New Accession: Donald James MacDonald Record of Service Book (1941 to 1945)

Accession 28201

A recent donation to the Queensland Memory's Original Content collection is a Record of Service Book and a Demobilization Procedure Book issued to a Queenslander, Donald James MacDonald, on 28 July 1941.

From the Record of Service Book we learn that Corporal MacDonald (whose Army Number was Qx33581) was born on 14 January 1917 in Innisfail. He was a Surveyor's Assistant by trade and his religion was Presbyterian. His address in the 1940s was 6 Bunda Street, Innisfail, his marital status was “S” and his employer was the Main Roads Commission.

5’7” (170 cm) tall, MacDonald weighed 150 pounds (68 kilograms) when he enlisted. He is described as being of fair complexion, with grey eyes and brown hair, and he had a mole on the left shoulder.

The Record of Service Book lists “personal issues” to the soldier. In MacDonald’s case these included: 1 beret, 3 military khaki shirts, 3 pairs of drill trousers, 2 pairs of boots, two identity discs, razors, a lanyard, socks and an anti-gas cape. His “personal equipment” included: a bayonet, a rifle, water bottles, a haversack, sheets and a tent.

We also learn that on 25 of September 1944 Corporal MacDonald had chest x-rays. Between 1941 and 1944 he received vaccinations for tetanus and cholera, and in 1944 he suffered from malaria.

Donald James MacDonald’s Demobilization Procedure Book contains his education record. He attended Millaa Millaa State School for seven years, finishing in 1930.

These official documents naturally do not tell us much about Corporal MacDonald as a civilian. Looking at the photograph of the man, it is difficult not to wonder how he spent the rest of his life. Did he marry after the war? Did he have children? Did he live a happy and fulfilled life or did his experience of the war leave him psychologically scarred, as was the case with many men of his generation?



Veronika Farley, Librarian - State Library of Queensland


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I am the niece of Donald James MacDonald and was his carer for the last twenty years of his life, so I am able to fill in the rest of his story.Don was the youngest of four children born to John Thomas MacDonald and Margaret Janet Hay Thornton. When he was about six years old the family moved to Millaa Millaa on the Atherton Tableland and commenced dairying. His memories of those days are of cold, damp, unremitting work and poverty. His father died when he was ten, and his mother tried to keep the farm going for several more years, but in the end it was too much for her and moved the family back to the coast. where she established a milk run. This enterprise failed. Don's only brother, Jack, after timber cutting and cane cutting for a living, obtained a position as a chain man on a surveying gang, and later Don was able to join him., and worked on the survey of the Cairns Range road. When was broke out in 1939 Jack enlisted, but Don was working as a surveyor's assistant surveying the road from Charters Towers through Greenvale.. He enlisted in the Army in 1941, and served in New Guinea and Bouganville. His brother Jack was killed at the fall of Singapore. After Don was demobilised, he married Mary Violet Pike in Cairns, and they moved to the Tully Falls where Don was working as a surveyor for the Electricity Commission. Later, he drew a Soldier's Settler block at the Burdekin where he grew tobacco for a few years. This scheme failed, and Don was able to sell the farm and move to Cairns where he worked as a surveyor for the Cairns Regional Electricity Board. He was responsible for many important surveys carried out through the process of taking electricity to much of North Queensland. This included the line to Cooktown which was a monumental task. In about 1962 Don and Mary moved to Tolga where Don built his own house. Mary died in the mid 1980s shortly after Don's retirement. Don moved to Carinya, an aged care facility in Atherton, where he died in 2011. He and Mary had no children.Don was a truly remarkable man who was gifted mathematically. He taught himself algebra and trigonometry, and was admitted to the Institute of Surveyors in spite of having no formal qualifications. According to engineers, if Don surveyed a line, it was correct, and no alterations had to be made.He was scarred by his early life and his war experience, and his brother's death had a profound influence on the whole family. He was rarely happy, and did not tolerate fools, but he was extraordinarily talented in many ways and was very much respected, not only by his peers, but also by his wider family of two sisters and seven nieces and nephews.