Courtesy of Nancy Sterland and Lynette Williams
Private Montrose Richard Ferguson Donaldson
Pakenham & District War Memorial
Born: 1892 - Mangalore, near Avenel Victoria
Enlisted: 16 July 1915 aged 23
Unit: 23rd Battalion, 7th Reinforcement (SERN: 3088)
Served: Egypt & Western Front
Died: 12 August 1951 - Box Hill, Victoria
Listed on the Pakenham War Memorial as “R.F. Donaldson” and known as “Monty” Montrose was a son of James Donaldson and Helen Davidson Birrell. The Donaldsons farmed a property called “Bay View” on Leppitt Road Pakenham Upper / Upper Beaconsfield (1) which they acquired in 1911 (1a). Monty was a 23 year old labourer at Blackburn when he enlisted on 16 July 1915. He was initially allocated to the 23rd Battalion 7th Reinforcement and departed for Egypt in November 1915. There, Monty was transferred to the 59th Battalion and sent to the Western Front in June 1916 (2). A month later, on 19/20 July 1916, Monty was shot in the leg at the Battle of Fromelles, where the 59th and 60th Battalions attacked German positions along the Laies River. In early November 1916, he was transferred to the 15th Australian Machine Gun Company (later the 5th Machine Gun Battalion), which was operating on the Somme. Amongst the duties of machine gun companies on the Western Front was anti-aircraft “guarding”. In early May 1917, the 15th Australian Infantry Brigade (including 15 M.G.Coy) was deployed to support the 7th Division’s attack at Bullecourt. Monty though, appears to have missed the main action, having been hospitalised with trench fever (3). He rejoined his unit in late October 1917 in Belgium, where it was participating in the Third battle of Ypres. In April 1918, 15 M.G.Coy was operating near Hamel during the German “Spring Offensive”. On 30 May 1918, Monty was reported wounded for the second time, being gassed. At the time, his unit was operating near Sailly-le-Sec (4). Monty was hospitalised, having suffered tachycardia as a result of the gassing (5). He rejoined his unit on 20 August 1918, in time for some of the last Australian actions on the Western Front, including the Australian / American assault on the Hindenburg Line at the St Quentin Canal (Bellicourt) on 29 September 1918. This began with the largest British artillery bombardment of the war: 1,600 guns firing one million shells in a short time.
Monty left England for Australia in May 1919 and was discharged in Melbourne on 25 October 1919 (6). His war service was commemorated on both the Pakenham & District War Memorial and the Beaconsfield Upper Roll of Honour. The latter also commemorates his brother Avenel Donaldson who won the Military Medal (7). Monty also received a gold medallion from the Pakenham community (8). Monty found work as a “burner” and later boilermaker. He married Ethel Gale in January 1920 and eventually had a daughter Nancy. The family lived in Glenhuntly (9), then Camberwell and finally Box Hill (10). Montrose was not yet 60 years old when he died in August 1951.
The assistance of Monty’s daughter Nancy Sterland & grand-daughter Lynette Williams is gratefully acknowledged.
(1) & (9) Argus 14/2/1920 p. 13
(1a) & (7) “Residents of Upper Beaconsfield” http://www.upperbeac.rocke.id.au/g6/p6479.htm
(2) (3) (5) (6) NAA B2455 DONALDSON M
(4) AWM 4 24/20/27 Part 1 15th Australian Machine Gun Company Unit War Diary May 1918
(8) Pakenham Gazette 17/10/1919 p.2
(9) Ancestry.com.au - Electoral Roll - Henty - Glenhuntly - 1928 p. 27
(10) Ancestry.com.au - Electoral Roll - Deakin - Box Hill - 1949 p. 4.