Don McKay was a 17-year-old looking for adventure when he put his age up to volunteer for the Citizen Military Force, or militia, in October 1940. His father had served in World War I in the Australian Imperial Force and wasn't keen on Don joining up. Don was posted to the 39th Battalion, which completed its infantry training in Victoria before shipping out to Port Moresby in January 1942.

Don spent six months stationed at the Seven Mile aerodrome near Port Moresby where he was promoted to Corporal. During his time there, he experienced regular air raids by enemy aircraft that bombed and strafed the airfield.

In July 1942, the 39th Battalion began moving to Kokoda to engage any enemy force that might land on the north coast. Don was in A Company, which trekked along the Kokoda Track after the Japanese landed at Gona and began advancing over the Owen Stanley Range . The company reached the forward positions at Deniki and took part in the brief recapture of Kokoda on 8-9 August. On the morning of 9 August, when the Japanese counter-attacked, Don led his section forward to bolster the defences, coming under heavy machine-gun and mortar fire. His section was reduced by casualties to just three men occupying three posts, and Don moved from post to post under fire to bolster their defence. When ordered to retreat, his section was the last to leave the village. Don received the Military Medal for his actions.

The 39th withdrew to Port Moresby , to recuperate and receive reinforcements. In early December 1942, Don flew with the 39th to Popondetta. The battalion was sent to the Gona area to reinforce the 21st Brigade, which had lost many men in the hard fighting around Gona, and Don took part in the final successful attack on Gona Village . He then took part in the final attack on Haddy's Village to the west, before moving to the Sanananda area. During the fighting at Sanananda, many of the soldiers, including Don, were suffering from tropical illnesses, mainly malaria. It wasn't until Don was suspected of having scrub typhus that he was evacuated in early January 1943.

When Don recovered back in Australia , he was medically downgraded due to his illness and was posted to the 4th Advanced Base Ordnance Depot in Broadmeadows , Victoria .

In September 1944, Don married Dorothy, who was serving as a clerk with the Australian Women's Army Service at Albert Park Barracks, Melbourne. Don was discharged in April 1946 as a Sergeant and was self-employed for the next two years making trousers (he had worked in the clothing trade prior to enlisting). Don then spent two years working for Victorian Railways as a shunter before re-enlisting in the Australian Regular Army in October 1950. After serving in various appointments, including as an instructor for national servicemen, he was appointed Regimental Sergeant Major, 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment and served a tour of duty in Vietnam with the battalion in 1965-66. In 1998, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his service in Vietnam . He again served overseas in Papua New Guinea during 1968-70 and the United Kingdom in 1970-72. Don was discharged in October 1974 as a Warrant Officer Class 1.

Sadly JD, passed away in June 2011.

Lest We Forget


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