Alec Campbell

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Alec Campbell
Birth nameAlexander William Campbell
Nickname(s)The Kid
Born(1899-02-26)26 February 1899
Launceston, Colony of Tasmania, British Empire
Died16 May 2002(2002-05-16) (aged 103)
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Allegiance Flag of Australia (converted).svg Australia
Service/branch Australian Army
Australian Imperial Force (AIF), 15th Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade
Years of service2 July 1915 – 22 August 1916
Rank Private
Battles/wars World War I: Battle of Gallipoli
Awards 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal, 80th Anniversary Armistice Remembrance Medal, Centenary Medal
Other work Jackeroo, carpenter, mechanic, builder, boxer (Tasmanian Flyweight Champion), sailor (six Sydney to Hobart Yacht Races) and unionist

Alexander William Campbell (26 February 1899 – 16 May 2002) was the final surviving Australian participant of the Gallipoli campaign during the First World War. [1] Campbell joined the Australian Army at the age of 16 in 1915, and served as a stores carrier for two months during the fighting at Gallipoli. He was invalided home and discharged in 1916. He later worked in large number of roles, was twice married and had nine children. He is the great-grandfather of actress, singer and model Ruby Rose.

Gallipoli campaign Military campaign during World War I

The Gallipoli campaign, also known as the Dardanelles campaign, the Battle of Gallipoli or the Battle of Çanakkale, was a campaign of the First World War that took place on the Gallipoli peninsula, from 17 February 1915 to 9 January 1916. The Entente powers, Britain, France and the Russian Empire, sought to weaken the Ottoman Empire, one of the Central Powers, by taking control of the straits that provided a supply route to Russia. The Allies' attack on Ottoman forts at the entrance of the Dardanelles in February 1915 failed and was followed by an amphibious landing on the Gallipoli peninsula in April 1915 to capture the Ottoman capital of Constantinople (Istanbul).

World War I 1914–1918 global war starting in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the resulting 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Australian Army land warfare branch of Australias defence forces

The Australian Army is Australia's military land force. Formed in 1901 through the amalgamation of the Australian colonial forces following federation, it is part of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) along with the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force. While the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) commands the ADF, the Army is commanded by the Chief of Army (CA). The CA is therefore subordinate to the CDF, but is also directly responsible to the Minister for Defence. Although Australian soldiers have been involved in a number of minor and major conflicts throughout Australia's history, only in Second World War has Australian territory come under direct attack.



Alec Campbell was born in Launceston, Colony of Tasmania, British Empire, the son of Marian Isobel (Thrower) and Samuel Alexander Campbell. [2] At the age of 16 he left his job as a clerk with the Colonial Mutual Fire Insurance Company. Not having his father's permission, he lied about his age, claiming to be two years older to enlist in the army without parental consent. [3] [4] He joined the 15th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force in July 1915. Not even being old enough to shave, Campbell gained the nickname "The Kid" during his training in Hobart. One of his cousins had died already at Gallipoli, and the idea of Campbell's deployment terrified his parents. His unit embarked from Melbourne aboard HMAT Kyarra on 21 August 1915, and Campbell landed at Anzac Cove in early November 1915. He assisted in carrying ammunition, stores and water to the trenches. He received a minor wound in the fighting at Gallipoli; when evacuated with the rest of the Australian forces in 1916, he became ill with a fever which caused partial facial paralysis. [1] He was subsequently invalided home aboard HMAT Port Sydney on 24 June 1916, and was formally discharged on 22 August 1916 [5] —a Gallipoli veteran at only 17. [6] He only fought in the war for two months; he later explained tersely,

Launceston, Tasmania City in Tasmania, Australia

Launceston is a city in the north of Tasmania, Australia, at the junction of the North Esk and South Esk rivers where they become the Tamar River (kanamaluka). Launceston is the second most populous city in Tasmania after the state capital, Hobart, and the twelfth-largest non-capital city in Australia.

Colony of Tasmania British self-governing colony between 1856 and 1901

The Colony of Tasmania was a British colony that existed on the island of Tasmania from 1856 until 1901, when it federated together with the five other Australian colonies to form the Commonwealth of Australia. The possibility of the colony was established when the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed the Australian Constitutions Act in 1850, granting the right of legislative power to each of the six Australian colonies. The Legislative Council of Van Diemen's Land drafted a new constitution which they passed in 1854, and it was given Royal Assent by Queen Victoria in 1855. Later in that year the Privy Council approved the colony changing its name from "Van Diemen's Land" to "Tasmania", and in 1856, the newly elected bicameral parliament of Tasmania sat for the first time, establishing Tasmania as a self-governing colony of the British Empire. Tasmania was often referred to as one of the "most British" colonies of the Empire.

British Empire States and dominions ruled by the United Kingdom

The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. It originated with the overseas possessions and trading posts established by England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries. At its height, it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. By 1913, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the world population at the time, and by 1920, it covered 35,500,000 km2 (13,700,000 sq mi), 24% of the Earth's total land area. As a result, its political, legal, linguistic and cultural legacy is widespread. At the peak of its power, the phrase "the empire on which the sun never sets" was often used to describe the British Empire, because its expanse around the globe meant that the sun was always shining on at least one of its territories.

"I joined for adventure. There was not a great feeling of defending the Empire. I lived through it, somehow. I enjoyed some of it. I am not a philosopher. Gallipoli was Gallipoli." [1]

Civilian life

Campbell had a crowded life. In South Australia, New South Wales and Tasmania, he was variously a jackaroo, carpenter, railway carriage builder, mature-age university student, public servant, research officer and historian. [6] He received vocational training in motor-body building at the Hobart Repatriation Trade School. [3] He was a union organiser in the Launceston and Hobart railway workshops and an organiser with the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners of Australia (now part of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU)). He became president of the Tasmanian branch of the Australian Railways Union between 1939 and 1941, and president of the Launceston Trades and Labor Council between 1939 and 1942. [6] He also worked on the construction of (Old) Parliament House in Canberra. [3]

New South Wales State of Australia

New South Wales is a state on the east coast of Australia. It borders Queensland to the north, Victoria to the south, and South Australia to the west. Its coast borders the Tasman Sea to the east. The Australian Capital Territory is an enclave within the state. New South Wales' state capital is Sydney, which is also Australia's most populous city. In March 2019, the population of New South Wales was over 8 million, making it Australia's most populous state. Just under two-thirds of the state's population, 5.1 million, live in the Greater Sydney area. Inhabitants of New South Wales are referred to as New South Welshmen.

Tasmania island state of Australia

Tasmania is an island state of Australia. It is located 240 km (150 mi) to the south of the Australian mainland, separated by Bass Strait. The state encompasses the main island of Tasmania, the 26th-largest island in the world, and the surrounding 334 islands. The state has a population of around 533,308 as of March 2019. Just over forty percent of the population resides in the Greater Hobart precinct, which forms the metropolitan area of the state capital and largest city, Hobart.

Jackaroo (trainee) trainee stockman on a sheep or cattle station

A jackaroo is a young man working on a sheep or cattle station, to gain practical experience in the skills needed to become an owner, overseer, manager, etc. The word originated in Queensland, Australia in the 19th century and is still in use in Australia and New Zealand in the 21st century. Its origins are unclear, although it is firmly rooted in Australian English, Australian culture and in the traditions of the Australian stockmen.

After the Second World War, Campbell completed an economics degree at the age of 50. He worked with the Department of Labour and National Service. [5]

The Department of Labour and National Service was an Australian government department that existed between October 1940 and December 1972.

A lover of sailing, he became an accomplished boat-builder, and competed in seven Sydney to Hobart yacht races. [5] In 1950, he circumnavigated Tasmania aboard the Kintail. [3]

Campbell married twice—both wives were named Kathleen; and he fathered nine children [3] —the last one being born when he was sixty-nine.

He led an uncommonly vigorous life. Only in his final few months did he need to use a wheelchair. In the end, a chest infection led to a deteriorating condition, and the 103-year-old war veteran died peacefully on 16 May 2002. He is buried at the Cornelian Bay Cemetery in Hobart. [4]

His second wife, who survived him, observed:

"Alec has become national property, although I'm not sure he realises it." [1]

He was survived by thirty grandchildren, thirty-two great-grandchildren (which includes model/actress Ruby Rose) and two great-great-grandchildren, as of 2000. [5] As of 2018, he has seven great-great-grandchildren.

Australian "legend"

In 2000, Campbell was recognised as one of the "Australian Legends". His name and photograph were honoured as part of an annual series of commemorative postage stamps issued by Australia Post since 1997. The stamps commemorate living Australians "who have made lifetime contributions to the development of Australia's national identity and character". [7] Campbell lived to fully enjoy this honour. [8]

Campbell's 45-cent Legend stamp displays the soldier's portrait as a young man, photographed just prior to his departure for Gallipoli. Formal photographs of the other two Anzac centenarians complete this stamp set. In addition, a fourth stamp features the 1914–15 star medal which was presented to all those who fought in campaigns during those war years. [9] These stamps, designed by Cathleen Cram of the Australia Post Design Studio, commemorate the story of events and people shaping contemporary Australia. [10] The Campbell stamp honours him as an individual and as a representative of all 68,000 soldiers at Gallipoli whose actions affected Australia's evolving self-image. [11]

In one of his last public appearances, Campbell led the 2002 Anzac Day Parade in Hobart. As he sat in his car before the parade, he especially seemed to enjoy shaking hands with the dozens of young children who came up to greet him. [1]

Campbell's birth in 1899 was just shortly before the Commonwealth of Australia came into being. [1] At his death, the nation honoured him with a Commonwealth-sponsored state funeral at Saint David's Anglican Cathedral in Hobart on 24 May 2002. [3]

In the context of Campbell's death, then Australian Prime Minister John Howard observed that Campbell was the last living link to that group of Australians that established the ANZAC legend. Howard also acknowledged that Gallipoli was "a story of great valour under fire, unity of purpose and a willingness to fight against the odds" and that Campbell "was the last known person anywhere in the world who served in that extraordinarily tragic campaign." [3] Campbell never understood the intense public attention on his later life and his longevity, and was unhappy at times that he was lauded by conservative politicians who ignored his later union activity. After his death he received many tributes, including from Tasmanian Returned and Services League (RSL) State President Ian Kennett, who said that Mr Alec William Campbell was a great Australian and that he "led a full and happy life and put his energies, upon returning to Hobart, back into his career and family".

At some point between 1996 and 2002, as the ranks of Anzac survivors thinned and Campbell's own health failed, his name rose to prominence. According to Rowan Cahill, writing for the Australian Rail Tram and Bus Industry Union, assertive nationalist and martial forces sought to turn Campbell into an icon as "the last of the Anzacs." Campbell resisted the myth-making. He observed that there was nothing really extraordinary in being the last; rather, he pointed out the simple fact that he had been one of the youngest at Gallipoli. [6] Shortly before his death, Campbell stated that "For god's sake, don't glorify Gallipoli - it was a terrible fiasco, a total failure and best forgotten". [12]

Medals and honours

See also

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James dub Sam Roy's

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Shaw, John, "Alec Campbell, Last Anzac at Gallipoli, Dies at 103", The New York Times , 20 May 2002.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "The Last ANZAC" Archived 26 May 2003 at the Wayback Machine , RSA Review (Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association), June 2002.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 2731 Alexander William CAMPBELL, The AIF Project,
  5. 1 2 3 4 Australia Post, "Australia Day: Australian Legends", Stamp Bulletin No. 254, p. 3, 2000.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Cahill, Rowan, "Alec Campbell, the last Anzac, a unionist" Archived 11 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine , Workers On-line, (Australian Rail Tram and Bus Industry Union), 2000.
  7. Australia Post, "Racing Legends are first past the post" Archived 11 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine , 2007.
  8. 1 2 3 Goldstein, Richard, "Roy Longmore Dies; Australian 'Legend', 107", The New York Times, 2 July 2001.
  9. 1 2 3 Australia Post, "Previous Australia Post Australian Legends" Archived 10 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine , 2005.
  10. Australia Post, "156 years collecting Australian graphic art", Priority, Issue 32, 2000. Also , February 2006.
  11. Australia Post, "Australian Legends – The Last Anzacs", Stamp Bulletin No. 254, 21 January 2000.
  12. King, Jonathan (20 April 2013). "It's Anzac Day - not the Big Day Out". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 25 April 2015.
  13. 80th Anniversary Armistice Remembrance Medal, 21 April 1999, It's an Honour
  14. Centenary Medal, 1 January 2002, It's an Honour

Further reading