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Cameron, Claude Ewen (1894–1982)

by Alan Ryan

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Claude Ewen Cameron (1894-1982), army officer, accountant and company director, was born on 13 September 1894 at Balmain North, Sydney, second child of Ronald John Cameron, `gentleman’ and later Anglican clergyman, and his wife Lilly Wafford, née Dempster, both born in New South Wales. Educated at Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore), Claude was employed by Dalgety & Co. Ltd as a junior clerk. He served in the senior cadets and the Militia before enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 18 March 1915. Posted to the 20th Battalion, he was promoted to sergeant in May.

In August-December 1915 Cameron served at Gallipoli. Made company sergeant major in Egypt in February 1916, he arrived in France with his battalion next month. On 16 August he was commissioned. He was wounded in the shoulder near Flers on 15 November and next day promoted to lieutenant. Evacuated to England, he rejoined his unit on 1 September 1917, but was wounded in the thigh during the battle of Menin Road, Belgium, on 20 September. Again hospitalised in England, he returned to his battalion in December.

As a company commander, Cameron distinguished himself twice during the fighting near Amiens, France, in August 1918. On the morning of the 8th, with a non-commissioned officer, he attacked an enemy strong point, killing the occupants and capturing two machine-guns. Three days later, with only twelve men, he held his allocated company position against an enemy counter-attack. For his `coolness and initiative’ he was awarded the Military Cross. On 3 October, during a confused attack near Beaurevoir, he took charge of the forward elements of his battalion, directed tank fire on enemy positions and consolidated the flank of the brigade assault. He won a Bar to his MC.

Cameron returned to Australia in April 1919 and his AIF appointment terminated on 2 June. He attended Wagga Wagga Experiment Farm and began farming. In 1923 he joined Sydney Ferries Ltd as a pay clerk. At St James’s Church of England, Turramurra, Sydney, on 14 August 1924 he married Aline Vindin (d.1964); his father performed the ceremony. Cameron qualified as an accountant and company secretary and in 1934 was appointed accountant with Sydney Ferries. He also served (from 1933) as chairman of Rozelle Lighterage & Storage Co. Ltd. An alderman of the Municipality of Ku-ring-gai, he was mayor in 1936.

Having rejoined the Militia in 1923, Cameron served in a variety of staff and regimental postings. A fit and soldierly figure, he rose to captain in 1924 and to major in 1929. In July 1933 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and given command of the 18th Battalion. As a temporary colonel, he was appointed in May 1940 to command the 8th Brigade, which was responsible for protecting Sydney. He was made temporary brigadier in January 1941 and called up for full-time duty on 10 March. From July 1942 to September 1943 the brigade operated in the defence of Western Australia. Cameron adopted a mobile strategy, moving his units great distances and often. In August 1942 he transferred to the AIF.

After further training, the 8th Brigade deployed to Finschhafen, New Guinea, in January 1944 and pursued the Japanese fleeing westward. The formation advanced from Sio to link up with American forces at Saidor. Although untried in combat, it secured all its objectives at minimal cost. Cameron’s men killed 734 Japanese, found 1793 dead and took 48 prisoners for the loss of three killed and five wounded. In April the brigade participated in the seaborne occupation of Madang. Advancing to the Sepik River, it encountered only the stragglers of the retreating Japanese army. Cameron relinquished command in August and then commanded the 2nd Brigade in New South Wales until December. On 27 February 1945 he was transferred to the Reserve of Officers with the rank of honorary brigadier. He was mentioned in despatches for his service in New Guinea.

Cameron returned to Sydney Ferries, but late in 1945 was appointed manager of the Port Jackson & Manly Steamship Co. Ltd. He became general manager in 1948 and managing director in 1949. From 1951 he was also managing director of Sydney Harbour Ferries Pty Ltd. He retired in 1964 and moved from Turramurra to Bayview. Honorary colonel of the 17th/18th Battalion (North Shore Regiment) in 1951-60, he was an active member of the Returned Services League of Australia and many other ex-service organisations. His recreations included motoring, fishing and golf. He was awarded the OAM in 1980. Survived by his son, he died on 10 September 1982 at Thornleigh and was cremated. He is commemorated by a park named Claude Cameron Grove at Wahroonga.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1918 (1942)
  • D. Dexter, The New Guinea Offensives (1961)
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 31 Mar 1964, p 11
  • North Shore Times, 22 Sept 1982, p 8, 6 Dec 1989, p 27
  • series B883, item NX110380 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

Alan Ryan, 'Cameron, Claude Ewen (1894–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/cameron-claude-ewen-12280/text22047, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 26 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

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