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Crawford, Alexander Cameron (Alistair) (1907–1987)

by P. J. Greville

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

Alexander Cameron (Alistair) Crawford (1907-1987), army officer and engineer, was born on 3 June 1907 at Forteviot, Perthshire, Scotland, son of Andrew Crawford, carter, and his wife Elizabeth, née Cameron. After migrating to Australia when he was about 17, he worked with bullock teams on the construction of roads in Gippsland, Victoria, becoming an overseer. At the Methodist Church, Pakenham, on 3 December 1932 he married Beryl Victoria Waterhouse; he had adopted the forename Alistair, which he used before, after or instead of Alexander. The Crawfords had a son who died in infancy and were later divorced.

On 26 October 1939 Crawford enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. Posted to the 2/2nd Field Company, Royal Australian Engineers, as a sapper, he arrived in the Middle East in May 1940 and rose to sergeant next month. During the battle of Bardia, Libya, on 3 January 1941 he and his section constructed a series of crossings over anti-tank ditches while exposed to heavy enemy fire. For his `courage and coolness’, he was awarded the Military Medal. He was made company sergeant major as a warrant officer, class two, in March. In April he was responsible for some outstanding demolitions in the withdrawal of the 6th Division in Greece. He was mentioned in despatches and, in August, was promoted to warrant officer, class one.

In November 1941 Crawford was commissioned as a lieutenant and posted to the 2/8th Field Company. He served in Syria and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) before returning to Australia in August 1942. By October the 2/8th was at Milne Bay, Papua, supporting the 17th Brigade. In January 1943 the company flew to Wau, New Guinea, as part of Kanga Force, initially in close support of the infantry but later doing roadworks. Crawford was again mentioned in despatches. Back in Australia in July, he became engineer instructor at the 1st Commando Training Battalion. In October he joined headquarters, 6th Divisional Engineers, as a field engineer and was promoted to captain. He reached Aitape, New Guinea, in October 1944 and in the next few months accompanied many infantry patrols through enemy-held territory, garnering engineering intelligence to open a route to Wewak. For this work he was appointed MBE (1946). He finished the war as second-in-command of the 2/8th Field Company. His AIF appointment terminated on 29 November 1945.

A forceful leader and strict disciplinarian, Alex Crawford was 5 ft 9 ins (175 cm) tall and powerfully built, with hazel eyes, brown hair and a fair complexion. He settled in Melbourne after the war and was employed by Malvern City Council as a senior supervisor of road construction. In l949 he joined John Holland & Co. Pty Ltd as a superintendent of construction projects. (Sir) John Holland had served in North Africa and Greece with Crawford and held him in high regard. Recalling Crawford’s service with his own company, Holland stated that his `man management skills were very much in evidence during a period which could be described as industrially aggressive’. Crawford later became general manager of Bayview Quarries Pty Ltd and a road construction company, and then worked for the Department of Defence. In his spare time he enjoyed gardening. On 22 May 1978 in a civil ceremony at East Malvern he married Alice Frances Cummins. Survived by his wife and one of their two sons, he died on 3 August 1987 at South Caulfield and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Long, To Benghazi (1952)
  • G. Long, Greece, Crete and Syria (1953)
  • R. Davidson, With Courage High (1964)
  • R. McNicoll, The Royal Australian Engineers 1919 to 1945 (1982)
  • series B883, item VX1305 (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information.

Citation details

P. J. Greville, 'Crawford, Alexander Cameron (Alistair) (1907–1987)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/crawford-alexander-cameron-alistair-12366/text22219, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 12 December 2018.

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

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