from the Tasmania Examiner 27 June 2003
Remarkable digger's life celebrated
Three 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."