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Cameron, Allan Gordon (1909–1960)

by A. J. Sweeting

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Allan Gordon Cameron (1909-1960), by unknown photographer, 1942

Allan Gordon Cameron (1909-1960), by unknown photographer, 1942

Australian War Memorial, 027032 [with Rev. N. J. Karl (left)]

Allan Gordon Cameron (1909-1960), bank officer and soldier, was born on 16 May 1909 at Fitzroy, Melbourne, son of Lochiel Frederick Arthur Gordon Cameron, a native-born banker, and his English-born wife Kate Inez Maud, née Bagnall. Educated at Scotch College, Hawthorn, Allan joined the Commercial Bank of Australia Ltd and about 1926 enlisted in the Militia. He rose through the ranks in the 46th Infantry Battalion and was commissioned lieutenant on 15 October 1929, but resigned two years later. On 3 November 1934 he married 19-year-old Margaret Whatnough Stewart at the Presbyterian Church, South Yarra.

Brown haired, muscular, of middle height and compact build, Cameron rejoined the Militia in 1939. On 1 July 1940 he transferred to the Australian Imperial Force as a captain and was posted to the 2nd/22nd Battalion, which became part of the garrison defending Rabaul, New Britain. He was second-in-command of 'C' Company, stationed at Vunakanau airfield, when the Japanese invasion force reached Rabaul on 23 January 1942. Overwhelmed, the Australians withdrew to the south and west. Liaising between four groups retreating westward, in mid-February Cameron sent a message to headquarters in Port Moresby in which he described the engagement at Rabaul and sought instructions. Having been given permission to escape if he considered guerilla warfare impossible, he and a dozen soldiers sailed a pinnace to Salamaua, New Guinea, arriving on 3 March. The Japanese landed five days later. His party demolished the airfield, fired the petrol dump and shot an enemy soldier at point-blank range before departing for Port Moresby.

Promoted in May, Cameron was appointed brigade major of the 30th Brigade. On 4 August at Deniki he took command of Maroubra Force which was confronting the Japanese advance across the Owen Stanley Range. First in attack, then in defence, this 'ruthless and able soldier' held his small force together for twelve days in the face of increasing enemy pressure. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (1943). On being relieved, he performed liaison duties. Cameron was promoted temporary lieutenant colonel on 28 August 1942 and given charge of the 53rd Battalion on 2 September. A week later he assumed command of the 3rd Battalion, then occupying defensive positions at Ioribaiwa, the farthermost point of the Japanese thrust towards Port Moresby. He led the battalion in the Australian drive over the mountains and in the bitter fighting around Gona in November and December, winning a Bar to his D.S.O.

In North Queensland from March 1943 Cameron had charge of the composite 3rd-22nd Battalion. On 5 July he took command of the 2nd/2nd Battalion. Ordered to New Guinea, the unit participated in the ten-month Aitape-Wewak campaign which culminated in the surrender of the Japanese Eighteenth Army in August 1945; Cameron was mentioned in dispatches. Between December 1945 and October 1946 he successively commanded the 26th Battalion, and the 2nd and 3rd New Guinea battalions on New Britain. Transferring to the Retired List (25 January 1947), he managed a plantation on the island for two years. In 1950 he moved to Victoria and worked a grazing property on the Mornington Peninsula. Next year he took up a 441-acre (179 ha) soldier-settlement block on Phillip Island where he ran sheep and cattle.

Cameron was prominent in the Returned Sailors', Soldiers' and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia; he was also a shire councillor (from 1958), a justice of the peace, an elder of the Presbyterian Church and a Freemason. After suffering from hypertensive coronary vascular disease for some years, he died of a cerebral haemorrhage on 8 June 1960 at Cowes and was buried in the local cemetery. His wife, daughter and three sons survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • L. Wigmore, The Japanese Thrust (Canb, 1957)
  • R. Paull, Retreat from Kokoda (Melb, 1958)
  • D. McCarthy, South-West Pacific Area—First Year (Canb, 1959)
  • G. Long, The Final Campaigns (Canb, 1963)
  • V. Austin (compiler), To Kokoda and Beyond (Melb, 1988)
  • Australian War Memorial records.

Citation details

A. J. Sweeting, 'Cameron, Allan Gordon (1909–1960)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/cameron-allan-gordon-9668/text17061, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 17 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

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