Skip to main content

Group portrait of officers, Non-commissioned Officers and sappers of No. 1 Company of the 1st Australian Mining Corps, November 1915. Image courtesy Australian War Memorial. Donald McConnell is in the second last row, 4th from the right, directly beneath the flag. Charles Cornelius McConnell is beside him, 5th from the right, just in front of the flag bearer.

Donald McConnell was born in Orange in 1882, the youngest son of John McConnell and his wife Sarah. Donald and his older brother Charles Cornelius McConnell enlisted together on 4 August 1915 and were assigned to the 1st Australian Mining Corps as sappers. The brothers embarked HMAT A38 Ulysses in Sydney on 20 February 1916.

Donald served in England and France. On 22 May 1916 he was marching back from the trenches when he slipped and fell into a ditch, resulting in synovitis (inflammation of the synovial membrane) of the left knee. He spent a month recovering, rejoining his unit in Etaples on 23 June.

Sapper McConnell was hospitalised on several occasions during his military service. In October 1916 he received shrapnel wounds to the legs and feet and was evacuated to Edmonton Military Hospital in England. In February 1917 he was admitted to Parkhouse Hospital suffering from mumps.

Donald served for more than three and a half years. He returned to Australia in March 1919 and was discharged from the AIF the following month.

Donald returned to Orange, but later moved to Bathurst. During the 1930s he was employed as a linesman by the PMG Department. He never married.

In October 1965 Donald’s niece wrote to the Army Records Office:

Would you kindly send me the record of Sapper Donald McConnell from World War One. He enlisted from Orange and saw service overseas. He is a very old man now. Been 85 and single; all his family have died. I am his niece. He is in a home for the aged and should anything happen to him I want him buried by the returned servicemen here and give him a Soldier’s Funeral. He’s forgotten anything about the war now so perhaps you could help. I wrote to the sub branch at Orange but they have no records and told me to write to Melbourne.

Donald McConnell died on 11 July 1968, aged 85. He is buried in the Orange Cemetery, Church of England section. Donald is commemorated on the Holy Trinity Church Orange Honour Roll.

Donald’s brother, Charles Cornelius McConnell, died of disease whilst serving in WWI. A cousin, Alfred Allen McConnell also served in WWI; he returned to Australia in June 1918.

Donald McConnell’s headstone. Image courtesy Orange Cemetery.