No.58 Private Alexander Ronald Cameron
[a.k.a. Alex or Mick]
Alexander Ronald Cameron was born in 1896 to Alexander John Cameron and Agnes Spitty. When he enlisted in the A.I.F. he gave his place of birth as in the Parish of Clyde, but his birth was registered at Cranbourne in Victoria. His parents had married at Lovely Banks (near Geelong) in Victoria in 1890.
The eleven children of Alexander and Agnes Cameron were:
- John Alexander (Jack) or (Mick) Cameron - born in Cranbourne 1891 (A.I.F. No.2143 & 6775A )
- Catherine May (Kit) Cameron - born in Cranbourne 1893
- Alexander Ronald (Alex) Cameron - born in Cranbourne 1895 (A.I.F. No.58)
- William Duncan Cameron - born in Cranbourne 1896 (A.I.F. No.583)
- Isabella Annie (Bella) Cameron - born in Cranbourne 1898
- Archibald Gordon Cameron - born in Cranbourne 1900 (WW2 No.V354098)
- Agnes Cameron - born in Hastings Tyabb 1903
- Charles (Charlie) Cameron - born in Hastings 1906
- Margaret Mary Cameron - born in Werribee 1907
- Jessie Sabine Cameron - born in Werribee 1909
- James Allan McDonald "Mac" Cameron - born in Werribee 1912 (WW2–Navy)
- Flor Emily - born Werribee in 1914
Before enlisting in the A.I.F., Alex had transferred from the Australian Militia Forces, 17th Brigade, 58th Infantry. They were based at Essendon, and were known as the "Essendon Rifles".
At the age of 21 years, Alexander Ronald Cameron took his oath of enlistment enlisted in the A.I.F. at Melbourne on 15 January 1916, and was sent to Ballarat for initial training. This was completed on 29 February 1916, and he was appointed as a Private with "A" Company of the 39th Battalion, A.I.F. This Battalion had just been formed at Ballarat, as part of the 10th Brigade, that was attached to the 3rd Division.
Private Alexander Cameron embarked from Port Melbourne on 27 May 1916 per HMAT Ascanius A11, with the 10th Infantry Brigade, 39th Infantry Battalion, "A" Company.
Their ship first stopped at Cape Town in South Africa between 18 and 22 June, where the men went of daily route marches. On the next leg of their voyage to England, via St Vincent, they were joined in convoy by HMAT Medic A7, HMAT Warilda A69, HMAT Demosthenes, and an escort ship HMS Laconia.
After arriving at Plymouth Sound on 18 July 1916, the Battalion disembarked at Devonport and travelled by train to No 7 Camp at Larkhill on the Salisbury Plain. On arrival, all of the men were granted four days leave before they began more training courses.
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. There is no record of those Other Ranks who were involved, but Private Cameron would later be transferred to a Trench Mortar unit.
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.
On 15 October 1916, Private Cameron was transferred to the 3rd Australian Divisional Trench Mortar Batteries at Larkhill, and appointed as a Driver. This was a new unit, that had been formed there, one month earlier.
Because no mortars were available for training in England, the Batteries were ordered to proceed to France immediately, and departed 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 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.
Heavy Trench Mortars (9.45 inch) were not moved from one sector to another with a unit. They required special emplacements to be constructed for them. Medium Trench Mortars (2 inch) were carried with units from one sector to another. These were distributed along the whole front line in temporary emplacements, from which the enemy front could be attacked. The lighter mortars were very effective against the enemies wire entanglements.
On 22 April 1917, Driver Cameron was detached to the 3rd Divisional Ammunition Column in France. Each Division had their own Ammunition Column 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. The 3rd Australian Division then 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, and required all personnel to help in establishing their position.
At the end of September, Gunner 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 per 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. This camp held men who were not expected to be fit for duties for about six months.
On 15 November 1917, Gunner Cameron was transferred to the Australian No 4 Command Depot at Hurdcott. This was one of four camps in England, set up to help fully trained soldiers to fighting fitness.
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 re-join 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-Bretoneaux, Monument House, culminating at the Hindenburg Line and Montbrehain.
Armistice Day on 11 November 1911 was not mentioned in his Unit’s War Diary. Just a one-line entry stating "Weather cloudy. Nothing to report".
From then on, the daily routine was then very quiet with the men waiting to return to Australia. The Battery was closed on 11 March 1919, and all personnel were transferred to the 3rd D.A.C. Gunner Cameron arrived back in England on the 3rd of April 1919, and marched in to the No. 3 Group.
After a wait of another month he embarked per "BORDA" on 11 May 1919, and sailed for Australia. He arrived in Melbourne on 27 June 1919, but was not discharged until November that year.
The three Cameron brothers were welcomed home at a function held in the Laverton State School on 14 October 1919. They were part of a large group of returned soldiers who were presented with gold medals by Mr J.H. Lister, M.H.R.
Werribee Shire Banner, 23 October 1919, p.2.
Between 1919 and 1963, the Victorian Electoral Roll shows that Alexander Cameron was residing at Kiora Street in Laverton, and even though he had been discharged from the A.I.F., his occupation was always listed as a soldier. In 1949 the occupants of Kiora Street, Laverton were:
- Alexander Ronald Cameron, soldier,
- Archibald Gordon Cameron, fisherman,
- Charles Alfonso Cameron, repairer, and
- Hilda May Cameron, home duties.
On 28 March 1962, Alex applied for benefits under the Repatriation Act. He stated that his previous Service number was No.58, and had served with the "6 AMTB" (6th Medium Trench Mortar Battery).
The Electoral Roll between 1967 and 1977 records that Alexander Cameron had moved to Beach Road in Werribee South, and that he was no longer working.
Alexander Cameron died at Werribee on 5 October 1978, and was buried at the Altona Memorial Park. He was aged 83.
There is no record of him as having married, or having a family.
Medals & Entitlements:
- Victory Medal – received 30 August 1923
- British War Medal – received 30 August 1923
The name "Cameron A." first appeared in the Roll of Honor, Werribee Shire Banner, 27 July 1916, p.1. He joined his brothers "Cameron, J." and "Cameron W.D.", who had been published earlier.
His name appears on the Shire of Werribee Oak Board as "CAMERON, A.R.".
Alexander John Cameron (Alexander Ronald Cameron's father) was born at Lochaber in Inverness Shire, on 27 August 1860. His parents were: Alexander Andrew Cameron and Catherine Cameron. Alexander John Cameron died at Laverton on 30 November 1944.
Williamstown Chronicle, 15 December 1944, p.1.
In his earlier years, he had been a grazier at Truganina in the Laverton district.
Williamstown Chronicle, 24 January 1931, p.4.
His mother, Mrs Agnes Cameron died at Laverton on 8 June 1952.
Werribee Shire Banner, 12 June 1952, p.2.
Trench Mortar War Diary – see AWM4 Subclass 13/91 - 3rd Australian Divisional Trench Mortar Officer.
The 3rd Australian Trench Mortar Batteries were formed at Larkhill in September 1916, as follows:
- V.3A. Heavy T.M. Battery. 3 Officers & 66 Other Ranks
- X.3A. Medium T.M. Battery. 2 Officers & 23 Other Ranks
- Y.3A. Medium T.M. Battery. 2 Officers & 23 Other Ranks
- Z.3A. Medium T.M. Battery. 2 Officers & 23 Other Ranks
- 3rd Australian Divisional Heavy Trench Mortar Brigade.
- 3rd D.M.T.M. Bys. – 3rd Divisional Medium Trench Mortar Battery.
- 3 D.A.C. – 3rd Divisional Ammunition Column (France) https://rslvirtualwarmemorial.org.au/explore/units/137
Heavy Trench Mortar. Had a bore of 9.45 inch, and fired a projectile of 69kg up to 2,400m. These could be seen flying through the air, and were known as "Flying Pigs". They were capable of creating a crater of 3.5m deep and 8m wide. https://rslvirtualwarmemorial.org.au/explore/units/1033
Service History - http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au Embarkation List - https://www.awm.gov.au/images