William H.A. Willbond MSM, CD

FRANK’S LAST POSTING

Frank MacDonaldDanna Vale, told the world a sad tale
‘bout an Aussie Hero today.
At the battle of Ypres, in 1917
Frank MacDonald won the day!

Frank won the MM for Gallantry
In the front line mending wire
Never wounded; he had lotsa luck
Whilst working under fire

Frank served his Country and his King
Gassed three times, ‘twas a terrible thing
He waited until he was a hundred and seven
Then took his last posting: “pearly gate heaven”!!

The Aussies lost a good one to-day: 23 August 2003

Frank MacDonald: Australia’s Oldest Veteran Dies at 107

By Richard Goldstein
The New York Times

Frank MacDonald, Australia’s oldest First World War veteran, and its last surviving serviceman to have been cited for bravery in that war, died on August 23 in Burnie, Tasmania. He Was 107.

Australia had been a commonwealth for just over a decade when it entered the First World War, but its people still identified themselves mostly with their home states. When reports arrived of their countrymen in battle, particularly of their bravery in the campaign against the Ottoman Empire at Gallipoli, Australians began to reflect on their common heritage, and so the sacrifices of that generation resonate today.

MacDonald’s death was announced by Australia’s veterans’ affairs minister, Danna Vale, and officials in Tasmania arranged a state funeral.

MacDonald received the Military Medal for Gallantry at the battle of Ypres, Belgium, in October 1917, for repairing telegraph lines between his battalion headquarters and the trenches while under fire. He became a symbol of heroism for Australians, but when he first tried to enlist in the military, he was rejected.

“They wouldn’t take me in 1914 because I had bad teeth.” Macdonald told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on November 11, 2001, the 83rd anniversary of the First World War armistice. “I had those out, got my new ones in November 1914, and they knocked me back because you had to have your own grinders, top and bottom, double teeth, so I went up to Queensland to cut sugar cane for a season.”

By March 1916, when he sought to enlist once more, the war’s carnage had created manpower needs that far out-weighed MacDonald’s dental deficiencies.

“They didn’t argue after that when I come back,” he recalled. “I didn’t ever have to take me coat off.” MacDonald served as a Corporal in the all-Tasmanian 40th Battalion. Despite taking part in many battles in Belgium and France, he was never wounded, but he was gassed three times and suffered impaired hearing from the constant shelling. Even in his last years, he remembered horrific scenes, citing particularly the time he came upon scores of American dead in a riverbed during the battle of the Hindenburg Line. “I should have been killed a dozen times, but I wasn’t,” Australian press reports quoted him as telling an interviewer a few years ago. “I had 10 times as much luck as any man is entitled to.”