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Cameron, Donald (1877–1950)

by Ronald Hopkins

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Donald Cameron (1877-1950), soldier and grazier, was born on 21 August 1877 at Rouchel near Scone, New South Wales, son of Kenneth Cameron, grazier, and his wife Mary Ann, née McMullin both native-born. After attending Rouchel Public School he worked on near-by grazing properties and became skilled in bushcraft, horsemanship and rifle-shooting.

In 1899 Cameron enlisted for service in the South African War as a trooper in the 1st Australian Horse and sailed for Cape Town in January 1900. His squadron was attached to the Royal Scots Greys at Modder River and served in operations through the Orange Free State and Transvaal. At Zand River in May Cameron was involved in a Boer ambush; his horse was shot and he was captured, but escaped a few weeks later. He returned home with his unit in May 1901 but re-enlisted and was commissioned as a lieutenant in the 3rd New South Wales Imperial Bushmen's Regiment. He served for fifteen months in the Transvaal where his unit was engaged in dispersing concentrations of Boer troops; because of his bushcraft and tactical skill Cameron excelled at this work which involved long night-marches over unknown and sometimes rugged country. Although still a subaltern, he commanded the squadron for ten months in 1901-02.

On returning home Cameron purchased grazing land at Rouchel and worked this property until World War I; he was active in the local Presbyterian church and in political and sporting organizations. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force as a captain on 28 Ocotber 1914, was promoted major on 9 September 1915 and appointed to 'C' Squadron, 12th Light Horse Regiment. The unit fought as infantry at Gallipoli from 29 August until the evacuation; Cameron was attached to the 6th L.H.R. at Holly Spur, Wilson's Lookout and Ryrie's Post. He rejoined his own regiment in Egypt and served in all its engagements in Sinai, Palestine and Syria; from April 1917, when he was promoted lieutenant-colonel, he was commanding officer. His transparent honesty of purpose and sense of fairness quickly won him the loyalty of his men and his unit was noted for its excellent discipline.

Cameron was a tall, wiry man with a direct eye and a quiet manner. In action he was imperturbable, a trusted leader and sound tactician. He frequently urged the use of mounted action and was prominent in the famous charge which captured Beersheba in October 1917. The 4th and 12th L.H.Rs. surprised and over-ran Turkish defences; Cameron's men galloped on to seize the town, capturing guns and taking prisoners on the way. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for directing the attack in 'an extraordinarily able and determined manner'. He gained a Bar to this award in operations leading to the capture of Damascus in 1918; on 30 September he led a spirited mounted charge on Kaukab, 'seized his objective with great dash, and drove the enemy in disorder towards Damascus'. After the Armistice he commanded the 4th Light Horse Brigade for a month before returning to Australia in July 1919.

After demobilization Cameron returned to his property at Rouchel and on 11 December at Singleton married Ivy Eliza Dawes. From 1920 until he retired in 1933 he was a lieutenant-colonel in the Australian Military Forces. He was active in local affairs and in World War II helped organize the Volunteer Defence Corps in the Hunter Valley. Survived by his wife, a daughter and one of his two sons, he died of diabetes at Muswellbrook on 7 October 1950 and was buried in Rouchel Presbyterian cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Defence Department, Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa, P. L. Murray ed (Melb, 1912)
  • H. S. Gullett, The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine (Syd, 1923)
  • London Gazette, 18 Jan, 17 Aug 1918
  • Reveille (Sydney), Oct 1937
  • War Diary of the 12th Light Horse Regiment, AIF (Australian War Memorial)
  • records (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Ronald Hopkins, 'Cameron, Donald (1877–1950)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/cameron-donald-5472/text9299, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 18 December 2018.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

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