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David McDonald

David McDonald

Infantryman, Army

“It was very hard going, muddy and steep. I remember jeeps were lost over the edge of the road, and others got bogged,”


David Gordon McDonald was the second of ten children – four boys and six girls.


David and his brothers all served in World War II or in Malaya and his father, Donald (John) fought at Possiers in France during the First World War where he got his heel shot off and had to wear a built-up shoe for the rest of his life.

Before David joined the war effort, he worked for the Mexican Consul, Carlos Zalappa, in Sydney when he was 15.

David initially attempted to enlist in the Royal Australian Air Force, but he later went into the 55th Infantry Battalion of the Citizens Militia Force on 5 January 1942, and his unit became part of the AIF later in 1942. 

He trained at the Greta Army Camp in the Hunter Valley and went to New Guinea on the troopship MV Taroona landing at Port Moresby in May 1942.

The 55th Battalion eventually amalgamated with the 53rd after losses from both units during battles in New Guinea. They were referred to as ‘That Mob’ because they were considered as ‘chocolate soldiers’ or ‘Choccos’ because they were initially members of the Citizens Militia Force not the Australian Imperial Force (AIF).

“We were sent to New Guinea with not much training and we were poorly equipped. In June 1943 we became part of the AIF and were referred to as 'The Mice of Moresby'. 

“One of my most vivid memories is being near the wharf at Port Moresby when the supply ship, the Macdhui, was bombed by the Japanese on 17 June 1942 while it was being unloaded.”

David joined the 3rd Air Maintenance Company dropping supplies to troops from  planes, as the ‘roads’ (mud tracks) became impassable as the Australian forces advanced north through New Guinea, pushing the Japanese troops back.

The Air Maintenance Companies were known as the ‘Bully Beef Bombers’ and later ‘Biscuit Bombers’.

“We used modified Dakota DC3s crewed by Americans. The plane door was removed to allow loads to be pushed out of the plane. I was part of a four man Drop Crew. We usually flew at tree top height for drops in order to minimise damage to the loads, although the American crews were reluctant to fly that low.”

 He was based at Nadzab in the Morobe Province of New Guinea and also worked out of Dobodura Airfield and the Poppendetta airstrip. They delivered supplies to drop zones in Lae, Buna, Gona and along the New Guinea North coast. “We used parachutes for the more delicate materials such as medical supplies, which went out first then we kicked out the un-shuted loads,” David explains. “We would approach the drop zone, sometimes marked with an X on the ground and then a green light would indicate when to drop the loads.”


David McDonald (L) and Vincie Lawrence (R) with a PNG national outside a tent (1942)

David also helped build a road between Nadzab and Lae. “It was very hard going, muddy and steep. I remember jeeps were lost over the edge of the road, and others got bogged,” he says. “The Americans had big trucks loaded with sand and gravel to build the road over the river, but one of the trucks sunk as it was trying to drive across. So instead of trying to retrieve the truck, they built the road over the top of the truck!”

While on a drop mission near Dumpu the plane was shot at so the American crew landed the plane. “The Yanks ran out of the plane without a word to our drop crew. So we decided, if the Yanks were abandoning ship then we should too,” David recalls. “So we hid behind a pile of crates only to find out later it was a stack of bombs and ammunition. Three planes were on that mission and one got shot down.”

As well as the ‘routine’ drops, David also flew to Finchhafen on the north coast of New Guinea, which was more dangerous because it went into Japanese held territory

“One day we flew to Rabaul, north of New Guinea, on an armed American bomber, the Flying Fortress (B17),” he says. “On the way back from the drop the crew let off the belly guns to demonstrate their power and I was allowed to let off the machine guns.”

In another incident he remembers the Japanese had been using mounted guns to fire down on them from the Ioribaiwa Ridge. In response, the 14th Field Regiment stripped a 25 pound gun and carried it up through the mud, reassembled it and blew up the Japanese mounted gun. “Grueling and arduous but very effective,” David says.

“Sometimes I would sleep under the 25 pounder and one of the blokes fired it and blew my blanket off – now that definitely woke me up!”

On the push back north, they also went through to Buna and Gona and found tunnels built by Japanese at Sanananda. Despite taking daily Atabrine tablets, he contracted malaria during his time in New Guinea.

After WWII, he delivered whitegoods in Sydney CBD as well as Wollongong, Canberra and Newcastle. After that, David worked for more than 40 years as a carpet layer and, at one stage, even laid carpet at Admiralty House.


David McDonald (L) marking Anzac Day

Ashfield RSL has been a big part of his life since the war ended. He joined the RSL in 1946, before the club moved to Liverpool Rd and was instrumental in major renovations of the premises. David and his brothers played in the Ashfield RSL football team in the early years – taking out the championship in 1950. He also played golf with his RSL mates and participated in the Ashfield RSL Alligators swimming club. In 1970, he travelled to Lismore, where he was born, to compete in the NSW RSL swimming championships which he won. In addition to that, he played both indoor and outdoor lawn bowls with other members. The award he is most ‘proud’ of is the NABA which stood for Not a Bowler’s A%$#hole! David was a Director of the Club for 30 years and Vice President for 10 of those years. He is Life member #2 of the Club. Over the years, he has attended 66 consecutive Anzac Day marches with the Ashfield RSL.

Best of all, David met his wife Phyllis at Ashfield RSL marrying her in 1951.




David McDonald, 2020