The SANDS OF TIME Collection – 6. Rose Of No Man’s Land

6. Rose Of No Man’s Land
Alec William Campbell — 875 x 685 mm
© Robert Morgan

‘The Kid’ – The Early years

Alec William Campbell was born on 26 February 1899 and was the son of Samuel Campbell and Marian née Thrower.  Aged 16, he enlisted in the AIF in July 1915, claiming to be an 18 year old clerk, and despite his small size and obvious youth, sailed on the S.S. Kyarra in August 1915 as No. 2731 Private A. W. Campbell, 15th (Queensland & Tasmania) Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade, Australian Imperial Force.  Landing at Gallipoli on 2 November, Campbell served as a water carrier for the remainder of the campaign at Anzac. He would be nicknamed and known by his comrades as ‘The Kid’.

Last Anzac Soldier

While at Gallipoli, he suffered from a bout of influenza, and was also injured when accidentally struck in the face by a comrade’s rifle.  He, and the rest of the battalion, were evacuated from the peninsula as part of the general withdrawal on 13 December.  The weather and strain had taken their toll, though, and on 3rd January 1916, Private Campbell was admitted to the 1st Australian General Hospital in Heliopolis, Cairo, suffering from acute laryngitis.  It seems his health had completely broken down.  Over the next few months he was afflicted at different times with jaundice, scabies, head lice, mumps, palsy and paralysis of the right side of the face.  His ‘War Gratuity Schedule’ form records that he was admitted to this or that hospital with the simple description ‘sick’, possibly because there was so much going wrong.  Alec spent the time around his seventeenth birthday in and out of hospitals and convalescent depots, always rejoining his unit on discharge, but seemingly never able to remain with the battalion long before once again falling ill.

He was eventually repatriated to Australia as medically unfit and on 24th June 1916, he boarded the Port Sydney at Suez for the long journey home.  His service with the A.I.F. officially ended on 22nd August 1916, just over a year after his enlistment, when he was discharged as medically unfit in Tasmania.  He had joined the army, travelled half-way round the world, served at Gallipoli, been discharged, and was once again living with his parents, all long before he turned eighteen.

After the war, Alec went bush and got work as a jackeroo in Tasmania, before undertaking carpentry training, building motor bodies, houses and boats.  He took up boxing and won the Tasmanian flyweight championship.  In 1924 he married his first wife, Kathleen Connolly and started a family.  He gave up boxing and eventually had seven children.  In 1927 he began working for the Launceston Railway Workshop and was a staunch unionist, becoming President of the Tasmanian branch of the Australian Workers’ Union in 1942.  During World War 2 he studied for an economics degree and met the woman who would become his second wife, Kathleen Corvan, with whom he had another two children – the second when he was 69 years old.  He worked in the Public Service as a disabled persons’ employment officer, in which capacity he later assisted incapacitated World War 2 veterans.  He learned to sail, and took part in at least six of the gruelling annual Sydney-to-Hobart yacht races.  He worked for the Heart Foundation until his retirement at age 80, and continued to drive until he was 95.  The Bells Palsy which developed as a result of his Gallipoli injury eventually caused the loss of his right eye.  When Roy Longmore died in June 2001, Campbell was left as the only surviving Australian veteran of the Gallipoli campaign.  Alec Campbell died at the age of 103 on 16 May 2002 in Hobart and was given a state funeral.

%d bloggers like this: