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from the Tasmania Examiner 27 June 2003

Remarkable digger's life celebrated


Frank MacdonaldThree centuries, two years of gallant duty in the Great War and cricketing legend Donald Bradman in action - Frank MacDonald has seen it all.

The last surviving Australian World War I veteran to be decorated for bravery, yesterday celebrated his 107th birthday at a nursing home in North-West Tasmania.

He endured a rigorous round of media interviews and later, flanked by family and friends, blew out his single birthday candle.

"I have broken tradition a little bit," Mr MacDonald said.

"Most of my family didn't live beyond their 80s.

"Somebody said the other day I was the oldest person in Australia - I hardly think that's right.

"I don't feel any different."

Enlisting in the army in 1916 after earlier being knocked back for having rotten teeth, Mr MacDonald became a member of the famous Tasmanian 40th Battalion.

He won the Military Medal for conspicuous gallantry under fire at Ypres, on the Belgian-French border, in October 1917.

Signing up again for World War II, he was considered too old for active duty and confined to a desk job at Sydney's Victoria Barracks.

Mr MacDonald, who suffered a health scare late last year, is one of just seven Australian World War I veterans still alive.

Although hard of hearing, almost blind and a little shaky on his pins, he said he considered himself very fortunate to still be in good health.

"You go through a lot of different phases in a life as long as mine," Mr MacDonald said.

"There's a bit of excitement here and there.

"One thing I did enjoy was the war - I liked shooting.

"They (the enemy) were very unlucky if they got in my sights."

Local history and English teacher Barry Wood, who was at yesterday's party, reckons Mr MacDonald is a national icon.

He is so captivated by the veteran's story that he has given up his job to work on it full-time.

"He's remarkable really," Mr Wood said. "He's got a reputation for having an incredible memory. He can go back 100 years ago and remember details with clarity."



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Read about another veteran also reaching 107


Aftermath - when the boys came home

Saturday 28 January 2006

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