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Campbell, Stuart Alexander Caird (1903–1988)

by David Wilson

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

Stuart Alexander Caird Campbell (1903-1988), air force officer, aviator, administrator and businessman, was born on 27 March 1903 at Darling Point, Sydney, second son of Murray Aird Campbell, a man of independent means, and his wife Caroline Maxwell, née Caird, both Sydney born. Stuart was educated at Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore) and the University of Sydney (BE, 1926), where he studied mechanical and electrical engineering. On 26 April 1926 he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force. He completed flying training and was commissioned on 1 November. Promoted to flying officer in October 1927, next year he was posted to No.101 Flight, which was surveying the Great Barrier Reef. In 1929 he served in the seaplane-carrier HMAS Albatross before being selected as the senior pilot to the 1929-30 and 1930-31 British, Australian and New Zealand Antarctic Research Expedition, led by Sir Douglas Mawson. With Pilot Officer Eric Douglas, he pioneered flying in Antarctica in their Gipsy Moth seaplane. Campbell was promoted to flight lieutenant in July 1930. He was to be awarded the Polar medal in 1934.

Transferring to the RAAF Reserve on 7 March 1932, Campbell worked his passage to England in a tramp steamer. He joined H. Hemming & Partners Ltd, London, an air transport company, and returned to Australia as its field manager, undertaking aerial surveys of Western Australia, Victoria and New Guinea. On 2 September 1939 he was recalled to the RAAF’s Active List. Made squadron leader in October, he served in a series of operational, training and command appointments and was promoted to wing commander in January 1941 and to acting group captain in January 1942 (substantive in December). Commanding No.42 Squadron from December 1944 and No.76 Wing from May 1945, he flew Catalina flying boats on long-range mine-laying operations in the South-West Pacific Area. He was demobilised on 23 April 1946.

After working as acting-director of air navigation and safety, Department of Civil Aviation, Campbell was appointed director in June 1948. Seconded as chief executive officer of the Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions in May 1947, he led the group that established the Heard Island station in December. That year he was elected a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, London. In 1951 he was attached to the International Civil Aviation Organization to set up a civil aviation organisation for the government of Thailand. After a successful two years, during which he had developed a love of the country, he was appointed (1954) commander of the Order of the Crown of Thailand. He soon returned as a private citizen and formed a successful importing business, Thai-Australia Co. Ltd. His books, The Fundamentals of the Thai Language (1957) —which he co-authored and which ran to five editions—and A Guide to the Hard Corals of Thai Waters (1980), were academically respected.

Campbell was `a man of action, an adventurer and a hands-on administrator’. He listed his recreations as swimming, tennis, squash and shooting. On 17 December 1968 at the Australian Embassy, Bangkok, he married Shelagh Ann Nickson (d.1985), a registered nurse. In 1973 they retired to Townsville, Queensland. Stuart Campbell died on 7 March 1988 at his Melton Hill home and was cremated with Presbyterian forms. His portrait by Nina Orloff is held by the Mitchell Library, Sydney.

Select Bibliography

  • H. Fletcher, Antarctic Days with Mawson (1984)
  • C. D. Coulthard-Clark, The Third Brother (1991)
  • D. Wilson, Alfresco Flight (1991)
  • T. Bowden, The Silence Calling (1997)
  • West Australian, 26 July 1935, p 23
  • University of Sydney, Gazette, Aug 1992, p 16
  • series A9300, item Campbell S A C (National Archives of Australia)
  • Campbell diaries and papers (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

David Wilson, 'Campbell, Stuart Alexander Caird (1903–1988)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/campbell-stuart-alexander-caird-12290/text22067, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 20 October 2018.

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

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