British War Medal with MID : Major A J L McDonnell, AIF

Unit Headquarters Units
Place Europe
Accession Number REL38409.005
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Medal
Physical description Cupronickel
Maker Unknown
Place made United Kingdom
Date made c 1945
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

British War Medal with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf. Unnamed as issued.

History / Summary

Aeneas John Lindsay McDonnell was born at Toowoomba, QLD in 1904. He enlisted for military service in Brisbane in May 1944, however McDonnell had already served overseas, with the Red Cross in Africa and the Middle East from April 1940 until November 1943. McDonnell enlisted with the AIF at the rank of lieutenant, though upon his secondment to British forces for special duty he was listed as temporary lieutenant colonel. Under the Civil Affairs Division of the Allied armies, McDonnell served as an Australian representative on the Commission of Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFAA) and was despatched at various times to France, Germany and Austria. McDonnell's civilian experience as an art collector, connoisseur and partner of Macquarie Galleries in Sydney (c 1928), equipped him with the requisite skills and experience for his work with the MFAA. Established in 1943, the MFAA's initial responsibility was to protect cultural artifacts and monuments from war damage, then afterwards, repatriate cultural treasures stolen by the Nazis to their rightful owners when and where possible. Also known as Monuments Men, the MFAA was comprised of approximately 350-400 men and women who were trained as museum directors, curators, art historians, and educators. From 1943 till the cessation of hostilities, officers of the MFAA saved and protected countless cultural artifacts, monuments and churches across Western Europe. As the Allied armies moved into Germany and Austria in 1945, they uncovered a vast amount of hidden caches of cultural treasures often in abandoned salt mines, which offered appropriate humidity conditions and relative safety from Allied bombing. The first mine investigated by the Monuments Men, near Siegen in Westphalia in April 1945, contained works by Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Rubens, as well as an original score of Beethoven's Sixth Symphony. Many of the treasures uncovered in the mines and castles of Germany and Austria had been looted by the Nazis from all over Europe; the salt mine at Alt Aussee in Austria, uncovered by Patton's Third Army, contained Goring's personal collection of stolen Italian art. Additionally, cultural treasures from German and Austrian collections had been stored in these caches for safety and preservation. For his services to the French people, McDonnell was awarded the Légion d'honneur in the class of Officier. Upon his discharge from service in January 1947, he was granted the honorary rank of lieutenant colonel and from 1947-63 he served as the London adviser to the National Gallery of Victoria's Felton Bequest, which acquired masterpieces for the gallery's collections. He passed away in London in 1964.