ANZAC Day: The Story of the Last Man Standing – DSA

ANZAC Day: The Story of the Last Man Standing

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Australian and New Zealand Army Corps

ANZAC day is a celebration of the bravery and patriotism of Australia and New Zealand’s courageous soldiers. It is a way to pay respect to the heroes who fought and died during the First World War which started in 1914. At this time, Australia and New Zealand were still under the control of the British Empire. 

The historic Gallipoli campaign carved the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps’ position in history. Volunteer soldiers valiantly went out to fight the battle to take over Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire of the Central Powers, even if the mission was deemed “impossible”. They landed at the Gallipoli Peninsula on 25 April 1915.

The soldiers stood their ground and fought for their country and the common good for 8 months. After all the deaths, bloodshed, and hardships with casualties up to 8,000, they were finally ordered to turn back and evacuate by the end of 1915. 

The tale of these heroes who courageously fought in the battle inspired many citizens of Australia and New Zealand. In 1916, it was then declared that 25 April would be the day that they will be remembered for their sacrifices and their commitment to upholding liberty. To this date, special events are being held in Australia and New Zealand each year to express their appreciation and remembrance of the legends of Gallipoli. Their hardships became a symbol for the promotion of the common good and belief that their respective countries are worth fighting and dying for.

ANZAC Day Celebration

To remember the soldiers who fought for Australia, we celebrate ANZAC Day through Commemorative services. These formal events are typically held on war memorials in the country.

The ceremony starts at dawn which is the time of the original landing of the soldiers in Gallipoli and then marches are done on major cities later in the day by ex-servicemen and women. After the ceremonies, families of the soldiers usually put red poppies beside their relative’s name in the Memorial’s Roll of Honor as they do on Remembrance Day services. Growing wild in the Gallipoli Peninsula, rosemary is typically worn during the celebration. 

Another item that is legally marketed in Australia is the ANZAC biscuit. In order for families to send food to their relatives during the war, they needed to ship one that is edible even after a long period of time of logistics, hence the biscuits. It became the staple diet in Gallipoli since it is high in nutritional value. It was also believed that ANZAC Biscuits were rock hard and tooth-breaking.

The Last Hero

The last surviving Anzac, Alec William Campbell, died on 17 May 2002. The war veteran was awarded after dying at 103 years old. 

Born in Launceston on 26 February 1899, Campbell studied at Scotch College during the break out of the First World War. 

With the eagerness to serve his country and in order to be granted enlistment to the army, on 2 July 1915, he falsified his age to 18 years and five months, when in fact, he was only fifteen. He was then designated to Gallipoli where he served and struggled until the evacuation time. 

The young Campbell saw men of his age die on the battlefield. He dodged bullets and survived while crawling the dirt, full of his comrade’s blood. He saw his mates being shot as he supplied them water, delivered messages, and stood sentry. He was lucky enough to not be hit by the snipers that were scattered around Gallipoli, although he wasn’t exempted from a lifelong injury that was brought by the war. He recalled to Jonathan King, the Author of ‘Gallipoli: Our Last Man Standing: The Extraordinary Life of Alec Campbell’, how he was bashed to the head by a rifle

“The fellow in front of me got shot and fell backwards into the trench, knocking me over, which could have saved my life.  He did not hit me, but he fell back and the rifle clouted me in the head.”

This resulted in an injury in the facial nerve of Alec’s cheek by his ears. He was discharged in August 1916 and became very ill after their campaign from Gallipoli. The flu haunted him for the rest of his life, still, he managed to last until the 21st century— evidence of his ever-resilient nature and hardworking attitude.

His veteran comrade, Roy Longmore, died in Melbourne in 2001 at the age of 106 making him the last ANZAC standing during that date. Later on, Campbell was dubbed not only the last remaining Australian but also the only person alive that has fought in Gallipoli during the disastrous war. This has made Campbell a man that is one in a million, as the last survivor of all the soldiers who participated in the eight-month standoff. 

After making it through the battle in the field and in life, Alec Campbell finally rested on 17 May 2002, after dying from Pneumonia. As per Governor-General Peter Hollingworth, the State Funeral did not only serve as a dedication to honour Campbell but also “an occasion for Australians to pause and reflect on the passing of the generation that gave us our identity and character as a nation”.

Up to this day, the memories of Campbell and the ANZAC remain in the hearts of Australians; thus, ANZAC Day is celebrated annually in remembrance of the brave soldiers who fought and died in the war. 

The essence of nationhood and camaraderie of Australians are reflected in these heroic acts and should be forever manifested throughout the whole nation. The value of hard work, perseverance, and brotherhood must be shared and must echo through the next generations to come. May we always be keeping the spirit alive and let the story of these valiant souls ring through the celebration of ANZAC Day.

Life Outside War

Campbell fulfilled his life and did many things in his lifetime. He was a carpenter, builder, student, public servant, researcher, and historian. He was granted vocational training in motor-body building at Hobart Repatriation Trade School. He then became a union organizer in Launceston and Hobart railway workshops. 

He became president of quite different unions like the Australian Railway Union in Tasmania and the Launceston Trades and Labor Council. He also helped in the construction of the Old Parliament House in Canberra. 

Additionally, he worked as a public servant in the Department of Labour and National Service after he completed his degree in economics at the age 50 post-war. 

His main hobby is building boats. He competed in boat racing events, seven of which were Sydney to Hobart yacht races. 

He loved two women and married twice in his lifetime. The two women were both named Kathleen and had nine children with them. His youngest child was born even in the old age of sixty-nine.

He was buried in the Cornelian Bay Cemetery in Hobart. “Alec has become national property, although I'm not sure he realizes it”, his wife said.

The Legend

Campbell was recognized in 2000 as one of the Australian Legends. He had the honour to be included in the postage stamps issued by the Australia Post in 1997. He was included in the list of Australians that made “lifetime contributions to Australia’s national identity and character.” His photograph in the stamp was taken from his portrait when he was just a young man leaving for Gallipoli. 

The stamp cemented him as the representative of the 68,000 courageous heroes who fought in the peninsula whose bravery inspired the citizen’s heart for nationhood and forever shaped the nation’s character. 

Before his death, Campbell led the march on ANZAC Day Parade in Hobart. He especially enjoyed sitting in the car while shaking hands with the young children who came to greet him. Campbell did not understand the clamour that is within him. He argued that there was really no point in being the last, he was just one of the youngest in Gallipoli; still, he was awarded many tributes after his death including one from Tasmanian Returned and Services League State President, Ian Kennett. 

He said that Campbell was a great Australian that lived a happy life. Someone who dedicated his life and energy to his career and family when he was sent back to Hobart after the traumatizing war in the battle of Gallipoli. 

Australian Prime Minister John Howard honoured Campbell to be the last living link to the group of soldiers that established the legend of ANZAC. The story of the valorous soldiers amidst heavy fire, fought for their country and their comrades. A tale of unity of purpose and the willingness to survive and fight against all odds. One that must resonate to every man and woman in the country.


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  • An amazing read, yet so many young boys told the unforgiving lie about their age so they could go off and do their duty for our country, yet so many paid the ultimate price with their lives.
    A legend, a mate, a man with a lot of love in his heart. I totally agree with Lg, stand down brother, we will step up to the plate now, in your footsteps.
    You make me proud to also have served.

    Chris G on
  • I love this story of Alex Campbell, may he R.I.P.
    Thank you for your life services.
    god bless you.

    helena cunningham on
  • Thank you for the history lesson about Alec Campbell I am a proud Australian an remember as a kid the story’s of the ANZAC’s being told to me by grate uncles an agent’s .. an so as an adult I now have the Tattoo on my back of young Alec Campbell that you have I the story above .
    I try to help ex service personal by donating my time to help them fix there homes.
    I’m a plasterer an I do it for free as a way to say thk you …..

    Stephen Kiddle on
  • Cudos to you and all Anzacs ol’ mate, you all allowed generations of Australian and New Zealand families to live our lives minus the threat of those who would seek to undermine our values. At the going down of the Sun and in the morning, we will remember you!
    Rest in peace true son of Australia.

    PAUL Lavers on
  • An example to us oaal; dedication, commitment, and care. Rest in Peace, Digger.

    Geoff Rath on

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