Private, 133, James Alexander McDonald (29) – Killed in Action

28th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, 29th July 1916 

28th Battalion, A.I.F., Colour Patch, similar to the one which would have been worn by James Alexander McDonald.

De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour

Extract from the above publication :- MCDONALD, JAMES ALEXANDER, Private, No. 133, 28th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, 2nd son of John McDonald, Joiner, by his wife, Gabella, daughter of Charles Glass; born Glenrinnes, Dufftown, Banffshire, 18 March, 1887; educated Dufftown Public School; went to Australia in April, 1911, and settled there as a Wood Cutter; volunteered for the Imperial Service, and joined the 28th Battalion, The Australian Imperial Force in March 1915; served with the Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders, and was killed in action at Pozieres, 28 July, 1916.

28th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force – 1915-1916

The 28th Battalion was raised at Blackboy Camp in Western Australia on 16 April 1915 from recruits previously earmarked for the 24th Battalion, which was instead being raised in Victoria. The battalion left Australia in June, and, after two months spent training in Egypt, landed at Gallipoli on 10 September.

At Gallipoli, the 7th Brigade, which included the 28th Battalion, reinforced the weary New Zealand and Australian Division. The 28th had a relatively quiet time at Gallipoli and the battalion departed the peninsula in December, having suffered only light casualties.

After another stint in Egypt, the 7th Brigade proceeded to France and the Western Front, as part of the 2nd Australian Division. The 28th Battalion took part in its first major battle at Pozieres between 28 July and 6 August 1916. After a spell in a quieter sector of the front in Belgium, the 2nd Division returned to the south in October, where the 28th Battalion took part in confused and costly fighting to the east of Flers, in the Somme Valley.

Australian Imperial Force Cap Badge, similar to the one which would have been worn by James Alexander McDonald.

Morayshire Roll of Honour

Extract from the above 1921 publication :- MCDONALD, JAMES ALEXANDER. No.133, Private, 28th Battalion Australians; born at Glenrinnes, Mortlach, 18th March, 1887, employed in Morayshire; joined at Perth, Australia, 15th February 1915; served in Gallipoli and France; killed in action at Possieres (Pozieres), 29th July, 1916. Son of John and Isabella McDonald, Relugas, Dunphail (near Forres). Occupation – Wood Cutter.

The Battle of Pozieres

Pozieres, a small village in the Somme valley in France, was the scene of bitter and costly fighting for the 1st, 2nd and 4th Australian Divisions in mid 1916.

The village was captured initially by the 1st Division on 23 July 1916. The division clung to its gains despite almost continuous artillery fire and repeated German counter-attacks but suffered heavily. By the time it was relieved on 27 July it had suffered 5,285 casualties.

The 2nd Division took over from the 1st and mounted two further attacks – the first, on 29 July, was a costly failure; the second, on 2 August, resulted in the seizure of further German positions beyond the village. Again, the Australians suffered heavily from retaliatory bombardments. They were relieved on 6 August, having suffered 6,848 casualties.

The 4th Division was next into the line at Pozieres. It too endured a massive artillery bombardment, and defeated a German counter-attack on 7 August; this was the last attempt by the Germans to retake Pozieres.

Further Military and Civilian Research

  • 15 February 1915 – Alexander James McDonald was a single man when he enlisted into the 28th Battalion, 7th Brigade of the Australian Imperial Force, at Blackboy Hill, Greenmount, Western Australia. At the time, he was approaching his 27th Birthday and he had been employed as a Mill Hand. He had four years previous military experience while in Scotland in the 6th Volunteer Battalion, Gordon Highlanders. At this time he was described as :-
  • 5’6″ Tall.
  • Weight – 40 lbs.
  • Chest Measurements 34 – 37 inches max.
  • Hair – Fair.
  • Eyes – Blue.
  • Complexion – Fair.
  • Religion – Presbyterian.
  • 4 September 1915 – Embarked for Gallipoli aboard the ‘SS Ivernia’.
  • 10 January 1916 – Disembarked at Mudros, Greece.
  • 16 March 1916 – Proceeded to join the British Expeditionary Force.
  • 21 March 1916 – Disembarked at Marseilles.
  • 29 March 1916 – to No.2 Casualty Clearing Station with influenza.
  • 1 April 1916 – Returned to unit.
  • 29 July 1916 – Reported missing in action, it wasn’t until the January of 1917 that his death was confirmed although the circumstances were unknown.
  • He is honoured and remembered on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial, Somme, France as either his body was not identified or never recovered.
SS Ivernia, one of the transport ships used by James Alexander McDonald.

Family

James McDonald was born on 18 March, 1887 at Glenrinnes, Dufftown, Banffshire. The following family information is taken from the 1901 Census and ‘Lives of the First World War website. At the time of the 1901 Census, the family were residing at 28 Conval Street, Dufftown.

His family is shown as follows :-

  • Father – John McDonald, born c.1858 at Cromdale, Elginshire – Joiner.
  • Mother – Gabella Glass or McDonald, born c.1864 at Mortlach, Dufftown.
  • Sister – Annie Jane, born 10 April 1884 at Glenrinnes, Banffshire – Nurse (Domestic).
  • Brother- Charles George, born 25 September 1885 at Glenrinnes, Banffshire.
  • Sister – Isabella McDonald or Shand, born 25 October 1890 at Glenrinnes, Banffshire.
  • Brother – George Lobban, born 30 March 1891 at Grange, Banffshire.
  • Brother – William, born 27 September 1892 at Grange, Banffshire.
  • Sister – Catherine Margaret Sim McDonald or Webster, born 19 November 1895 at Grange, Banffshire.
  • Brother – Malcolm, born 4 March 1897 at Grange, Banffshire.
  • Sister – Alice, born 11 December 1898 at Mortlach, Banffshire.
  • Sister – Helen, born 6 December 1900 at Mortlach, Banffshire.

His brother William was killed in action on the 31st July 1917 as part of the 9th Gordon Highlanders.

Addresses

  • The 1901 Census gives the family address as 28 Conval Street, Dufftown, Banffshire.
  • On his initial application, the fathers address is given as Ballentobm Cottage, Dulnain Bridge, Grantown-on-Spey.
  • Later in the war the fathers address is given as Rowan Cottage, Dulnain Bridge, Grantown-on-Spey.
  • In the Morayshire Roll of Honour from 1921 the address is shown as Relugas, Dunphail Estate, near Forres, Morayshire.

Medals

James Alexander McDonald was awarded the 1914-15 Star, Victory and the British War Medals for his service in the Great War.

Memorials

James Alexander McDonad is honoured and remembered on the Elgin City and Parish War Memorial and the Glenrinnes and Kirkhill War Memorial.

Glenrinnes and Kirkhill War Memorial where James Alexander McDonald is honoured and remembered.

Links to Additional Information

References

  •  Morayshire Roll of Honour.
  •  Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
  • De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour.
  • Army Service Record – Australian National Archives.

Contributors:-

  • Vincent Stuart
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