The last surviving soldier of any of the armies that fought at Gallipoli in 1915 died peacefully in a Hobart nursing home on 16 May 2002, aged 103. Alec Campbell, a Tasmanian, lied about his age and enlisted, aged 16, to go off to war with the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). He landed at Gallipoli on 2 November 1915. Known affectionately as ‘the Kid’ to his soldier mates, he spent six weeks at the front before being evacuated. Soon after, he contracted enteric fever and was invalided back to Australia in 1916, too ill to fight. The last Turkish survivor died some years earlier while the final English veteran passed away a few months before Campbell.
Alec Campbell's death triggered a massive reaction across Australia. All major newspapers produced special supplements to commemorate the passing of this, the last Gallipoli Anzac. Australia's Prime Minister cut short his official visit to China to attend the state funeral in Hobart. At 11 a.m. on the day of his funeral, virtually the entire nation paused for a minute out of respect for Private Campbell and all those Australians who fought at Gallipoli and forged the Anzac legend.
Campbell was a reluctant hero. Only in his latter years did he attend Anzac Day commemorations and his family say he rarely spoke of the war. In the words of his wife, he symbolised ‘the young soldiers of the time who went eagerly off to war only to return with very different emotions … He saw the futility of war as would anyone who went to war’. 1 In rejecting official offers to erect a statue honouring his memory, the family emphasised that Alec Campbell not only shied away from glorifying war during his life, he also campaigned vigorously for peace.