Pat MacDonnell with his dead man’s pennies. The medals were given out to families who lost loved ones in the First World War.
Pat MacDonnell with his dead man’s pennies. The medals were given out to families who lost loved ones in the First World War. Craig Warhurst

A penny for Pat’s thoughts

WHEN Gympie man Pat MacDonnell read about the discovery of a dead man's penny in Longreach this week it prompted him to pull out his family's medals.

The giant pennies, with a 12cm diameter, were given to the families of diggers lost in the First World War.

Mr MacDonnell has held on to two medals passed on to his family when his dad's brothers were killed in action.

The first medal was struck for Neil Thomas Joseph Byrnes MacDonnell who was killed on March 17, 1917 in France.

He was just 18 and a member of the Machine Gun Corps.

The second medal commemorated the death of Leonard Francis MacDonnell.

He was 21, a member of the 26th Battalion Australian Infantry and was killed in action on October 4, 1917 in Belgium.

Mr MacDonnell said the medals made Anzac Day extra special for his family and he would be present at the Dawn Service this morning.

"I can't help but think how tough these people were," he said. "I have nothing but admiration for them."

Mr MacDonnell's grandfather spent six months writing letters to find the whereabouts of his sons.

A third was missing in action but returned home.

Gympie Times


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