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Angus Mackenzie McDonald (1912–1968)

by Doug Hurst

This article was published:

Angus Mackenzie McDonald (1912-1968), by unknown photographer, 1943

Angus Mackenzie McDonald (1912-1968), by unknown photographer, 1943

Australian War Memorial, UK0145

Angus Mackenzie McDonald (1912-1968), air force officer, was born on 4 August 1912 at Waratah, New South Wales, second child of Australian-born parents Angus Duncan McDonald, contractor, and his wife Leila Gertrude, née Jones. Educated at Scotch College, Melbourne, young Angus worked as an accountant with Goldsbrough Mort & Co. Ltd. On 2 February 1941 he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force. After training in Australia and Canada, he reached Britain in February 1942 as a sergeant observer (later navigator). His first operational tour (from September) was with No.102 Squadron, Royal Air Force, which operated Halifax heavy bombers.

On the night of 11/12 December McDonald was navigator on a mission to Turin, Italy. Ground-fire disabled one of the aircraft's starboard engines before the target was reached. On the return trip, ice accretion on the aeroplane forced the pilot, Flight Lieutenant N. S. Milnes, to reduce altitude. Anti-aircraft fire over France crippled a port engine. McDonald opposed any suggestion that the crew abandon the aeroplane and helped Milnes to nurse the Halifax back to England. For his 'courage and technical skill' he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal. Commissioned one week later, he continued to demonstrate a 'high standard of navigation' in attacks on the heavily defended German cities of Cologne, Bremen, Essen, Düsseldorf and Berlin, 'as well as the more distant objective' of Genoa, Italy. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (1943).

In January 1944 McDonald was selected (with other experienced aircrew) to visit factories and tell workers what it was like to fly the aircraft and use the equipment they produced. On 3 June that year at the Presbyterian Church, Regent Square, London, he married Lesley Joyce Lobb, a 21-year-old stenographer: Lesley wore a 'wedding gown of white lace, made and presented by parachute workers' whom Angus had addressed. In the following month he was posted to No.571 Squadron, R.A.F., which was equipped with Mosquito light bombers. For consistently displaying 'great skill and utmost keenness' throughout raids on industrial cities in Germany and during mine-laying operations in the Dortmund-Ems Canal, he was awarded a Bar to his D.F.C. (1945).

In some ways McDonald was an unlikely hero. Rotund, balding and over 30, he looked nothing like the dashing, youthful aviator on recruiting posters. But he had three attributes that counted more—professional ability, courage and determination. He was also intelligent, enthusiastic and good-humoured, both at work and play. During training he had effortlessly soaked up knowledge, and approached everything he did with infectious zest and wit. Renowned for his escapades, he was seen as a 'scallywag', a 'party man' and a lover of the turf. His appetite for life was wholehearted.

Demobilized in Australia on 30 January 1946 as an acting squadron leader, McDonald returned briefly to his old job in Melbourne, then became the general manager of a firm that sold veterinary supplies. He died of complications of cerebrovascular disease on 1 October 1968 at Heidelberg and was cremated; his wife and daughter survived him.

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Citation details

Doug Hurst, 'McDonald, Angus Mackenzie (1912–1968)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 14 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Angus Mackenzie McDonald (1912-1968), by unknown photographer, 1943

Angus Mackenzie McDonald (1912-1968), by unknown photographer, 1943

Australian War Memorial, UK0145