John Alexander Cameron (Service No. 6775A)
(1891 - 1983)

John (Jack) Alexander Cameron was born in August 1891 in Cranbourne to Alexander John Cameron and Agnes Cameron nee Spitty. He was the eldest of eleven children and was living with the family in Laverton and working as farm labourer in the area when he enlisted into the Australian Imperial Forces. The Cameron family had been living in the Laverton district since 1907 and a number of their children had attended the Laverton School in Kiora Street.

John Cameron first enlisted into the AIF in July 1915 at the age of 23 years and 10 months and attended basic training at Broadmeadows where he was appointed as a private to the 21st Battalion as part of the 4th Reinforcements. Private Cameron and the reinforcements for the 21st embarked Melbourne on 27 September 1915 aboard HMAT A20 Hororata. After arriving in Egypt Private Cameron was taken on strength with 21st Battalion at Tel-el-Kebir on 14 February 1916. One month later 20 March 1916 he was admitted to the 3rd Auxiliary Hospital at Heliopolis with mild ear trouble. His ear problem persisted and on 8 April 1916 his case was subject to a medical enquiry board. It determined that the original cause of his ear injury was a case of measles nine years earlier. It was further determined that his existing condition had been aggravated by military service and it was recommended that he be discharged in Australia as permanently unfit.

While still in hospital on 20 April 1916 Private Cameron suffered with a case of chronic diarrhoea. This required that he be transferred to the No. 1 Auxiliary Hospital in Cairo. On 11 June 1916 Private Cameron embarked at Suez and was invalided back to Australia aboard the HMAT A50 Itonus suffering with chronic ottorhoea (ear disorder). His ship arrived back in Melbourne in July 1916. A report of his return home appeared in the Werribee Shire Banner in 1917. It was mentioned in a letter to the editor that Private John Cameron “…was welcomed home at a public function in by Cr. Maher and that same genial ‘Jack’ responded in a way that raised the ‘house’ to a pitch of admiration.” Private John Cameron was discharged on 9 October 1916 still suffering with his ear condition.

However, John Alexander Cameron was committed to the cause and was able to re-enlist two months later on 11 December 1916. John was first sent to the recruit depot at Royal Park and then served at the military camp at Langwarrin between 1 January 1917 and 16 May 1917. Following this John was then based at Broadmeadows until 15 August 1917 when he was appointed to the 20th Reinforcements of the 22nd Battalion. During his training period at Broadmeadows Private John Cameron married his sweetheart Eva Gertrude King at Hawthorn on 4 August 1917. Three months later Private Cameron and the 20th Reinforcements for the 22nd embarked from Melbourne aboard HMAT A71 Nestor on the 21 November 1917 and travelled to Egypt before sailing on to England and arriving there on 2 February 1918. During a period of further training John Cameron was appointed to the rank of Acting Lance Corporal.

Members of the 22nd Battalion taking a meal break in the trenches on Westhoek Ridge, Belguim (Curtesy: AWM)

On the 22 April 1918 the 22nd Battalion Reinforcements proceeded to France and two weeks later John Cameron was taken on strength with the 22nd Battalion in the field. By the 10 May 1918 the battalion was moved into the Front Line at Mericourt France to relieve the 39th Battalion and after six days of fighting they were relieved in turn by the 21st Battalion and were rested at Ribemont. In early 1918 the Germans launched a large-scale assault known as ‘the Spring Offensive’ following the collapse of Russia on the Eastern Front. Throughout March and April the 22nd Battalion undertook defensive duties as the German offensive was blunted before the Allies launched their own offensive around Amiens in August.

The battalion was in the trenches at Villers-Bretonneux working in terrible conditions. They were working at night burying communication cables whilst under heavy shelling and all the time living in the very muddy trenches. The 22nd Battalion unit war diary described the build-up for an imminent attack on 7 August 1918 around Villers-Bretonneux: “Tanks getting into position. Fresh guns coming into positions in rear and registering. Roads congested with traffic of all kinds causing great inconvenience.” The battle began on 8 August and involved the 1st French Army, Canadian Corps, 7th Australian Infantry Brigade, 5th Australian Infantry Brigade, 3rd Australian Division and 2nd English Division.

After this the 22nd Battalion took part in a number of battles including the Battle of Mont St Quentin and the Battle of Montbrehain. On the afternoon of 3 October 1918 the battalion moved up to the Beaurevoir Line and attacked that position. They gained their objective but Private Cameron was wounded. This was just prior to the battalion joining the battle around Montbrehain which took place on 5 October 1918 and was the final action fought by Australian infantrymen on the Western Front during the war and came as part of a series of attacks made by the Allies to breach the Hindenburg Line following the launch of the Hundred Days Offensive.

Private Cameron had received a gunshot wound to his right shoulder and was treated by the 53rd Casualty Clearing Station. On 5 October he was transferred to the 6th General Hospital at Rouen before being transferred back to England. After John arrived he was admitted to University War Hospital at Southampton where he was treated for two months. On 3 December 1918 he was discharged from hospital and granted two weeks leave. News of his injury was reported in the Melbourne press. “Wounded – Mrs E.G. Cameron Ermond Street Rushworth has been notified that her husband Private J.A. Cameron (late of Laverton) is suffering from severe gunshot wound in right shoulder and back.”

After the signing of the armistice John didn’t have a long wait before he was able to embark on 14 January 1919 and return to Australia aboard HMAT City of York. He disembarked at Melbourne on 27 February 1919 and obtained his discharge from the AIF on 14 May 1919. Laverton held a welcome for its returned soldiers in their State School on 14 October 1919. This event consisted of a dinner and was followed by a concert and a medal presentation ceremony. Those receiving medals that evening were; Lieutenant Herbert Newland, Sergeant Albert Hyde, Private John Cameron, Private Alexander Cameron, Private William Cameron, Private Donald McDonald, Private Edward Hyde, Sapper Alfred Peacock, Private Harry Rhoades, Sapper Bernard Maher, Driver Ernest Peacock, Private William Maher, Petty Officer Richard Baldwin and Signaller George Grant.

John and Eva Cameron and their children remained in the district, farming land around Werribee and Werribee South area until around the early 1940’s when they moved to The Avenue, Newport where they lived and worked until John retired. He lived a long life and died in July 1983 aged 92 years and is buried in the Werribee Cemetery.

References:

  1. ancestry.com.au
  2. https://www.aif.adfa.edu.au/showPerson?pid=44083
  3. https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=3200698
  4. The Argus, 24 October 1918, p.5.
  5. Werribee Shire Banner, 23 October 1919, p.2.
  6. The Argus, 6 November 1923, p.7.
  7. Werribee Shire Banner, Roll of Honor, 22 July 1915, p.3.
  8. The Bendigo Independent, 18 April 1916, p.7.
  9. Werribee Shire Banner, 10 October 1918, p.1.
  10. Werribee Shire Banner, 11 October 1917, p.3.
  11. Murchison Advertiser, 24 August 1917, p.2.

Research by: Graeme Reilly (ALHS)