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1899 - 2002
In Memory of
Mr Alec William Campbell, Australia's last ANZAC
 
 

The last ANZAC marches on


May 23, 2002

TRIBUTES have been flowing in for Mr Alec William Campbell,
Australia's last ANZAC,
who passed away last week at his nursing home in Hobart.

Suffering a chest infection, the condition of the 103-year-old veteran deteriorated in recent weeks with Alec passing away peacefully in the presence of his wife, Kate.

With a rich life spanning three centuries, Alec Campbell amazingly had a very short war of six weeks on the battlefields of Gallipoli.

Yet, as Australia's last ANZAC he represented the last physical link with the campaign that forged our national spirit - "a unity of purpose and a willingness to fight against the odds", as Prime Minister John Howard defined in his tribute.

Private Alec Campbell was only 16 years of age when he enlisted with the 15th Battalion, leaving his job as an insurance clerk.

Not even being old enough to shave, Alec gained the nickname 'The Kid' during his training in Hobart.

His mother was afraid that Alec would die at Gallipoli, as her nephew already had. His father was so upset at the possibility of losing his eldest son, he refused to farewell Alec off to war.

Alec landed at ANZAC Cove in early November, 1915 and assisted in carrying ammunition, stores and water to the trenches. Illness forced his evacuation in December 1915 and Alec Campbell was formally discharged in 1916.

To Alec, being at Gallipoli represented a small part of his life. While accepting that he was the last ANZAC, he never fully understood the public interest in his life. Many feted him, from governor-generals, prime ministers and journalists, down to young children. Everyone had an interest in Alec Campbell.

He realized the public attention also was because of his longevity. Every year Alec would lead the ANZAC Day Parade in Hobart. This year he sat in his car, before the parade, and shook hands with dozens of young children.

In recent months his legs were no longer able to support him and he became confined to a wheelchair.

Last December, at 102, Alec still used a walking frame while unveilling an ANZAC memorial stone at Hobart's Anglesea Barracks.

Like many veterans, he was reluctant to talk about his times in the trenches, dodging the bullets in a barren, bitterly cold country. The blizzards of late 1915 were one thing that he did remember.

Despite his very short war, Alec went on to have a full life in Hobart. He put himself through university, gaining a degree at fifty years of age. He loved sailing, built boats and sailed in six Sydney to Hobart races.

Alec also worked on the first Parliament House in Canberra 1927 and went on to work in the union movement. He fathered the last of his nine children at the age of sixty-nine.

Tasmanian Returned and Services League (RSL) State President Ian Kennett, said that Alec Campbell was a great Australian.

"We must also remember that he lead a full and happy life and put his energies, upon returning to Hobart, back into his career and family."

Alec is survived by his wife, Kate, thirty grand-children, thirty-two great grand-children, and two great-great grand-children.

A State Funeral for Private Alec William Campbell, 15th Battalion 1 Australian Imperial Force (AIF), will be held in Hobart on May 24.

By Capt Phil Pyke

acknowledge:
www.defence.gov.au

'permission granted'
Editor, Army newspaper and magazine
www.defence.gov.au/news/armynews/html/what_is.htm

 

SYDNEY MORNING HERALD:
17th of May 2002

 

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"

acknowledge:
www.smh.com
.au
Sydney Morning Herald
Tony Stephens remembers
Mr. Campbell, and his fellow humble heroes:

www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/05/16/1021544052449.html
 

The Mercury:
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.
 
acknowledge:
 - The Mercury -
www.news.com.au
 
 
 
 
Farewell Alec
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."

National silence

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.

acknowledge:
www.theage.com.au 

The Age Australia
 


 The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
Minister for foreign Affairs, Australia

Media Release
 24 May 2002
 

Flag to Fly at Half-Mast Abroad for Last ANZAC

A State Funeral Service with full military honours will be held today for Mr Alec William Campbell, the last known veteran of the Gallipoli campaign of World War 1.  He died in a nursing home in Hobart on 16th of May 2002, aged 103 years old.

Mr Alec Campbellís passing breaks the last living link with the Australian ANZACs whose spirit and actions defined our nation.

On behalf of the Australian people, I extend my deepest condolences to his family at this time.

As a mark of respect and mourning, I have advised all Australian high commissions, embassies and consulates abroad to fly our flag at half-mast throughout 24 May.

This is in line with the Prime Ministerís directive that all Commonwealth departments and affiliated agencies fly the flag at half mast today.

I have also asked our overseas missions to observe a minuteís silence as a tribute to Mr Alec William Campbell.

The service will be held at the Cathedral Church of St David in Hobart at 10.30am, followed by a private family burial.

acknowledge:
www.foreignminister.gov.au
Chris Kenny (Ministerial)
Julie McDonald (Departmental)
 

'Lest We Forget'

 

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