this time he held every portion of the trenches gained, repelling every counter attack and by his courage and the example he set his men enabled every portion of the trenches captured to be retained and strengthened. This officer returned to duty on the morning of August 8th. but was ordered to the rear by his Commanding Officer.’

By February 1916 McDonald had recovered from his wounds and returned to join the 4th Battalion at Tel-el-Kebir. Here, on 12th March 1916 he was promoted to Captain and ten days later embarked HMT ‘Simla’ at Alexandria to join the British Expeditionary Force in France through Marseilles where he passed on 30th March.

He was killed in action on 16th August 1916 in France and buried ‘by the side of the Thiepal-Pozières Road, Mouquet Farm, just ½ mile NW of Pozières 3½ miles NE of Albert.’  There is no record of exhumation from this site, though contemporary records and the current listing at the Australian War Memorial show ‘Courelette British Cemetery, Picardie, France’.  It had been proposed in 1923 that the headstone would include the words ‘Believed to be…’, but McDonald’s widow requested that they be omitted.

William and Helen McDonald had two children, Grace Enid and Joyce Ainsley. Pensions were awarded to Helen and the children. Helen McDonald did not remarry and lived until at least 1967 when she applied for the issue to her of the Gallipoli Medal to mark the 50th anniversary of the campaign. She seems to have been a competent writer and typist who set out all her correspondence (and there is much) with the military carefully. Her claim for the Anzac Commemorative Medallion, on 16th June 1967, sets out her husband’s career in detail and concludes:

‘My claim as next of kin is based on the fact that our marriage took place prior to his enlistment, and that ever since his death, I have received a War Widow’s Pension.’

- based on the Australian War Memorial Honour Roll and notes for the Great Sydney Central Station Honour Board.