The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (4608) Private Francis John McDonald, 1st Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.285
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 12 October 2018
Access Open
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Troy Clayton, the story for this day was on (4608) Private Francis John McDonald, 1st Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

4608 Private Francis John McDonald, 1st Battalion, AIF
KIA 21 July 1916
Story delivered 12 October 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Francis McDonald.

Popularly known as “Frank”, Francis John McDonald was born on 6 July 1890 at Holt’s Flat, between Cooma and Bombala in New South Wales. His parents, Alexander and Louise McDonald, kept an accommodation house at Big Bog near Nimmitabel, and would later keep the Commercial Hotel at Nimmitabel.

Regarded as a fine athlete and “an unquestionably handsome fellow”, McDonald was educated at local public schools and went on to work for the railways based in Goulburn. He was working towards becoming a locomotive driver, having worked as an engine cleaner and firemen on the coal-fired machines. On the night of the 1914 Exeter railway disaster he was a member of the relief party sent to remove mangled bodies from the Temora mail train, which had collided with a goods train bound for Sydney.

McDonald enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in August 1915. After initial training, he left Australia for active service overseas with the 14th reinforcements to the 1st Battalion on the troopship Osterley in January 1916.

Private McDonald was first sent to Egypt where he joined the rest of the 1st Battalion, training in the desert after arriving back from Gallipoli.

Five days later, McDonald was with the 1st Battalion as it sailed for France. They were initially deployed to the “Nursery Sector” around Armentieres. This was a quieter part of the line where units new to the Western Front were sent to acquire the skills of trench warfare.

In the early hours of 20 July 1916, the 1st Battalion filtered in to the front line near the French village of Pozieres. The battalion’s commanders began preparations for an operation to capture the village which would begin on 23 July.

The day after arriving in the front line, and two days before the attack was launched, Private Frank McDonald was killed in action. Little is known of the manner of his death.

McDonald was buried in a trench just behind the front line, but was later reinterred in Pozieres British Cemetery, where his remains rest today.

Upon learning of his death, his father said, “No one can imagine our sad loss; from the cradle … until his departure for the front Frank never gave his mother or myself a back answer, nor did he ever meet us with a cloud on his face.”

Frank McDonald was 26 years old.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among more than 60,000 Australians who died while serving in the First World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Private Francis McDonald, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Duncan Beard
Editor, Military History Section