1899 - 2002
In Memory of
Mr Alec William Campbell, Australia's last ANZAC
The last ANZAC marches on
TRIBUTES have been flowing in for
By Capt Phil Pyke
Last ANZAC is dead
The last Anzac, Mr Alec Campbell, died peacefully in Hobart last night. He was 103. He never recovered from a chest infection that struck him down earlier this week.
Prime Minister John Howard described Mr Campbell as the last living link to that group of Australians that established the ANZAC legend. "It is a story of great valour under fire, unity of purpose and a willingness to fight against the odds that has helped to define what it means to be an Australian."
Mr Howard sent his condolences to the Campbell family and offered a state funeral "as a mark of a grateful nation".
"Not only is he the last Australian Anzac, he is also the last known person anywhere in the world who served in that extraordinarily tragic campaign," Mr Howard told parliament last night.
Veterans Affairs Minister Danna Vale said the ANZACs fought with the kind of courage, integrity and honour that Australia would never forget. "It is a legacy that will live on"
17th of May 2002
-The Last Gallipoli ANZAC -
Mr Alec William Campbell was the last ANZAC. The last living link with a legend that defined a nation. His life spanned three centuries, linking our heroic past with the minds and hearts of the present.
Like the ANZAC legend, Mr Alec William Campbell's life was one of spirit, determination and endeavour. Though his status as a national hero is owing to his months spent as a young soldier at Gallipoli, Mr Alec Campbell's exceptionally varied 103 years were filled with gallantry and adventure.
To the many friends and vast family he leaves behind, nine children, 33 grandchildren, 35 great grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.
Mr Alec Campbell was more than a war hero. His life was full and eclectic. Mr. Campbell was a father and a husband, a jackeroo and a carpenter, a union official, an economist, a railway carriage builder, a yachtsman and a boxer, to name but a few.
He put himself through university as a mature-age student; he taught himself to sail and competed in six Sydney-Hobart yacht races. Born at the end of the 18th century, Mr Alec Campbell's mettle was a tribute to his generation. He never shied from work and never shirked a challenge.
Most notably, he was never deterred by the constraints of age. Whether in old age or in youth, Mr Alec William Campbell defied conventions. And, when he volunteered to fight in World War I, young Alec even defied the law. He admitted in interviews he lied about his age to be accepted into Australian Imperial Force.
"I had to put my age up if I wanted to go and everyone was going" he had said.
Mr Alec William Campbell was born in Launceston on February 26, 1899. The son of a commercial traveller and grandson of a Scottish migrant, Alec was the eldest of four, three brothers and one sister.
Alec completed his schooling at Scotch Oakburn College, Launceston, from 1910 to 1915. During his schooldays he excelled in football and cricket. His first job was as an insurance clerk, but he had been in the position only a couple of months before fate and his adventurous spirit beckoned. Alec was a fresh-faced youth of 16 years and four months when he enlisted in June 1915, one of 324.000 who volunteered to fight overseas. But this baby-faced fighter did not even need to shave.
Alec at the dock, dreading his fate would be the same as her nephew, who had already died in the slaughterhouse that was Gallipoli.
One of Mr Alec Campbell's daughters, Mary Burke, said: "I've been told his (Mr Campbell's) mother was terribly, terribly upset because her brother's only son was killed at Gallipoli. "So when Dad went she was very upset. She ran along the length of the pier as the ship pulled out. It was very hard."
The young soldier, nicknamed "The Kid" because of his youthful looks, trained in Hobart before sailing with the 15th Battalion for Gallipoli. Mr Alec Campbell was one of 50.000 Australians who fought at Gallipoli, forming the nation's identity in our greatest and bloodiest battle. He fought in the trenches for two months, dodging bullets by day and keeping his head down by night as he slept in a damp hole in the ground.
Like many who have survived such horrors, Mr Alec Campbell was reluctant to talk about his time at Gallipoli. He told The Mercury in 1997: "There's not much to remember. You were stuck in a barren country being shot at and shooting at other people." After a bitter winter ("My word I remember the snow and the damn cold," he had said), the soldier fell ill with common afflictions: enteric fever, the measles and the mumps.
The illnesses led to Private Campbell falling victim to a relapse of Bell's palsy, a partial paralysis of the face which he first contracted during dental problems as a child. The paralysis stayed with Mr Campbell all of his life, rendering his right eye incapable of closing. The eye, which constantly wept, was finally removed in 1999. Just after the evacuation of Gallipoli in December 1915, Mr Alec Campbell was shipped to a hospital in Eqypt, where he arrived on Christmas Day, 1915.
He spent the next six months in and out of the foreign hospital. Unfit for any other theatres of war, he left the Suez in June 1916 on the Port Sydney to return to Australia. He was medically discharged on August 23, marking the end of his war career. Though the ANZAC legend is painted by historians as the rich and glorious cornerstone of our nation, Mr Alec Campbell rarely edified his time in the trenches.
He recalled the scrubby bush, the bitter cold, the "nasty Turks" and their sea of bullets.
But he was not one to continually relive the glory or the horror.
- The Mercury -
24th of May 2002
The last ANZAC, Alec William Campbell, will be farewelled today with a state funeral in Hobart.
Australians have also been asked to participate in one minute's silence at 11 am AEST or 9 am WST to honour Mr Alec William Campbell, who died last week aged 103.
Flags will also be flown at half-mast, to coincide with the state funeral - with full military honours - that begins at 10.30 am (AEST) at St David's Anglican Cathedral in Hobart.
A vast array of VIPs, led by Prime Minister John Howard and Governor-General Peter Hollingworth, will attend the service.
Others participating include the Anglican Primate of Australia Peter Carnley and Army Chief Peter Cosgrove. It will also be attended by almost 120 members of Mr Campbell's family.
Daughter Caithleen Claridge, and son Neil Campbell, will deliver the eulogies while Mr Howard and Tasmanian RSL president Ian Kennett will read tributes.
After the service, Mr Alec Campbell's coffin will be placed on a gun carriage.
Accompanied by 200 soldiers and a 50-piece band, it will proceed down Macquarie Street, taking a salute at the Town Hall.
Finally, as a 21-gun salute rings out, the casket will be transferred to a hearse and taken to Cornelian Bay Cemetery, about five kilometres along the Derwent River, for a private burial.
The Queen sends her tribute
Queen Elizabeth today paid tribute to the world's last ANZAC soldier, Alec Campbell.
The queen sent the Campbell family a message, expressing her sadness at Mr Campbell's death at the age of 103 last week.
"I was saddened to hear of the death of Mr Campbell, the longest surviving member of the ANZACs who fought so courageously through the dreadful months of the Gallipoli campaign in 1915," she said in the message.
"His death marks the passing of the generation which contributed so much to the character, identity and independent standing of the Australian nation.
"I extend my sympathy
to all the members of Mr Alec Campbell's family."
Premier Steve Bracks today urged all Victorians to observe a minute's silence tomorrow in memory of Australia's last Gallipoli soldier, Alec William Campbell.
Mr. Bracks said all Victorians should take time to remember not only the life of Mr Campbell but all Gallipoli veterans at 11am tomorrow.
"This is the passing of an era, the passing of a hero, really, in Australian terms," he said.
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