Alec Campbell

Last known survivor of Gallipoli
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The Independent Online

Alec Campbell, soldier, builder, carpenter and economist: born Launceston, Tasmania 26 February 1899; twice married (nine children); died Hobart, Tasmania 16 May 2002.

Alec Campbell, the last survivor of the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign of 1915, has died in Tasmania aged 103.

In early 1915, with the stalemate on the Western Front, a decision was made to commit the Allied forces to the desolate Gallipoli Peninsular of southern Turkey in April to attack Germany through its Turkish ally. The initial naval operation failed and a land attack was decided on. The British and French divisions were enhanced by two divisions of Anzac troops.

The fighting throughout the Gallipoli campaign was fierce and the conditions brutal. Death, as well as illness and fatigue among the Allied troops, took an appalling toll. In the late autumn fresh troops arrived from Australia and among them was a 16-year-old Alec Campbell. He had argued with his parents and insisted on joining his chums in the army. One of his granddaughters recalls: "He began life as he intended to carry on, a determined adventurer." So distressed was Campbell's father that he didn't travel to see his youngest and smallest son (who was dwarfed by his bayoneted rifle) off to war in 1915.

Campbell arrived in November on the beaches of Anzac Cove, where he worked as a water carrier. A month later he was part of the Allied evacuation from Gallipoli. It was a campaign in which 8,700 Anzacs lost their lives. A large number of them have no named grave. It is a campaign which has deeply etched itself into the heart of the Australians and their contribution is best assessed by the Anzac historian, C.E.W. Bean, who says that they will be remembered "for reckless valour in a good cause, for enterprise, resourcefulness, fidelity, comradeship and endurance".

After the evacuation from Anzac Cove, Campbell spent six months in hospital in Egypt while his friends were sent to fight in the trenches of the Somme and Ypres. He was evacuated back to Tasmania – his great childhood adventure was at an end and he had barely turned 17.

There followed a career from jackaroo to railway carriage builder and carpenter. After the Second World War Campbell studied for a degree and one of the jobs he took up was as a research economist, at the Australian Labour and National Service departments. He later worked with handicapped soldiers.

His adventuring spirit dominated his life. He sailed in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, hunted, built houses and boats and, after his reluctant retirement, became an advisor to the National Heart Foundation, where he worked until his late eighties.

Max Arthur