The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (1502) Corporal Ian Stewart Campbell, 34th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.322
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 18 November 2018
Access Open
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (1502) Corporal Ian Stewart Campbell, 34th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

1502 Corporal Ian Stewart Campbell, 34th Battalion, AIF
KIA 5 June 1917
Story delivered 18 November 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Corporal Ian Stewart Campbell.

Ian Campbell was born in 1898, the son of Daniel and Margaret Campbell of Helensburgh in Argyll and Bute, Scotland. After immigrating to Australia with his family in 1908, Ian spent his formative years growing up in the inner-city Sydney suburb of Rockdale. He attended the Fort Street High School for Boys in Petersham where he was actively involved in senior cadets under the Universal Service Scheme in place at the time. Afterwards, he worked as a customs clerk and paraded part-time with the 38th Infantry Regiment.

Ian Campbell enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Victoria Barracks in March 1915, claiming to be 18 years old. According to birth records, he was just 16 years old at the time. Despite his age, he carried out training at the military camp at Liverpool with a reinforcement group for the 20th Battalion, but came to the attention of the military authorities when he turned up to parade affected by alcohol before the reinforcement group departed Australia. Nothing is recorded on Ian’s service record other than a monetary fine, but he was discharged soon afterward, perhaps on account of his age. Ian returned to the recruiting sergeant six months later, still underage, and was again successful in joining the AIF.

After training at Rutherford Camp at Maitland, Campbell sailed for England as an original member of the 34th Battalion in May 1916. Along with the rest of the battalion, he spent the next five months training on the Salisbury Plain near Wiltshire before crossing over to the Western Front in November 1916. Perhaps concerned about the welfare of his underage son, Ian’s father Daniel, enlisted in the AIF not long afterwards.

Forming part of the 3rd Division under the-then Major General John Monash, the 34th were among the most highly trained troops in the AIF. Once in France, they took up positions in the relatively quiet “nursery sector” outside the town of Armentieres on the Franco-Belgian border, where they patrolled no man’s land at night and raided German trenches. The inclement weather hampered any major offensive action, so they hunkered down over the winter in preparation for the fighting season to resume the following year. Owing to his leadership qualities, and perhaps experience in senior cadets and the part-time militia, Ian was promoted to corporal in April 1917.

The 34th remained in the “nursery sector” until June 1917, by which time the focus of British operations had shifted north into Belgium. In preparation for a major offensive, the 3rd Division moved into Belgium and took up positions near Ploegsteert Wood and overlooked what would become the battlefield for the forthcoming action at Messines. In the coming days, the battalion would attack alongside British and New Zealand troops and capture a significant German stronghold after the simultaneous detonation of 19 underground mines beneath the German positions.

As zero hour approached, the routine of trench life continued. On 5 June 1917, the morning before the battle, Campbell led his section on fatigue party, bringing supplies up the line, when their positions at were subjected to German artillery fire. Rounds landed among Campbell’s section as they were caught out in the open. Campbell was hit in the neck by shell splinter fragments and died moments later.

Aged just 18, Ian Campbell was buried at the Strand Military Cemetery outside the village of Ploegsteert in Belgium where he rests today. A small epitaph penned by his grieving parents appears on his headstone: “Till the morning breaks and the shadows flee away”.

Mourned in Australia, Ian’s death was also felt in Helensburgh in Scotland, who chose to commemorate Ian Campbell on their local war memorial. His name is also listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among more than 60,000 Australians who died while serving in the First World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Corporal Ian Stewart Campbell, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Aaron Pegram
Historian, Military History Section

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