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07 June 2010

Captain Gordon Cathcart Campbell MC (and Bar) of Blackwood

Gordon Campbell was born at Myrtle Bank in 1885, and was one of six sons of Dr Allan Campbell and Florence Ann Campbell (nee Way). His father was a member of the South Australian Legislative Council and has been credited with the establishment of the Adelaide Children's Hospital (now the Women's and Children's Hospital) in 1876. Gordon's maternal uncle Sir Samuel Way was a very prominent leader in the colony, serving as Lieutenant Governor, Attorney-General, Chief Justice, and Chancellor of the University of Adelaide amongst many other important roles. Gordon was educated at St Peter's College, and in his prime was one of the finest all-round athletes and sportsmen in South Australia. While he was still at school his older brothers Allan and Neil served in the Boer War, Allan being killed in action.

During his schooling, Gordon excelled in cricket, football, running, lacrosse and gymnastics, and captained the St Peter's football, cricket and running teams. Gordon went on to the University of Adelaide, and in 1906 graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, then LLB in 1909. While he was at university he captained the University of Adelaide inter-varsity sports team, and captained South Australian sides in both lacrosse and cricket. When available, he also played cricket for the Coromandel Valley 1st XI. After completing his articles with Johnstone and Evans, he was admitted to the Bar in 1911, and before the outbreak of war was practicing as a solicitor and living at Blackwood.

In 1915 he married Iris Fisher, the daughter of Isaac Alfred Fisher, a first class cricket umpire. In May 1915 the family received news that Gordon's brother Neil had been wounded at Gallipoli. In September Gordon enlisted and despite having no military experience whatever, was immediately put on an officer's training course at Mitcham Camp. At the completion of the course he was commissioned as a second lieutenant and allocated to the 10th reinforcements to the 10th Battalion. He joined the battalion on Lemnos on 21 November 1915 after they had evacuated from Gallipoli, and once they arrived in Egypt he underwent training on the Lewis machinegun and was appointed as the officer commanding the battalion's Lewis gun section. In March 1916 he was promoted to lieutenant just prior to the battalion's departure for France.

On arrival in France the battalion's first major action was the Battle of Pozieres. The following is taken from a description of his actions by his commanding officer:

On the morning of 24 July, Lieutenant Gordon Campbell showed great courage dash and ability in a bomb fight which took place in the old German trenches. Not only did he handle his machine guns with marked ability, but he organised and led parties of bombers to the attack, he stood on the parapet and threw bombs into the German trench and although wounded in two places, he continued his work until the enemy were driven out. It was largely due to his work that the enemy were driven out.

For his actions that day, Gordon was awarded the Military Cross.

A week later he was temporarily promoted to captain and took command of Cork Company of the 10th Battalion. His promotion was confirmed in October 1916. In February 1917 he was wounded in the foot during the Le Barque attack, but rejoined the battalion in June. In August he was appointed to command a special company of raiders known as Y Company. The following month he led his company onto the 2nd objective during the Battle of Polygon Wood. His commanding officer wrote:

During this period, Captain Gordon Campbell displayed conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in commanding his company with the utmost determination, skill and energy. When the battalion was on the forming up line they were caught in an enemy artillery barrage and became disorganised. By his coolness and determination and utter disregard of his personal safety he re-organised his own company and then assisted in the reorganisation of the remainder of the battalion. Throughout the whole of the operations Gordon Campbell’s work was admirable and he was largely responsible for the success of the operation.

As a result, Gordon was awarded a Bar to his Military Cross. He was the first officer of the battalion to be awarded two gallantry decorations. A few weeks later Gordon commanded the battalion for four days in the absence of any senior officers.

Between February and June 1918 he was hospitalised in England, and after rejoining the battalion was appointed Adjutant. Gordon was responsible for much of the planning for the Battle of Merris in late July 1918, as a result of which Corporal Philip Davey of the 10th Battalion was awarded the Victoria Cross. Gordon was promoted to temporary major in early October 1918, but after a training injury necessitated his evacuation to England, he reverted to the rank of captain. After the Armistice he was involved in the negotiations for the AIF cricket team to tour Britain, and returned to South Australia in May 1919.

After the war Gordon moved to North Adelaide and practiced law. He served as a state vice-president of what is now the Returned and Services League and as president of the 10th Battalion Association. He continued his passion for cricket, serving as a state selector, a member of the Australian Board of Cricket Control and chairman of the South Australian Cricket Association. His other sports interests included roles as chairman of the South Australian Lacrosse Association and president of the South Australian Amateur Sports Association.

Gordon's older brother Lieutenant Neil Campbell was killed in action in April 1918 whilst serving with the 3rd Tunnelling Company near Erquinghem, France.

Gordon died in 1961 at the age of 76 and was cremated at Centennial Park. His name is inscribed on the Blackwood Soldier's Memorial and he is also commemorated on honour boards in Scot's Church, Adelaide and Christ Church Hall, North Adelaide.

Photograph: From the Advertiser, 11 April 1917, p.6

Lieutenant Neil Campbell of Blackwood

Neil Campbell was born in Adelaide in 1882, and was one of six sons of Dr Allan Campbell and Florence Ann Campbell (nee Way). His father was a member of the South Australian Legislative Council and has been credited with the establishment of the Adelaide Children's Hospital (now the Women's and Children's Hospital) in 1876. Neil's maternal uncle Sir Samuel Way was a very prominent leader in the colony, serving as Lieutenant Governor, Attorney-General, Chief Justice, and Chancellor of the University of Adelaide amongst many other important roles. Neil was schooled at St Peter's College, and served in the cadets for five years then one year as a trooper with No.1 Squadron, South Australian Mounted Rifles. His father died in 1898, and in 1901 at the age of 18 Neil was granted a commission as a lieutenant in the fifth South Australian contingent (SA Imperial Bushmen) sent to the Boer War. He served in South Africa for one year and eight months, spending some time seriously ill with enteric (paratyphoid) fever, and then being attached to Colonel De Lisle's staff for five months towards the end of the war. He was awarded the Queen's Medal with four clasps for his service.

Following his return from the Boer War, Neil attended the University of Adelaide and the School of Mines and Industries, studying engineering. During this time he was very busy in a number of other roles, being a prominent member of the Adelaide Hunt Club, an extra aide-de-camp to his uncle, Sir Samuel Way, who was at that time the Lieutenant Governor, and showjumping at Adelaide and regional shows. He was close friends with Heywood Gordon, the son of Supreme Court Justice Sir John Gordon, and this was how he met Kathleen Gordon, his future wife.

In the early 1910's, following completion of his studies, Neil was working in the mines at Meekatharra in Western Australia as a mine surveyor and assayer, and some time prior to the outbreak of war, he married Kathleen Gordon.

In December 1914, Neil was granted a commission in the AIF on the basis of his previous service, and was appointed as a second lieutenant in the WA-recruited 10th Light Horse Regiment, not surprising given his obvious horse-riding skills. The 10th Light Horse embarked at Fremantle, WA in February 1915, and whilst he was at sea his wife gave birth to a daughter, Margaret. The 10th was amongst the light horse regiments that volunteered to be sent from Egypt to Gallipoli as infantry, and Neil landed there with the rest of the regiment on 21 May 1915.

About 3.20am on 29 May 1915, the 10th Light Horse was holding the trenches at Quinn's Post when the Turks blew up a sap and rushed the position. Neil was blown up when the mine exploded, and also suffered a gunshot wound in his left shoulder. Hospitalised on Malta and discovered to be also suffering from shell shock from the explosion, he was then embarked on a hospital ship to England and deemed unfit for active service in October 1915. He returned to Australia in December 1915, and after a stint in Adelaide he was re-assessed at the repatriation hospital in Fremantle in January 1916 and found fit for further active service.

Neil returned to England, but suffered another bout of enteric fever which further delayed his deployment to France. In September 1916 he was promoted to lieutenant, and in November 1916 he was transferred to Tunnelling Company reinforcements, probably due to his mining and engineering skills and experience. He joined the 3rd Tunnelling Company under Hill 70 near Hulluch, France on 7 March 1917, where they were heavily engaged in tunnelling and placing large mines in the tunnels. On 3 May the unit was engaged in road building and repair when he was examining a German booby trap rifle grenade located in an enemy mine shaft. The booby trap exploded, wounding him in the hands and face, damaging one of his eyes. He was evacuated to England and re-joined his unit in October 1917 wearing an eye patch, having lost sight in the damaged eye.

On 9 April 1918, Neil was commanding No.1 Section of the 3rd Tunnelling Company who were developing machinegun emplacements at Pont-de-Nieppe on the Lys River in a British sector. He was ordered to form part of a defensive line alongside the 15th Royal Scots Regiment near Erquinghem to hold the German advance. On 10 April, Neil's command was extended to include a company of a composite battalion made up of cooks, batmen and various detachments. In the late afternoon, a runner arrived with orders for the line to withdrawn, but Neil was not satisfied and got out of the position to walk back to the unit headquarters to confirm the order. He was never seen again. In his account of the action in which Neil was reported missing in action, in Chapter 13, Volume 5 of the Official History of Australia the War of 1914-1918, Charles Bean described Neil Campbell as 'a singularly fine leader'.

On 29 April 1918 Justice John Gordon was sitting at the Supreme Court when he received a message that his son-in-law was missing. He went home and the court was adjourned. Justice Gordon was the only male member of his family not to go to the war.

Witnesses interviewed as part of the board of inquiry conducted into Neil's fate in early 1919 said that he was a very brave officer who had an absolute disregard for shellfire.

Neil's younger brother Captain Gordon Campbell MC served with the 10th Battalion and was the first 10th Battalion officer to be awarded two bravery awards, receiving a Bar to his Military Cross. Gordon survived the war.

Neil Campbell's name is inscribed on the Blackwood Soldier's Memorial and he is also commemorated in the North Road Church of England Cemetery, Nailsworth.

Photograph: Taken from Adelaide Hunt Club 1905 - Courtesy State Library of South Australia

04 June 2010

Private Tressillian Herbert Coombs of Blackwood

Tress Coombs was a son of Thomas Coombs and Emily Adelaide Coombs (nee Humby), and was born at New Glenelg in 1893. When Tress was young his family moved to Woodleigh Rd, Blackwood, and he attended Cherry Gardens and Coromandel Valley Public Schools. As a young man he was a keen cricketer, playing for both Blackwood Cricket Club and the Coromandel Valley 2nd XI, and was a useful bowler. He was also a member of the Blackwood Rifle Club and was actively involved with the Blackwood, Belair and Coromandel Boy's Club.

He was one of the first men from the Blackwood area to enlist, signing his papers on 24 August 1914, less than three weeks after war was declared. He enlisted at Morphettville, where the 10th Battalion was being raised, and he was allotted to B or "Beer' Company, along with Pte FW Jones, another Blackwood man. He was presented with a pocketbook at a farewell by the Coromandel Valley Cricket Club on 9 September. After a few weeks training the battalion embarked on the 'Ascanius' on 20 October and sailed for the Middle East. By December 1914 the battalion was camped in tents at the foot of the Pyramids in Egypt. Training continued till early April 1915 when the battalion moved to Alexandria and then to the island of Lemnos in the Aegean Sea.

'Beer' Company along with C or 'Cork' Company of the 10th Battalion were in the first wave ashore at Gallipoli in the early hours of 25 April 1915. During the confused, hard fighting that day, Tress Coombs was wounded in the leg and evacuated on an improvised hospital ship to Cairo, where he arrived on 30 April. By that time nearly half of the battalion had become casualties. He recovered quickly, returning to Gallipoli on 18 July, just as the unsanitary conditions were resulting in many cases of dysentery. By mid-August half the remaining battalion members had been evacuated with diahorrea. Tress himself was hospitalised on 12 August with diahorrea, and put aboard the hospital ship 'Valdavia', but died of enteric fever (also known as typhoid or paratyphoid fever) on 16 August 1915. He was buried in the East Mudros cemetery on the island of Lemnos, Greece.

Tress Coombs' name is inscribed on the State National War Memorial, the Blackwood Soldiers Memorial, and the Coromandel Valley Primary School Roll of Honour.

Lieutenant Llewellyn Weston Claude Leak of Upper Sturt

Llewellyn Leak was the eldest son of Daniel Leak and Cleopatra Annie Leak (nee Winwood) of Upper Sturt. Llewellyn was born in 1887 in Unley and attended the Unley Public School. After he finished school he passed the civil service exam and worked as a railway traffic auditor with the South Australian Railways. He was an accomplished cellist and a member of the Musicians Union. In 1909 he was elected honorary treasurer of the Holdfast Bay Yacht Club. He was also a keen cyclist with the North Adelaide Cycling Club. He was a Lieutenant in the militia before he enlisted, as well as a prominent member of the Adelaide Rifle Club.

He enlisted at Adelaide on 19 January 1916, and almost immediately was sent to non-commissioned officers school and provisionally promoted to Sergeant. After spending time training reinforcements at Mitcham Camp he was sent to attend the 3rd Officer Training School at located at Duntroon in the Australian Capital Territory. Whilst he was at Duntroon he received news that his younger brother Lance Corporal Hugh Phillips Leak of the 10th Battalion had been killed in action at Pozieres. Llewellyn graduated with the rest of No.5 Platoon in August 1916 and returned to Adelaide.

On 1 October 1916 he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, and spent the next year or so again training reinforcements at Mitcham Camp. On 9 December 1916 Llewellyn married Stella Gladys Evans at his grandparents house at Glenelg. Stella was the fourth daughter of David Evans of Upper Sturt, a sister of Douglas Evans (also on this blog) and the couple lived at Upper Sturt. Llewellyn entrained for Melbourne on 27 October 1917, and embarked with the rest of the 20th reinforcements to the 27the Battalion on the 'Aeneas' on 30 October 1917. Whilst he was at sea on 23 December 1917, his wife Stella gave birth to a son, Weston Hugh Leak.

After some more training in England, he crossed the Channel to France and finally joined his unit on 10 April 1918, taking up over command of 13 Platoon, 'Don' Company, 27th Battalion which was resting near Albert, France. Cecil Oswald, whom he had gone through officer training with back in Australia, joined the battalion the same day. The Battalion spent the rest of April and May in fairly quiet sectors, rotating through frontline, support and reserve areas.

The following month the battalion was part of the successful 7th Brigade attack at Morlancourt on 10 June, when the unit killed over 130 of the enemy, and captured one officer and 80 men, as well as 13 machineguns and two trench mortars. On 8 July, Llewellyn was promoted to Lieutenant, and at the end of the month he was sent to the Australian Corps Bombing (Grenade) School to attend a short training course.

On 2 September 1918 the 27th Battalion was ordered to capture the villages of Allaines and Haut Allaines near Peronne. During the attack, 'Don' Company was the leading right hand company, and German machineguns on high ground to the right of the advancing troops caused a large number of casualties, including all but two of the officers of 'Don' Company. Llewellyn Leak was one of the officers wounded, in his case in the chest and throat. He was evacuated first to the 6th Field Ambulance then the 5th Casualty Clearing Station. His condition on arrival at the casualty clearing station late on 2 September was described as 'very grave'. He hung on for two more days, but died of his wounds at 7.15pm on 4 September 1918. Soldiers that had served under his command later described him as a 'brave soldier' who was 'loved and respected by his men, with whom he was very popular'.

He was buried in the Proyart communal cemetery extension on 5 September 1918. A few years later his remains were exhumed and laid to rest in the Heath Cemetery at Harbonnieres.

Stella Leak died in 1976 at the age of 81. During the Second World War, Llewellyn and Stella's son Weston served as a Lieutenant with the 2nd/6th Field Ambulance.

Llewellyn Leak's name is inscribed on the State National War Memorial and honour boards in the Glenelg Town Hall, North Adelaide Cycling Club, Adelaide Railway Station and the Upper Sturt Methodist (now Uniting) Church.