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Grandfather Norman

"The crowd cheered him wildly – one fair man in uniform looks much the same an another."

Norman Campbell.jpg

Norman Campbell, 1881-1957

Somewhere, buried deep in the annals of the Campbell family history, or in the recesses of my child-mind, I had a memory of the time my grandfather Norman Campbell impersonated the King.  If true, what a story!  And indeed, if not true, what a story!

As is often the case, the truth is not quite aligned with the memory, but it would seem that on Tuesday 13th July, 1920, my grandfather inadvertently impersonated Edward, Prince of Wales, who did indeed go on to be King, although his 11-month reign as King Edward VII ended in ignominy.  The story of Norman's princely impersonation appears within the writings of Norman's widow, my grandmother Dora Campbell, written in her 98th or 99th year, some 60 years after the event.  It can be found here, and comes with a warning that the language within the wider story is of the day, and the language and the descriptions may cause upset or offense.

But the aspect of Norman the expert horseman should cause little offense.  Page 1 of the Barrier Miner (Broken Hill), 15th July 1920 reported:



At the request of the Military Remount Department, Mr. W. A. A. West, who is a member of the committee of Tattersalls Club, has lent his horse Erskine to the Prince to ride during his stay in Adelaide. Erskine is a thoroughbred, and is a beautifully actioned horse. He has taken many prizes in the show ring. Captain Campbell, of the Military Remount Department, tried Erskine, and expressed the opinion that he was the best behaved and best actioned hack he had ridden, and he recommended him as a mount for his Royal Highness. On Monday Erskine was sent to the stables at Government House. (ref:

But this little anecdote is but a tiny part of the man who died when I was four years old.  He was a traveller of different kind to both his father and his own grandfather.

Born in February 1881 to his globe trotting father, and one of eight children, it would seem that as 19 year old Private Norman Campbell he went to South Africa around April 1900 with the 4th Victorian Imperial Contingent, the mounted rifles, to serve in the Boer War.  It would also seem that he repatriated to Australia in July 1901 as Lance-Corporal Campbell, and then in February 1902, this time as Sergeant Campbell, returned to that theatre.  Records of that time are scant.

Back in Australia, he married Dora Wilmot in May 1917.  World War I had been raging for three years, and I assume that he spent much of the early days of the war undertaking horse search duties as described in my grandmother's story above, with his travels restricted to outback Queensland and New South Wales.  His final journey of note, at least that I am aware of, was to India on board SS Chindwarra.  I have in my possession a framed pair of original watercolours,  both only about the size of a modern mobile phone, with the notation on the back:

Painted by Capt. W. H. Walton

Master of S.S. "Chindwarra"

Presented to Capt. Norman Campbell by Capt. Walton in 1917, when Capt. Campbell was taking the last shipment of remounts to India.

One of the small paintings is of the Chindwarra herself, and is a very faithful depiction of the ship in the reference above.  The other is of an Asian sailing ship, entitled "Dow in the Straits"- and with the added inscription With All Best Wishes From Capt. W.H. Walton.

To the best of my knowledge my father and his three siblings (one of whom died shortly after birth) were all born at the property known as Glenthorne. Seemingly not all that long after, Norman took his wife and three children to the South Australian country town of Gladstone, where they lived for some 11 years, before returning to suburban Adelaide in 1939.

I have only one memory of him - an imposing, upright man, probably dressed in a three-piece suit, standing on the driveway to his house, which was directly opposite my parents' house in Helmsdale, Adelaide (a suburb which no longer exists).  That was probably around 1955.  I would have liked to have known him; I suspect that there were many stories of journeys to enthral a young mind.

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