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The last ANZAC
The last of the ANZACs, Alec Campbell, died peacefully in Hobart on Thursday, 16 May 2002. Aged 103, he never recovered from a chest infection that had struck him down earlier in the week. A battler to the end, Alec Campbell attended his last ANZAC Day parade in Hobart this year.
Australian 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."
Mr Howard said not only was he the last Australian ANZAC, "he was also the last known person anywhere in the world who served in that extraordinarily tragic campaign."
New Zealand's last Gallipoli veteran, Doug Dibley died in Rotorua on 18 December 1997, aged 101. France's last survivor, Ernest Stocanne died in 1999 aged 105 and Britain's 102 year old Percy Goring died in Western Australia in July last year.
Alec Campbell was born in 1899 in Launceston Tasmania, and was working as a clerk with the Colonial Mutual Fire Insurance Company when he lied about his age and enlisted in June 1915.
As Private Campbell, he embarked for overseas service in August that year and in October joined the 15th Battalion at Lemnos. He served at Gallipoli, carrying ammunition and water from the beach to the troops at the front, before evacuation to Egypt in mid-December 1915.
In early 1916 he was in and out of hospital several times until he embarked for Australia on board the Port Sydney in June and was discharged, medically unfit, in August 1916 - a Gallipoli veteran aged just 17.
On returning to Tasmania, Mr Campbell worked as a jackaroo before applying for vocational training in motor-body building at the Hobart Repatriation Trade School. Later he worked as a carpenter in Tasmania's highlands, in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra where he helped build the first Parliament House.
In 1927 he took up a position with Launceston Railway Workshops, until 1942 when he was appointed Manpower Officer in Queenstown.
Following World War II, Mr Campbell was appointed Disabled Persons Employment Officer and later Research Officer in the Department of Labour and National Service having completed a degree in economics after turning 50 years of age. Until 1978 he worked part time as an adviser to the Heart Foundation.
As for his war service, Alec Campbell said, "I enjoyed some of it. I didn't enjoy some of it. I'm not a philosopher - Gallipoli was Gallipoli."
A keen yachtsman, he sailed in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race six times and in 1950 circumnavigated Tasmania aboard the Kintail.
Alec Campbell was married twice - both wives named Kathleen. He was the father of nine children, the youngest Felicity Tangney lives in Invercargill; had 33 grandchildren, 35 great grandchildren and two great great grandchildren.
RNZRSA national president David Cox joined Major General Peter Phillips national president of the Returned & Services League of Australia and other representatives of ex-service organisations to farewell Alec Campbell at the Commonwealth-sponsored state funeral service in St David's Cathedral, Hobart on Friday, 24 May.
Mr Cox said he was honoured to represent the New Zealand ex-service community at the funeral because of the strong links back to the founding of the organisation in 1916 with New Zealand soldiers returning from the battlefield of Gallipoli. "The ANZAC heritage has not died with the passing of Alec Campbell," he said, "it will live on as a beacon of courage and fortitude in the military annals of both New Zealand and Australia."
Present at the funeral was the Australian Prime Minister John Howard who interrupted an overseas visit to pay his nation's respects to the last member of that exclusive band of Gallipoli veterans, the original ANZACs.
New Zealand was represented by the High Commissioner in Canberra, Simon Murdoch who carried a message of sympathy to both the family and the people of Australia from the Minister of Defence and Veterans' Affairs Mark Burton on behalf of the Government and the people of New Zealand. He was accompanied by the Defence Attache, Brigadier Lou Gardiner.
With the passing of the last survivor of that tragic and infamous military muddle, the words of their commander, General Sir Ian Hamilton echo: "Before the war, who had ever heard of ANZAC? Hereafter, who will ever forget it?"
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