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James Shaw Rose MACDONALD

Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Capt 8 Nov 1894 20y8m 1 May 1915 31 Jul 1917 KA 4 & 7

Captain John Shaw Rose Macdonald (1894 - 1917)


Family background and early life

James Shaw Rose Macdonald was the second son of Alexander Rose Macdonald and Nancy (née Armitage).  He was born on 8 November 1894 at Herberton, North Queensland where his father was police magistrate, assistant land agent and visiting justice for the police gaol.  The Macdonald family later moved to Hill View, Greenslopes, Coorparoo.  Mr and Mrs Macdonald were communicant members of Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Brisbane.

James attended Bowen House School for four years then Brisbane Grammar School from 1909 to December 1910.  Before enlisting in the Australian Military Forces, James Macdonald was a Clerk in the Brisbane branch of the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney and had completed 3 years’ voluntary service in Senior Cadets and 5 years in an Australian Field Artillery unit.

Enlistment and service

James was appointed 2nd Lieutenant in the AIF on 1 May 1915 and embarked aboard Royal Mail Steamer Persia from Melbourne on 10 August, bound for Egypt.

Second Lieutenant Macdonald joined the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force in Gallipoli and survived.  After evacuation from the peninsula, he returned to Egypt where he spent the final weeks of the year 1915 in the Helonan Australian General Hospital, Cairo for treatment of jaundice.

In March 1916, Macdonald proceeded to join the British Expeditionary Force in France and Belgium.  He was transferred to 22nd Battery 1st Division Australian Field Artillery and promoted Lieutenant.  Lieutenant Macdonald was engaged at the First Battle of the Somme, taking charge of his battery when his Commanding Officer was disabled by wounds at Flers.

He was promoted Captain on 1 January 1917 and transferred to 6th Battery. He was engaged at Bapaume and Bullecourt. At the Third Battle of Ypres when bringing his battery into position under fire, Captain Macdonald was killed by a bursting shell.

In a letter to Jim Macdonald's father, Lieutenant-Colonel Stevenson, Commading Officer, 2nd Australian Field Artillery Brigade, stated:

"His death was instantaneous and he was therefore mercifully spared any suffering whatsoever.  His remains were interred the following day with military honours in the Military Cemetery at Dickebusch, which is about 3 miles SW of Ypres in Belgium and I have arranged to have his resting place suitably marked.  I cannot express to you in writing, the personal, apart altogether from the professional regret and sorrow I feel in the death of your son.  He was such a splendid chap, quiet and unassuming, with a fine firmness of mind and character." 1

Several other tributes were sent to Jim Macdonald's father, Mr A. R. Macdonald at Hill View, Greenslopes during the month following his son's death.  Major George Steward wrote on behalf of Their Majesties, the King and Queen and the Governor-General from Government House, Melbourne. 

A letter written "In the Field" by his friend, Lieutenant A. H. Humphrey, 6th Battery tells of personal grief and loss.

"I was standing within a few yards of him when he was hit, and bandaged his head.  He received only one wound.  Yesterday I forwarded the following articles which I took from his pockets when he was hit:  leather wallet containing photos and a few papers, cheque book, small note book, wrist watch, wind protractor corrector ...  Captain Macdonald was a personal friend of mine and I am greatly grieved over his death and offer you my deepest sympathy.  He was a good soldier and like and respected by all officers and men." 2

James Macdonald’s grave was later moved to the Dickebusch New Military Cemetery Extension near Ypres in Belgium.

On a brass plaque in the main banking chamber of the former Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Head Office in Sydney, New South Wales, the name of J. S. R. Macdonald is embossed with the names of other bank staff who served their King and Country in the Great War.

Mr H. H. Massie, General Manager of the CBC of Sydney Bank stated in the preface of a memorial record: 

“Many, alas! of those who went away made the supreme sacrifice, and of them it can assuredly be said that their names will not only be graven on the Honour Board, but in the hearts of their fellow Bank Officers, and the memory of them will ever be recorded with loving and grateful remembrance in the annals of the Bank.” 3

1. Letter, Stevenson, G.I. to Macdonald A.R., 10 August 1917.
2. Letter, Humphrey, A. H. To Macdonald A.R, In the Field, 7 August 1917.
3. A Memorial Record of those members of the Staff of the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Limited who served their King and Country in the Great War 1914-18, June 1922, page 3. 

Select Bibliography
• National Archives of Australia, military records, World War 1
• Crombie AC, “Macdonald, Alexander Rose (1845-1931”, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, Melbourne, University Press, 1974
• Queensland Register of Births
• First World War Embarkation Rolls
• Archives, Brisbane Grammar School, The Golden Book
In Memoriam Captain James Shaw Rose Macdonald, Australian War Memorial File No. 12/11/1735
• Archives, Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Limited
• Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour
• Commonwealth War Graves Commission
• Archives, Saint Andrew’s Uniting Church, Brisbane, Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Annual Reports 1901 – 1925

Compiled by Noel E Adsett OAM, Brisbane.  May 2015, revised March 2021 ©



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