FAREWELL: The last custodian of the 47th Battalion, Leonard Joseph McDonald, died on January 19.
FAREWELL: The last custodian of the 47th Battalion, Leonard Joseph McDonald, died on January 19.

47th Battalion last custodian passes at 99

THE last surviving custodian of the region's proud 47th Battalion will be farewelled on Monday after he died at age 99 two weeks ago.

Born into the harsh years of World War 1 in 1919, Leonard Joseph McDonald grew up to work in retail before he enlisted in the National Service in his hometown of Gympie on August 19, 1940 for World War II.

Maryborough left a lasting impression on his 21-year-old mind when Len spent three months at a training camp before being sent to Townsville.

Under his service number Q25478, the dedicated soldier spent seven years in the army.

In 1943, the battalion served in Milne Bay, Trobriand and the Goodenough Islands where valuable secret Japanese plans were captured.

The battalion then moved to Buna, New Guinea then Nassau Bay, Lake Salus, Mt Tambu, Tambu Bay, Komiatum and to Salamaua where they took part in the Salamaua Campaign.

Their next move was to the Markam River and the unit was highly commended by the Commander of the 2nd Australian Corps Lieutenant-General Beryman DSO for 14 individual acts of gallantry.

For the next 16 months the unit served near Lae but they were near half strength due to casualties and wounded.

In May 1944, they returned to Australia for reinforcements.

By December, they were in active service again in Bougainville where many troops were awarded bravery medals.

In all, 73 men of the 47th Battalion paid the ultimate sacrifice to their country.

At the conclusion of WWII the unit was disbanded but has since been reactivated as D Company, 9th Battalion Royal Queensland Regiment with headquarters in Maryborough.

"I have to say the fighting in New Guinea during the war was really rough, so going to go back to retailing in Brisbane, was a pleasant experience," Len told the Chronicle in 2011.

"That's where I met Dot."

Dot, known as Dorothea, was a Howard girl and five years after marrying Len in 1950 the couple returned to Maryborough to open a business.

A staple of the CBD for 13 years, Dorothea, a ladies shop in Kent St, was known for its quality gloves and handbags.

The couple eventually moved to Buderim on the Sunshine Coast however Len always regarded Maryborough as his home.

In 2011, Len sadly returned to the region to bury his wife of 61 years in the Maryborough cemetery. She had spent the last 11 years of her life in a nursing home.

Len died at St Joseph's Mitchelton on January 27, as a highly regarded member of the Piller, Robertson and James families. His funeral will be held on Monday at 1pm at St Mary's Church on Adelaide St before he is laid to rest with his beloved.

Brief History of the 47th Battalion

  • Formed from the Volunteer Mounted Rifled in 1860 and became known as the Wide Bay and Burnett Rangers.
  • In 1899 was reorganised with companies from Bundaberg, Gympie, Maryborough, Childers and Howard recognised by their five-pointed star regiment badge introduced in 1901.
  • Many members served voluntarily with distinction in the Boer War from 1899 to 1902.
  • During WWI the 47th Battalion formed in Egypt in February 1916 after the evacuation of Gallipoli and were sent to France.

-Courtesy of A V Dobbs