Alexander Ronald Cameron (Service No. 58)
(1895 - 1978)

Alexander Ronald Cameron was born in 1895, in Cranbourne, to Alexander John Cameron and Agnes Cameron nee Spitty. Alexander, or Alex as he was known, was the third eldest of eleven children, and one of three Cameron brothers who enlisted into the AIF and served in WWI.

Before enlisting in the AIF, Alexander had transferred from the Australian Militia Forces, 17th Brigade, 58th Infantry. This Brigade was based at Essendon and were known as the ‘Essendon Rifles’. Like his brothers, he was also living in Kiora Street, Laverton with his family.

At the age of 21 years, Alexander Ronald Cameron took his oath of enlistment in the AIF at Melbourne on 15 January 1916 and was sent to Ballarat to complete his basic training. By way of basic training, Private Alexander Cameron was required to complete 397½ hours of training over 11 weeks and was appointed as a private with ‘A’ Company of the 39th Battalion. This battalion had just been formed in Ballarat and was a part of the 10th Brigade that was attached to the 3rd Division. Private Alexander Cameron embarked from Port Melbourne with the 39th on 27 May 1916 on board the HMAT A11 Ascanius.

Their ship first stopped at Cape Town in South Africa, before heading to St Vincent and then on to England arriving on 18 July 1916 with the battalion then commencing further training prior to heading across to France. On arrival the men were granted four days leave, however Private Cameron missed out on his leave break as he was admitted to the Military Hospital Fargo suffering with mild pleurisy.

In August 1916 a Trench Mortar Battery was formed within the 39th Battalion. Private Cameron took half a days unauthorised leave in September 1916, and for this he was awarded a fine of three days loss of pay.  Also in that month His Majesty the King reviewed the 3rd Australian Division at Bulford at a parade held on 27 September 1916 but we are uncertain as to whether Private Cameron was present or still convalescing in hospital. On 15 October 1916 Private Cameron was transferred to the 3rd Australian Divisional Trench Mortar Batteries at Larkhill and appointed as a driver.

Because no mortars were available for training in England the batteries were ordered to proceed to France immediately, departing on 21 November 1916.  Four days later they arrived at their billets in Bailleul, near Flanders on the Western Front. During the first half of December 1916 the men from the Trench Mortar Batteries attended a school at Berthen, France where they learnt to use their new weapons. They then moved to Armentieres and took over the sector on the Western Front, south of the River Lys, extending down to Row-Avenue.

Image: 3rd Australian Medium Trench Mortar Battery in France (Photographer Frank Hurley, Courtesy: nla.gov.au/nla.obj-140880061/view)

On 22 April 1917 Driver Cameron was detached to the 3rd Divisional Ammunition Column in France.  Each Division had their own ammunition column that was required to keep ammunition up to the guns.  Shells were moved from the ‘Third Line’ up to the ‘Front Lines’ over a network of motor vehicles horse drawn wagons railways and tramways. It was a very risky job and many drivers received bravery awards through the course of the war. No unit war diaries from the 3rd Divisional Ammunition Column are currently available so it is not possible to trace his movements until he returned to the 3rd Divisional Medium Trench Mortar Battery on 11 June 1917 at Nieppe in Northern France.  He was then appointed as a gunner.

On 7 July 1917 the 3rd Division Trench Mortars moved to Wheal Camp in the vicinity of Neuve-Eglise Belgium where they occupied the Messines Sector in newly captured ground.  All personnel were then engaged in laying new communications cables underground. Early in September 1917 the 3rd Division Trench Mortar personnel moved to another new camp at Ouderdom. It again was in newly captured ground that required all personnel to help in establishing their position.

At the end of September Gunner Alexander Cameron was treated for Pleuro Pneumonia by the 3rd Field Ambulance. He was transferred to the 2nd Casualty Clearing Station and then the 7th Casualty Clearing Station at the Etaples Base. There he was diagnosed as suspect T.B. and returned to England aboard the hospital ship ‘Princess Elizabeth’. On 5 October 1917 he was admitted to the military hospital at Frensham Hill and diagnosed as suffering from bronchitis. His treatment and convalescence took three weeks and he was discharged back to light duties with the No. 2 Commonwealth Depot at Weymouth on 29 October 1917. Gunner Cameron then undertook training to return him to full strength before he could be transferred back to his unit in the field.

After a further period of convalescing Gunner Cameron then transferred to the Overseas Training Brigade at Longbridge Deverell on 21 January 1918.  During the cold English winter he suffered a relapse on 25 February 1918 and was admitted to the Group Clearing Hospital suffering with influenza.  After receiving further treatment he was discharged in early March 1918 and sailed from Southampton to rejoin the 3rd Division Artillery in France.

By mid-March 1918 he was back with the 6th Australian Medium Trench Mortar Battery at Nieppe in France.  His name appears in the unit war diary as being taken on strength on 14 March 1918. His unit then saw action at La Neuville, Ville Church, Sunken Road Villers-Bretonneux Monument House, culminating at the Hindenburg Line and Montbrehain where his unit heard that the armistice had been signed on the 11 November 1918 and the main fighting was over.

After a wait of five months he embarked aboard HMAT A30 Borda on 11 May 1919 and sailed for Australia arriving in Melbourne on 27 June 1919 and was then discharged in November of that year. The three Cameron brothers were welcomed home at a function held in the Laverton State School on 14 October 1919. They were also part of a large group of returned soldiers who were presented with gold medals by Mr John Henry Lister, MHR in Werribee.

Between 1919 and 1963 the Victorian electoral roll shows Alexander Cameron as residing at Kiora Street in Laverton living with his family and even though he had been discharged from the AIF his occupation was always listed as a soldier. On 28 March 1962 Alexander applied for benefits under the Repatriation Act which would have been about the time he retired and had moved down to Beach Road in Werribee South. There is no record of him as having married or having a family.

Alexander Cameron died at Werribee on 5 October 1978 at the age of 83 and is buried at Altona Memorial Park.

References:

  1. ancestry.com.au
  2. https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=3191803
  3. https://www.aif.adfa.edu.au/showPerson?pid=43799
  4. Werribee Shire Banner, 23 October 1919, p.2.
  5. Werribee Shire Banner, Roll of Honor, 27 July 1916, p.1.
  6. Williamstown Chronicle, 15 December 1944, p.1.
  7. Williamstown Chronicle, 24 January 1931, p.4.
  8. Image: nla.gov.au/nla.obj-140880061/view

Research by: Graeme Reilly (ALHS)