Good book returned
Originally published in Army News on August 18, 2011.
Private McDonald, service number 5182, was killed two weeks after arriving at Pozieres in July 1916. His Bible was found in a box of secondhand books bought at Sydney’s Surry Hills five years ago.
Gordon Ridley, a resident of Culcairn, New South Wales, and amateur historian, said he always had a great interest in Australia’s World War One and World War Two diggers and what they did.
“When I read the message in the front of this Bible I thought ‘something’s got to be done about this’,” he said.
“So I decided to track down the soldier’s family and return the Bible to them.”
Mr Ridley went to the Salvation Army, which had presented the Bible to the digger in 1915 as he set off on a “waratah march” from Kiama.
“I didn’t do much good there, so I tried a couple of radio stations and that wasn’t a real success either,” he said.
“So I contacted the Kiama Independent newspaper and they took the story up from there.”
Private McDonald’s Australian Imperial Forces record shows he had no known next of kin, and when he died from a gunshot wound on July 29, 1916, his few belongings were sent to a Miss A.M. Morrow of Dapto.
She died in 1949, also with no next of kin, and the Bible’s location between then and 2006 remains a mystery.
As Private McDonald had no family, Mr Ridley decided the next best thing would be to present the Bible to Kiama Shire Council.
It was received on behalf of Kiama by the Mayor, Sandra McCarthy, at a small ceremony at Kiama Library on July 7.
She said she recognised the Bible was something very special to the history of Kiama.
“We are very fortunate to have Private McDonald’s Bible here at the Kiama Library,” she said.
By Sergeant Dave Morley