52 Ancestors #42 – Conflict

There are several ways to write about this week’s prompt, conflict. One could write about family conflicts but that’s not where I’m going to go with this newsletter instead I’ll cover the huge conflict of WWII (World War 2). 

When we look at a timeline of the history of WW2 it leaves the amateur historian like me, shaking their head. What on earth was the conflict all about? From 1938 to 1945 nearly every country was at war with some other country or another. Did any of them know what they were fighting about?

David  Charles CrippsI have relatives on all sides of the family who went to fight in the war, many fortunately came home, but one didn’t and that was my 1st cousin once removed in David Charles Cripps. I told Davey’s story back in 2014, 70 years after the sinking of the Rakuyo Maru in 1944 on which he lost his life. David was captured in Singapore in 1942 and was sent to Changi Prison and worked on the infamous Thai-Burma Railway, known as the Death Railway.

However, this story is not about a relative of ours, but of a friend of the MacKay family. Recently I had been working on the story of the MacKay’s from the time of their departure from Scotland to their arrival in Fremantle, Western Australia in 1924. Bob’s Uncle Jock lived with us for a time, and passed away in a nursing home in 1993 at the age of 91.  I was fortunate to be able to ask him some questions about why he and his brother (Bob’s father) Donald, came out from Scotland. I wrote their story here. Jock had told me that two brothers, Donald and Alexander Matheson encouraged Donald and him to come to Australia instead of Canada. I’d only looked briefly into the Matheson’s and wrongly presumed that they’d come out on the same ship the Largs Bay in April 1924. Recent research found them both arriving 3 days before the MacKay’s on the Ormonde on the 1st April 1924.

As part of the Land Settlement agreements, the Commonwealth set up the New Settlers’ League of Australia in 1921. This was an advocacy and settlement organisation, funded initially by the Commonwealth and then jointly with the States. Subsidies were also paid to the Fairbridge Farm School, the YMCA and the Salvation Army. The single men were to take jobs in rural areas to relieve the labour shortage on the farms. Donald and Jock had made their way up to Nabawa near Geraldton.

So what happened to the Matheson’s. They have not featured in the lives of Donald and Jock that I’m aware of other than the brief mention of them when Jock told me some of the stories. So off I went searching for Donald and Alexander Matheson.

I stumbled upon an old email on my computer from 2002 and there in the text was the name of the WW2 enlistments of men who were born in Sutherland, Scotland. Jock and Alexander Matheson’s name was amongst them. In I went to the WW2 records and found Alexander. I wondered if his brother Donald had served as well. I punched in his name and sure enough, Donald Angus Matheson, born 27 February 1908, Rogart, Scotland, enlisted 20 October 1940. Then I saw it, oh no, he had died as a POW on the Burma Railway. But this is where it got interesting, Donald was a member of the 2nd/4th Machine Gun Battalion, the same battalion as Davey Cripps. Now that doesn’t mean that they knew each other, however, I’m going to hazard a guess that they did because they were both in the Selarang Camp, Changi as POWs and Donald died of Cardiac Beri-Beri on the 10th March 1944 at the 105 kilo Camp Aungganaung. When I look at Davey’s records, he too was at the 105 kilo Camp. I would need to look at the timeline to check that out, but to know they were in the same battalion left me with goosebumps.

Matheson, Donald Angus_2-4th Machine Gun Battalion

I then came across the 2nd/4th Machine Gunners website and found this amazing photo of Donald Angus Matheson. According to the notes on the website, Donald married Gladys Morgan in 1940 just prior to his enlistment. To date, I haven’t been able to establish whether they had any children.

Alexander George Matheson, born 20 May 1902 in Rogart, Scotland, also enlisted but not until 2 years later in 1942. He gave his brother Donald as his next of kin. Alexander served in the 19th Garrison Battalion. He died in 1971 in Perth.

Jannetas MacKay bn 1902Jannetas (Jock) MacKay also enlisted on the 29th August 1941, he served in the 28th Australian Infantry Battalion in New Guinea.

There are many other family members who fought for our country in WW2.





Source: 2nd 4th Machine Gunners – http://2nd4thmgb.com.au/soldier/wx9296/

World War 2 Nominal Roll  – http://www.ww2roll.gov.au/Veteran.aspx?serviceId=A&veteranId=745568

The English in Australia by James Jupp, Director, Centre for Immigration, pg 124

About Jenny MacKay

Just a person who is looking forward to retirement and enjoying the golden years!
This entry was posted in 52-Ancestors-52-Weeks, Blog, MacKay and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to 52 Ancestors #42 – Conflict

  1. crissouli says:

    I have included your blog in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at


    Thank you, Chris

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