William Duncan Cameron (Service No. 583)
(1896 - 1939)
William Duncan Cameron was born in 1896 in Cranbourne to Alexander John Cameron and Agnes Cameron nee Spitty. When he enlisted in the AIF William gave his place of birth as Laverton but we know that this was not correct but not uncommon for men to register what they thought to be the case. William was the fourth eldest of eleven Cameron children and one of three brothers who enlisted into the AIF and served in WWI from the Cameron family.
As of 29 April 1915 fifteen local men from the Government’s explosive reserve guard had transferred to the AIF at the Broadmeadows training camp and Private William Cameron was one of those men. The Werribee Banner of that day noted – ‘The Government explosives reserve guard has been an excellent recruiting ground in addition to a lieutenant, sergeant major and sergeant and fully a dozen privates have transferred to Broadmeadows.’
At the age of 18 years and 8 months and with the permission of both of his parents William Duncan Cameron enlisted on 19 February 1915. Private Cameron completed his training on 1 May 1915 and was appointed to ‘C’ Company 22nd Infantry Battalion. Just over a week later Private Cameron and the 22nd Battalion embarked from Melbourne on 10 May 1915 on board HMAT A38 Ulysses with his mates bound for the Mediterranean. Joining him in ‘C’ Company and aboard the Ulysses was Ernest William Peacock and Alfred Lindsay Newland.
After a period of additional training in Egypt the men of the 22nd Battalion were ordered to the Gallipoli peninsula as reinforcements. The 22nd Battalion arrived off the Gallipoli coast in the early hours on 5 September 1915 and disembarked in five large barges. Once onshore they were then required to walk two miles to their dugouts. The 23rd Battalion had already preceded them ashore and the 24th Battalion followed them later in the day. The 22nd Battalion first occupied the southern end of Number 2 Section near Lone Pine. On 9 September 1915 the unit war diary records that the 22nd were under heavy Turkish shelling in the Lone Pine trench.
The photo below (Courtesy: awm.gov.au/collection/C438) shows the men of the 22nd Battalion, going into the line at the southern part of Lone Pine to relieve the 6th Battalion.
This is how the unit war diary describes the incident in which Private Cameron was wounded. He was first admitted to the 1st ACCS (Australian Casualty Clearing Station) with a shrapnel wound to his face and head. After treatment he was admitted to the 6th Field Ambulance and then transferred to the hospital ship Maheno. The hospital ship conveyed him to the Island of Malta where he was admitted to the Cottonera Military Hospital on 2 October 1915. He remained there for just over two weeks before he embarked for England on board the hospital ship Brasile.
Back in England Private Cameron was admitted to the 3rd Wandsworth London Hospital for more treatment to the gunshot wounds to his face. After three weeks treatment he was discharged from hospital on 17 November 1915 and reported to the No. 5 Australian Intermediate [Convalescent] Depot at Bostal Heath.
In January 1916 Private Cameron sent a letter of thanks to a Miss Hocking in Bendigo for a scarf that she had sent to him in England via the Red Cross. He mentioned that he was returning home soon because he had lost sight in one eye at Anzac. This plan did not eventuate and he was to return to the Western Front. On 9 June 1916 Private Cameron was discharged from hospital in England and returned to the 22nd Battalion who were now stationed at the Bois Grenier Line. After a period in the front line the battalion marched over several weeks to new billets at Albert France. On the way they marched through Blanche Maison, Breilly, Rainville, Puchvillers, and Lealvillers before arriving at Sausage Valley.
On 27 July 1916 the 22nd Battalion relieved the 6th Battalion in the front line at Victoria. During the heavy shelling on the first day the 22nd Battalion lost one officer and 19 other ranks. Five officers and 129 men were wounded and 19 other ranks were missing. They suffered heavy casualties every day of the battle until they were withdrawn from the line on 31 July 1916. On 4 August the 22nd Battalion went back into the front line as part of a planned advance. During the second day casualties were reported as being heavy due to enemy artillery fire but the battalion held its ground. It was during this fighting that Private Cameron was again wounded.
Suffering with a gunshot wound to his shoulder Private Cameron was admitted to the 8th General Hospital at Rouen on 8 August 1916. On the following day he embarked from Havre aboard the hospital ship Mahino and returned to England. On arrival he was admitted to the Beaufort War Hospital at Fishponds in Bristol where he was treated before being discharged on 8 September 1916. Private Cameron was then taken on strength with the No. 2 Australian Command Depot at Weymouth. This base had been established to house men who were not expected to be fit for duty for at least six months. He remained there for one month and was then transferred to the 6th Training Battalion at Rollestone/Larkhill. He remained with the 6th Training Battalion until 13 February 1917 when he was admitted to the Brigade Hospital at Perham Downs as being sick.
His treatment lasted for about four weeks and he was discharged to A.M.C. Details in London on 16 May 1917. He was then attached to the Group Clearing Hospital at Sutton Veny. This was a military hospital with over 1200 beds. After three months at Sutton Veny Private Cameron developed pleurisy (inflammation in the lungs) and was admitted to the Military Hospital at Tidworth for treatment. His condition did not improve after one month so was transferred to the Brigade Hospital at Perham Downs for further treatment. Once recovered he returned to the Group Clearing Hospital at Sutton Veny. On 1 March 1918 a Medical Board classified him as ‘C1’ which was classification for ‘Fit for Home Service only’. This meant that he would remain at Sutton Veny for the remainder of the War.
Because of his early enlistment date he was classified as ‘1915 Personnel’ and was able to obtain an early passage home to Australia. On 2 January 1919 he embarked from England on board HMAT A35 Berrima and arrived in Melbourne on 17 February 1919. Private William Duncan Cameron was discharged on 29 April 1919. William Cameron was amongst 12 soldiers who were welcomed home at a function held in the Werribee Mechanic’s Hall on 16 April 1919. The Shire President extended a hearty welcome home and expressed sincere appreciation on behalf of all the shire residents and presented each man with a suitably inscribed gold medal.
In 1919 William moved to Kelly Street Werribee and was working as a labourer. In the same year he also married Yvonne Blanche Atchison and the couple then moved to Diggers Road in Werribee South and took up farming. They had three children but unfortunately the marriage did not endure much past the birth of their third child when his wife passed away. William Cameron married for a second time in 1924. His wife was Catherine (Cathleen) Charlotte Watt and they lived on the farm on Diggers Road in Werribee South and had several children. Along with their growing family William’s brother Archibald also lived with them and it is noted that he earned his living as a fisherman.
Then came the sudden death of William Duncan Cameron. It was reported in the local press that “he was removing his boat from the mouth of the Werribee River when he suffered a severe heart attack. His daughter who was with him raised the alarm. Mr Cameron had been suffering with a weak heart over a long period of time. He had been a farmer in the Werribee South area for many years where he was well and favourably known.” William Duncan Cameron was buried in the Werribee Cemetery in June 1939 aged 43 years.