Donald McGregor Cameron born in 1894 to Thomas Cameron and Elizabeth McGregor who were married in Taralga in 1889. Donald grew up in Goulburn with his siblings, attending Marulan Public School and living in Grafton Street Goulburn. He spent three years in the Senior Cadets, Citizen Forces and was a railway employee aged 21 when the fair, blue eyed young man enlisted at Goulburn with the Kangaroos a few days after Christmas 1915.
He was placed in the 55th Battalion 3rd Reinforcement and embarked on the Barambah on June 1916. On arrival in England, Donald was transferred to the 35th Battalion and after a few months of training his battalion proceeded to France and the Western Front trenches in November 1916 and into a terrible winter.
By mid 1917 Donald’s battalion was fighting a major battle in Belgium in Messines. Donald was wounded in action twice during this period – a gunshot wound to the face 8th June and a gunshot wound to the hip 12th July – both times being hospitalised then returning to the fighting at the front. He suffered a bout of influenza in the August and returned again to his battalion in Belgium.
On 12th October 1917 the 35th began a major battle around Passchendaele. Donald was declared ‘Missing In Action’ on the 12th. The only reports the Red Cross were able to obtain from any witnesses included the following statements about the fate of Donald and Private Eirth who was side by side with him.
“During an attack on Passchendaele Ridge, which started at 6.30 in morning of 12th Oct when we reached our first objective I asked Corporal C.J.Smith, A Company 2nd Platoon where they were. He said they must have been killed. Our barrage was on in front of us. I was about 5 yards from them to the right, very heavy shelling. We were ordered to stand and I dropped into shell hole. When I came out of this hole I could see nothing of Cameron or Eirth. Never seen again. It is believed by men of Company that they were blown up or buried by shell”.
“The last I saw of him was between 6.30 and 7a.m. on the 12th Oct 17. He was then about 200 yards from the jumping off trench up towards Paschendaele Ridge.” This witness was told by another Private when he was bandaging the witness “that he saw Cameron going back to a shell hole to bandage another chap up. Further than that I don’t know”.
Donald’s mother was informed that he was ‘Missing In Action’. His father had since died and his mother was left alone to try and find news of her missing son. Elizabeth was told unofficially by a soldier via letter that her son had been captured and was a prisoner of war. This led to a number of letters by Elizabeth pleading for news. Apparently the unofficial news was quite wrong according to the military authorities, for, after much searching by them and the Red Cross of all lists of P.O.W.s, in May 1918 Donald McGregor Cameron was officially declared ‘Killed In Action’ and his mother informed of this decision, ending any hope she had cherished. Elizabeth had moved to ‘Strathalbyn’ in Citizen Street, Goulburn.
The name of Donald McGregor Cameron is inscribed on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres, Belgium along with the names of his fellow 6,178 Australians who have no known grave.
Our grateful thanks to Dahlis Evans for her diligent research compiling this story. Another sad ending.
Sources: aif.adfa.edu.au; awm.gov.au; naa.gov.au; nswbdm.gov.au
Do please email Angela Williamson at email@example.com if you know more about Donald Cameron or his family.
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