132 Corporal Alexander Joseph McDonald
While camped in Egypt during the early months of 1915, the men of the 1st FCE were tourists as well as soldiers, most of them having left the shores of Australia for the first time and very likely none of them having never seen the likes of ancient Egypt.
Cpl 132 Alexander McDonald was very excited about touring the sights and wrote a letter to his brother Michael and in detail described the splendid Pyramids, temples and of course the Sphinx of Cheops
“The (1st Engineers) got photoed today at the Sphinx, horses and all. I am the highest, one in the picture. Pathe Freres moving picture man was busy taking our camp all day a few days ago, and I suppose the pictures will be out with you soon.” – 132 Alexander J McDonald
Ex-Woodburnite at the Front.
LETTER FROM EGYPT.
Published Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser, Friday 5 February 1915
Sergeant A. J. McDonald, 1st Engineers, writing from Egypt to his brother,: Mr. M. McDonald, of South Woodburn,
ONE OF THE HEROES
Article from the Windsor and Richmond Gazette (NSW : 1888 – 1954), Friday 28 May 1915
“Corporal A J McDonald who died from wounds received at the Dardanelles, ……. was 32 years of age, a native of Reedsdale, in the Braidwood district.
His early life was spent at Moruya district, and at the age of 18 he enlisted , together with his brother, Mr Dennis McDonald (now of Randwick) for service in the Boer War, and went through the campaign under Colonel Lassetter in the 2nd N.S.W Mounted Rifles.
Upon his return he followed mining in the Eastern states of Australia and Tasmania, and later on was occupied at his trade as carpenter in Fiji and N.S.W and latterly for some years with Hudson Bros. of Blackwattle Bay , Glebe.
All forms of athletics strongly appealed to him, and he was a first class cricketer and footballer, and at amateur boxing had few rivals.
When the present war broke out he offered his services, and was drafted to the 1st Field Company Engineers. He was married just a few days before the forces sailed, to Miss Eileen Abrams of “The Glebe” Sydney, who now mourns for her soldier hero.
The other members of his family consist together with those mentioned, of Malcom, Woodburn, Richmond River; Donald, Leichhardt; Michael, Goulburn; and Mrs L Shepherd of Braidwood.
A characteristic remark in a letter to his brother when writing about the Turks advance on the Canal was….”
“Judging by the country hereabouts it’s root hog, or die with some of us, if they bring a larger force into action.”
Original Source http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article85858120
Below …. the following story written by and courtesy Diane Hewson – Great Niece of Alexander Mc Donald
The politics of the world was unsettled and volatile over the coming years, with war finally being declared on the 4th August 1914. Alexander was quick to answer the call to arm, enlisting into the 1st Field Company of Australian Engineer. In just over a month his leadership skills were recognised and he was promoted to Corporal. He and the rest of the battalion soon left for duty overseas, his new bride farewelling a husband not knowing that she would never see him again.
25th April 1915. It was just before dawn when the 1st Field Company and the 11th Battalion climbed into the boats that would take them to shore. The first wave was led out by Major J.F. McCall, Corporal Alexander McDonald was to lead the second wave once the first wave landed. However, he was hit as he stepped off the deck of the Torpedo Boat onto the ladder leading to the boat. Corporal McDonald was supervising the disembarking of his men, watching that they did not expose themselves when stepping from the deck of the Torpedo Boat onto the ladder. Major McCall describes his bravery…… Diane Hewson
“The enemy was pouring in a heavy shrapnel and machine gun fire onto the boats, they had to get ashore, and someone with a big heart had to superintend, a man with cool head and brave heart only was of any use and Corporal A.J. McDonald was the man. It was almost certain death for the man doing the job yet he took it on, stepped onto the breach and calmly and cooly directed operations until he received his wound. Even while lying on the deck of the Destroyer waiting medical attention he gave some directions just as cool as ever.” – Major J.P McCall
Alexander was taken to the hospital ship “Clan McGillivray” but died later that day from the wounds he had received.
Letter from Major McCall to Donald McDonald re death of Alexander MacDonald-Anzac Landing WWI
Mr D. McDonald
Your letter dated May 21st, has only just reached me now, November 7th, I don’t know where the fault is at any rate, here it is though, really until the last few weeks it was quite out of the question to sit down and write letters. I will try and tell you now all I know of your brothers death.
I left with the first party before dawn, your brother was to follow with the second party directly after we landed. He was on the T.B.Destroyer and was in the act of stepping off her deck on to the ladder leading to the store boat, when he was hit. At first it was thought he would pull around, but I think though of this, I am not certain that peritonitis set in and he died as far as I could ascertain about ten days after being hit. All this was not made known to me till weeks later. In fact it was not then authenticated until June 6th.
When the roll called on the evening of the 25th, of April. Prior to the company moving up to General Walkers position and your brothers name was called the reply ‘wounded on landing” was given four days later when we came down to the beach again, at Anzac I made the most diligent inquiries and then found that the poor chap had been hit on the Torpedo Boat whilst actually supervising the disembarking of his men and watching that they did not expose themselves when stepping from the deck on to the ladder.
The enemy was pouring in a heavy shrapnel and machine gun fire on to the boats, they had to get ashore, and someone with a big heart had to superintend, a man with a cool head and a brave heart only was of any use and Corporal A.J. McDonald was the man. It was almost certain death for the man doing the job yet he took it on, stepped onto the breach and calmly and cooly directed operations until he received his wound. Even while lying on the deck of the Destroyer waiting medical attention he gave some directions just as cool as ever.
He was a big loss to the Company and personally I regarded his loss as I would the loss of one nearer to me. I have proved his worth and his sterling good qualities over and over again in Egypt and Lemnos. In the strenuous time Lemnos, prior to moving up to the Dardanelles he was one of my right hand men, he personally supervised the making of the rafts that were of such unmeasurable value later on at Anzac. Then he was always so genial quiet but one of those men that impress people by very nature of their quietness. And I am sure it will comfort you to know that as regards his religious duties he was most consistent. He made his Easter Communion on the Transport Suffolk with about 1,000 of us so he went to his Maker prepared. If I can get further particulars of his death, where he is buried I shall send them to you.
Some of our poor boys are on their way to Australia. Maybe one or more of them were with your brother when he was hit and could tell you everything about it. I hope to be spared to return to Sydney when I may be permitted to call on you and fill in some blanks that are missing. Meanwhile if there are any further inquiries your desire made, let me know and I’ll do my best concerning them.
Very sincerely yours,
J.P. McCall Major
Photo Acknowledgement and Thanks:
This photo of Alexander is owned by the descendants of Alexander Joseph McDonald, Mr Ian McDonald, descendant of Michael McDonald, Alexander’s brother and is published with their kind permission – Photo presented courtesy of Mr Ian McDonald and Diane Hewson.