|Troops of the Kennedy Regiment leaving Townsville in August 1914, en route to Thursday Island. Solider, Frederick Macdonald may well have been part of this procession.|
Photograph courtesy of the State Library of Queensland.
One young 19-year-old soldier from Irvinebank in Queensland, Frederick Malcolm Macdonald (1894-1966), wrote a diary of his experiences as a member of the Kennedy Regiment aboard the Kanowna in 1914. His diary, which was published by Macdonald’s son Colin in 2005 under the title The Caruse of the Kanowna, forms part of JCU Library Special Collections - NQ Collection.
|Frederick Malcolm Macdonald (1894-1966) retrieved from Macdonald, Colin (Ed.). The Caruse of the Kanowna: Frederick Macdonald’s 1914 diary. Aranda, ACT: C.G. Macdonald, 2005.|
The significance of news from home is also readily apparent. Macdonald notes that troops received mail only once during their journey, however this event had such an impact upon all the men aboard the ship that the following morning parade was called off so that the men could have time to read their letters and “to write and answer the same”. Macdonald notes his envy of those men who received newspapers as well as letters from their friends and relatives.
|Photograph of Frederick Macdonald’s original diary.|
Macdonald’s disappointment at the loss the Latrine Leader is indicative of the role of these small acts of semi-insubordination in the lives of soldiers, and the importance of reading and writing in creating and maintaining a sense of normality and human connection within the de-personalising environment of war. Soldiers on both sides of the conflict continued to print trench and troopship journals until the Armistice, providing historians with valuable evidence of experiences and attitudes often ignored by the authorised military documentation of the war. Souvenir volumes of the journals were often published upon the return of each troopship to Australia, standing as mementos of comradery and friendship, memorials to the fallen and as a self-fashioned social history of the soldier class. These intimate accounts of conflict reveal the need and capacity of these men to create and maintain a unique cultural life within the tragedy of war.
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- Burla, Robert. Crossed Boomerangs: The History of all the 31 Battalions. Loftus, NSW: Australian Military History Publications, 2005.
- Holden, Robert. And the Band Played On. Victoria, Australia: Hardie Grant Books, 2014.
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- Macdonald, Colin (Ed.). The Caruse of the Kanowna: Frederick Macdonald’s 1914 diary. Aranda, ACT: C.G. Macdonald, 2005.
- New Guinea Expedition August 1914 – Re Troopship “Kanowna,” mutiny on and sending back to Australia. National Archives of Australia, MP 1049/1, 1914/0486.
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