Alec Campbell
Overview
 
Alexander William Campbell (26 February 1899 – 16 May 2002) was the final surviving Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n participant of the Gallipoli campaign during the First World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. His death broke the last living link of Australians with the Gallipoli story.
Alec Campbell was born in Launceston, Tasmania
Launceston, Tasmania
Launceston is a city in the north of the state of Tasmania, Australia at the junction of the North Esk and South Esk rivers where they become the Tamar River. Launceston is the second largest city in Tasmania after the state capital Hobart...

, Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

. 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 in order to enlist in the army without parental consent.
Encyclopedia
Alexander William Campbell (26 February 1899 – 16 May 2002) was the final surviving Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n participant of the Gallipoli campaign during the First World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. His death broke the last living link of Australians with the Gallipoli story.

Biography

Alec Campbell was born in Launceston, Tasmania
Launceston, Tasmania
Launceston is a city in the north of the state of Tasmania, Australia at the junction of the North Esk and South Esk rivers where they become the Tamar River. Launceston is the second largest city in Tasmania after the state capital Hobart...

, Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

. 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 in order to enlist in the army without parental consent. He joined the 15th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force
Australian Imperial Force
The Australian Imperial Force was the name given to all-volunteer Australian Army forces dispatched to fight overseas during World War I and World War II.* First Australian Imperial Force * Second 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 from Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 with the rest of the Australian forces in 1915, he became ill with a fever which caused partial facial paralysis. He was subsequently invalided home aboard the HMAT Port Sydney on 24 June 1916, and was formally discharged on 22 August 1916 -- a Gallipoli veteran at only 17. He only fought in the war for two months; he later explained tersely,
"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."

Civilian life

Campbell had a crowded life. In South Australia
South Australia
South Australia is a state of Australia in the southern central part of the country. It covers some of the most arid parts of the continent; with a total land area of , it is the fourth largest of Australia's six states and two territories.South Australia shares borders with all of the mainland...

, New South Wales
New South Wales
New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...

 and Tasmania
Tasmania
Tasmania is an Australian island and state. It is south of the continent, separated by Bass Strait. The state includes the island of Tasmania—the 26th largest island in the world—and the surrounding islands. The state has a population of 507,626 , of whom almost half reside in the greater Hobart...

, he was variously a jackaroo
Jackaroo (trainee)
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 Nineteenth Century and is still in use in Australia and New Zealand in the twenty-first...

, carpenter
Carpenter
A carpenter is a skilled craftsperson who works with timber to construct, install and maintain buildings, furniture, and other objects. The work, known as carpentry, may involve manual labor and work outdoors....

, railway carriage builder, mature-age university student, public servant, research officer and historian. He received vocational training in motor-body building at the Hobart Repatriation Trade School. He was a union organiser in the Launceston and Hobart railway workshops and an organiser with the Amalgamated Carpenters and Joiners (now part of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union
Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union
The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union is Australia's main trade union in construction, forestry and furnishing products, mining and energy production....

 (CFMEU)). He became president of the Tasmania
Tasmania
Tasmania is an Australian island and state. It is south of the continent, separated by Bass Strait. The state includes the island of Tasmania—the 26th largest island in the world—and the surrounding islands. The state has a population of 507,626 , of whom almost half reside in the greater Hobart...

n branch of the Australian Rail Union between 1939 and 1941, and president of the Launceston Trades and Labor Council between 1939 and 1942. He also worked on the construction of (Old) Parliament House
Old Parliament House, Canberra
Old Parliament House, known formerly as the Provisional Parliament House, was the house of the Parliament of Australia from 1927 to 1988. The building began operation on 9 May 1927 as a temporary base for the Commonwealth Parliament after its relocation from Melbourne to the new capital, Canberra,...

 in Canberra
Canberra
Canberra is the capital city of Australia. With a population of over 345,000, it is Australia's largest inland city and the eighth-largest city overall. The city is located at the northern end of the Australian Capital Territory , south-west of Sydney, and north-east of Melbourne...

.

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.

A lover of sailing
Sailing
Sailing is the propulsion of a vehicle and the control of its movement with large foils called sails. By changing the rigging, rudder, and sometimes the keel or centre board, a sailor manages the force of the wind on the sails in order to move the boat relative to its surrounding medium and...

, he became an accomplished boat-builder, and competed in six Sydney to Hobart yacht race
Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race
The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race is hosted by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, starting in Sydney, Australia on Boxing Day and finishing in Hobart. The race distance is approximately...

s. In 1950, he circumnavigated Tasmania aboard the Kintail.

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

He led an uncommonly vigorous life. Only in the final few months of his life 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 in the Cornelian Bay Cemetery in Hobart.

His second wife, who survived him, observed:
"Alec has become national property, although I'm not sure he realises it."

He was survived by thirty grandchildren, thirty-two great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

Australian "legend"

In 2000, Campbell was recognised as one of the "Australian Legends
Australian Legends
The Australian Legends is 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 the Commonwealth's national identity and character...

". His name and photograph were honoured as part of an annual series of commemorative
Commemorative stamp
A commemorative stamp is a postage stamp, often issued on a significant date such as an anniversary, to honor or commemorate a place, event or person. The subject of the commemorative stamp is usually spelled out in print, unlike definitive stamps which normally depict the subject along with the...

 postage stamp
Postage stamp
A postage stamp is a small piece of paper that is purchased and displayed on an item of mail as evidence of payment of postage. Typically, stamps are made from special paper, with a national designation and denomination on the face, and a gum adhesive on the reverse side...

s issued by Australia Post
Australia Post
Australia Post is the trading name of the Australian Government-owned Australian Postal Corporation .-History:...

 since 1997. The stamps commemorate living Australians "who have made lifetime contributions to the development of Australia's national identity and character". Campbell lived to fully enjoy this honour.

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. These stamps, designed by Cathleen Cram of the Australia Post Design Studio, commemorate the story of events and people shaping contemporary Australia. 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.

In one of his last public appearances, Campbell led the 2002 Anzac Day
ANZAC Day
Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, commemorated by both countries on 25 April every year to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who fought at Gallipoli in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. It now more broadly commemorates all...

 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. In the month before he died, it seemed that he could have ridden at the head of an old soldier's last parade.

Campbell's birth in 1899 was just shortly before the Commonwealth of Australia came into being. At his death, the nation honoured him with a Commonwealth-sponsored state funeral
State funeral
A state funeral is a public funeral ceremony, observing the strict rules of protocol, held to honor heads of state or other important people of national significance. State funerals usually include much pomp and ceremony as well as religious overtones and distinctive elements of military tradition...

 at Saint David's Anglican Cathedral in Hobart on 24 May 2002.

In the context of Campbell's death, then Australian Prime Minister John Howard
John Howard
John Winston Howard AC, SSI, was the 25th Prime Minister of Australia, from 11 March 1996 to 3 December 2007. He was the second-longest serving Australian Prime Minister after Sir Robert Menzies....

 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." 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. Assertive nationalist and martial forces sought to turn him 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.

Medals and honours






  • 1914-15 Star
    1914-15 Star
    The 1914-15 Star was a campaign medal of the British Empire, for service in World War I.The 1914-15 Star was approved in 1918, for issue to officers and men of British and Imperial forces who served in any theatre of the War between 5 August 1914 and 31 December 1915 .Recipients of this medal also...

  • British War Medal
    British War Medal
    The British War Medal was a campaign medal of the British Empire, for service in World War I.The medal was approved in 1919, for issue to officers and men of British and Imperial forces who had rendered service between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918...

  • Victory Medal
  • 80th Anniversary Armistice Remembrance Medal
    80th Anniversary Armistice Remembrance Medal
    The 80th Anniversary Armistice Remembrance Medal was a commemorative medal made to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Armistice marking the end of World War I...

     (21 April 1999)
  • Australia Post Australian Legends Award
    Australian Legends
    The Australian Legends is 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 the Commonwealth's national identity and character...

     (2000)
  • Centenary Medal
    Centenary Medal
    The Centenary Medal is an award created by the Australian Government in 2001. It was established to commemorate the Centenary of Federation of Australia and to honour people who have made a contribution to Australian society or government...

     (1 January 2002)

See also

  • Roy Longmore
    Roy Longmore
    Roy Longmore was an Australian centenarian, and one of the last two living veterans of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps serving in World War I.-ANZAC soldier:...

    , one of last two surviving veterans of Gallipoli.
  • Walter Parker
    Walter Parker (ANZAC)
    Walter Parker was an Australian centenarian, one of the last three living veterans of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who served in World War I.-ANZAC soldier:...

    , one of last three surviving veterans of Gallipoli.
  • Veterans of the First World War who died in 2002
    Veterans of the First World War who died in 2002
    The following is a list of known veterans of the First World War who died in 2002.-Australia :-Austria-Hungary :-Belgium :-Canada :-France :...


Further reading


External links

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