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Beryl Anderson CAMPBELL

Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Nurse / Matron 25y 12 Nov 1914 5 Dec 1919 3

Matron Beryl Anderson Campbell RRC (1888-1962) 


Family Background and early life

Beryl Anderson Campbell and her twin, Ruby Martin Campbell, were born in the ironbark homestead, built by their father, on Kilburnie Station in outback Queensland. 

Ruby was the older twin born just before midnight on the 8th December and Beryl was born not long after on 9 December 1888. She was the penultimate child of a family of nine children, eight of whom survived to adulthood.  

Family history reports that John Campbell delivered both babies himself and then placed them in the top drawer of a chest of drawers, to keep them away from the dogs! 

Beryl’s father, John Campbell, was born in 1845 at Kilburnie, Ayrshire, Scotland.  His father was William Campbell who was listed in the Scotland census (1851 and 1861) as being an agricultural labourer and ironstone miner.  The family records show, that as a boy of about 10 years old, John and his elder brother moved to Ireland to live with their Uncle James.  (The other children remained in Scotland with their parents.)  

Uncle James owned a property called “Vow Farm” located 4 to 5 km due west of Finvoy on the River Bann in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. (The family in the USA tells of Uncle James being a farmer and loch master on the Bann.) 

John went to school at Ballymena and during the school holidays worked on his uncle’s farm.  He continued farming and on reaching the age of 25, decided to emigrate to Australia.

John Campbell and Elizabeth Brydges who were both Protestant Scots from Antrim in Ulster, fell in love.  She was from Bushmill, a town some 30 miles from Ballymena.  John committed to immigrating to Australia, asked Elizabeth to wait for him while he established himself, and he would send for her.   According to family legend, Elizabeth, it appeared, had other ideas for when John arrived at the dock, he found Elizabeth, with her packed bags waiting for him! 

Parents sail to Queensland on the 'Great Queensland'

So in May 1873, John and Elizabeth sailed for Australia from London aboard the Great Queensland.  The journey was a perilous one, taking 100 days in very adverse weather conditions.  The ship was completely stripped of yards, sails and all standing gear but, despite this, they arrived safely in Brisbane on 2 September 1873.  They disembarked the ship on 4 September and The Marriage Index, 1788-1950 shows the record of John and Elizabeth’s marriage in Brisbane on 6 September 1873.

John engaged in various occupations in different parts of Queensland; punting sugarcane on the river in Maryborough, gold seeking in Gympie and then he returned to Brisbane with the intention of going to the Palmer gold rush.  He abandoned this idea and accepted engagement for a term of three years with Mr John S. Bell on Dumgree, a sheep station near Biloela.

'Kilburnie' Station

John Campbell became an expert in handling sheep and cattle herds and three years later, in 1883, he took a Crown lease and established Kilburnie, part of Prairie Station which adjoined Dumgree.   This area of sandstone tableland country was within 10 miles (16kms) of the Calliope coalfields; the coal seam of which was held by the Government geologists and was under the country he held.    

John believed cattle to be a better financial proposition than sheep and so he disposed of the sheep at an excellent price and set up Kilburnie as a cattle station, breeding Hereford cattle and high class draught horses, thus laying the successful foundation of further cattle stations of Inverness and Craigland.

Beryl and her twin, Ruby, had five older siblings, Mary Elizabeth (1875), Thomas Brydges (1877), Rachel Rose (1879), William Blair (1884), Alice Kate (1886) and a younger brother, John Gordon Leslie (1894).   

An article called the Rainbow Trial (sic) by Seagee in the Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton) of 11 March 1926 describes a visit to the Campbell property:

The “Kilburnie” homestead was a two storey comfortable house with a nice garden and an orchard attached.  … A fine well laid out tennis court flanked by splendid shade trees adjoins the home.

Mr John Gordon Campbell, the third son, who was in charge of the station at the time of my visit, served with the Australian Imperial Force in the Light Horse in the Great War and was in action in Palestine, whilst two of the daughters nobly did their duty as nurses also at the front.


Beryl’s older siblings had seen times of hardship, but the twins arrived in a period of increasing family affluence, which allowed the younger children time for leisure and formal education.    

Beryl and Ruby were initially educated at home but in 1902, when they were fourteen, with no convenient Presbyterian education available, they were enrolled in Grave IV at the Range Convent boarding school in Rockhampton.  After a year they returned home, possibly because they were needed to help on the station, and continued their education with a governess at Kilburnie.  

The family diary records show their mother’s long and dogged search for a governess indicating the value she placed on female education.

In 1904 the twins were sixteen, both highly capable female workers who could go mustering, riding side-saddle, as well as fulfilling their domestic work quota at Kilburnie.  The education they received at home however, gave the youngest twin, Beryl, different life choices to those that had been available to her sisters. 


In 1908, Beryl Campbell was accepted as a trainee at the Rockhampton Hospital.  Nursing training with its minimal pay and associated “harsh cleaning and housework” was exhausting and the trainees personal time was rigidly controlled.  Probationers had to ‘live-in’ at their training hospitals, a situation that permitted respectable, single women like Beryl to live away from home, so giving them a form of independence unlike other women of their generation. 

Beryl completed three years training at the Rockhampton Hospital and was registered as a trained nurse with the Queensland State Registration Board of the Australian Trained Nurses Association (ATNA) in 1911.  She then went on to complete an obstetrics certificate in 1912 at Queen’s House in Adelaide.  

At the end of her training she had gained nursing certificates in General Nursing, Paediatrics and Obstetrics and worked as a Charge Nurse at Rockhampton Hospital.  From October 1912 she was employed as Head Nurse at Rockhampton Children’s Hospital until she resigned in April 1913.

Her resignation from the Rockhampton Children’s hospital was reported at the monthly meeting of the Children’s Hospital Committee by the Morning Bulletin, (Rockhampton) Wednesday 14 May 1913:


Miss B. A. Campbell wrote resigning her position as head nurse as she had accepted the position of nurse to the Marmor Nursing Association.  She thanked the Medical Officer, Dr H. E. Brown; the Matron, Miss C. I. Hall; and the Committee for their assistance during the last six months. The resignation was accepted with regret. …


The Matron reported as follows: … I very much regret that Miss B. A. Campbell has resigned from her position as head nurse, having accepted the position as nurse to the Marmor Nursing Association.  She has been of great assistance to me and has always had the welfare of the institution at heart. …

During her time at the Children’s Hospital, Beryl’s mother, Elizabeth, became very ill.  The family was summoned to Kilburnie to be at her side, but she died on 7 March 1913.

Beryl Campbell took up her new position as Matron at Marmor First Aid Hospital in rural Queensland and worked there for 1½ years.   

Enlistment and service

Beryl enlisted with the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on 12 November 1914 in Brisbane.  Her enlistment papers describe her as being single, 25 years of age, 5’ 5’’ (165cm) tall, 154 lbs (69.8kg), with blonde complexion, blue eyes and fair hair.  (The Examining Medical Officer was Dr Lilian V. Cooper, a prominent Queensland female doctor.)  Her appointment to the No 1 Australian General Hospital (1AGH) was made on 21 November 1914.

On 21 December 1914 she embarked in Brisbane as a Staff Nurse with the second contingent of Australian nurses from Brisbane on the HMAT A55 Kyarra as part of the 1AGH.  

She arrived in Heliopolis in 1915 where the 1AGH was based in the converted Heliopolis Palace Hotel in Cairo, Egypt.  There are few, if any, records available for her time spent here.  She was promoted to Sister on 1 December 1915 while on duty in England.


On 17 February 1916, Beryl’s medical records show she was admitted to the 4th Auxiliary Hospital in Cairo with a mild case of chicken pox.  She was discharged on 9 March, and was due to return to Australia on the 'Euripides', leaving Plymouth on 24 June 1916 and arriving Melbourne 5 August.   

The AANS had an exact policy for their nurses working in danger zones.  They were required to take leave either to Paris or England after six months duty.  It appears that Beryl was on leave in June 1916 as reported in a letter published in Capricornian, Saturday 12 August 1916, Page 19 entitled Central Queenslanders in England by Mrs H.G. Wheeler.  Mrs Wheeler describes activities on 28th June in London, passing on messages to family or soldiers and nurses there.  An extract follows:

At the Ivanhoe Hotel last week I saw Sister Beryl Campbell on her way to Australia, Sister Kennedy on sick leave, and Sister Sadie Macdonald on her way to America…  

Sister Beryl Campbell has promised to call on you when passing through Rockhampton, and she will give you all the news. Tell Mrs. Maurice Jones that Sister Campbell was at the same hospital as her son. She may like to see her…

Serious illness strikes

It appears Beryl returned to duty, but in late October her family was advised that she was sick and returning to Australia.  She embarked the 'Marathon' for Australia on 27 October 1916 but was off-loaded at Durban, South Africa with cerebro-spinal meningitis.  She was admitted to the Durban hospital on 24 November with her condition reported as “very serious”.   

Her condition deteriorated and she was moved to the Quarantine Hospital on Salisbury Island off Capetown on 1st December where she nearly died.  After a week, her health improved and she was transferred to Capetown where she convalesced until March 1917.   On 9 March, Beryl was invalided and returned to Australia aboard the HMAT A71 Nestor. 

An account of Beryl’s time in South Africa has been passed down to Beryl’s grand-daughter: 

After her diagnosis on board ship she was abandoned on a quarantine island off the South African coast and saved by a Durban dentist who heard of a white Australian nurse dying alone, went and found her, removed her to Durban, and shaved off her hair in order to run tubes of iced water round her head to reduce the inflammation of the brain. 

A photograph of Matron Beryl Campbell taken after her return to Egypt, which appears on the front of the booklet and in the photo gallery, shows her with short hair.  This was most unusual for women at the time and a testament to her treatment while in South Africa.

Return to duty

The Queenslander of 9 June reported that she was returning to Brisbane after spending time with the family at Kilburnie.  On 12 June 1917 she embarked from Port Melbourne on the RMS 'Mooltan' as one of three senior matrons leading a contingent of 215 Australian nurses bound for Salonica.  They disembarked at Suez on 19 July 1917 and on 12 August embarked at Suez on the OS Montes for Salonica.   (A photograph from the Queenslander Pictorial Supplement of 11 August 1917 in the gallery shows the nursing and medical officers who left on the 'Mooltan'.  The day after they safely disembarked at Suez, the ship was torpedoed in the Mediterranean Sea.)


In 1915 British and French troops joined Greece to defend Serbia, now under attack from a combination of Austrian, German and Bulgarian forces.  British and French hospitals were set up at Salonica on the eastern coast of Greece to care for the wounded.  In April 1917 British command requested Surgeon General Howse to find 364 Australian nurses to staff the four general hospitals there and relieve the British and Canadians.   Three AANS units, each of 90 nurses and one matron arrived in Salonica at the end of July 1917 under the direction of Australian Principal Matron Jessie McHardie-White.

Beryl Campbell appointed Matron at Kalamaria.

Matron Beryl Campbell and her 90 Australian nurses took over the 50th British General Hospital (50 BGH), a 1200-bed hospital at Kalamaria.  It was a relatively well-established hospital with wooden huts for patients and staff.   Despite the better accommodation at the 50 BGH compared to the tent hospitals of other units, Matron Campbell was still confronted by the same appalling weather, scarcity of food, lack of fresh water and pernicious malaria that debilitated the nursing staff at all the Salonica hospitals.

For the AANS, Salonica was the forgotten war.   There were no AIF troops on the Salonica front, so the AANS were isolated both from the Diggers and from other Australian nursing units.  Those few historians who have dealt with Salonica have labeled the AANS there as ‘the neglected nurses’ and the posting as one of the ‘outposts of the empire’.   The nurses themselves felt with some bitterness that other units regarded Salonica as ‘one long holiday’ instead of the hardship posting it was.

A. G. Butler, the official Australian war historian described the privations of Salonica:

Few Australian nurses in the war can have found themselves among associations more inspiring, scenes more beautiful or conditions more damnable.

The damnable conditions included searing summer heat, winter rain, mud and glacial temperatures; lack of food and water; lice, fleas and endemic dysentery and typhus in the local population.   Worst of all were the swarming mosquitoes that carried malaria to both patients and staff.  Conditions worsened to critical a few days after the AANS arrived when the town of Salonica burned down, and 25,000 Greek civilians were left homeless and starving.  On top of the rain, the mud and the fire, the desperate Greeks took to stealing what little food was available.  

Historian Jan Bassett summed up these problems when she wrote: 

‘Earth, fire and water conspired against the Australian nurses in Salonika.’

A photograph shows Matrons Beryl Campbell and Christense Sorensen outside Beryl’s hut in Kalamaria.   The reverse of the photo she wrote: 

'Sorry and I on my camp stretcher.  An ad for a hair tonic.’ 

(An apparent reference to her hair and treatment for meningitis.)  

Beryl Campbell’s military record for her time in Salonica is written in clipped military notations.   It begins with her arrival and then lists a six-month tour of duty there until January 1918.   It appears she travelled back and forth from Salonica to Egypt on a couple of occasions.  On 15 January, she left for Egypt, returning on 2 March 1918.   

Royal Red Cross 1st Class

Three months later, on 3 June 1918, it is reported in the London Gazette that she was awarded the prestigious Royal Red Cross (RRC) 1st Class in recognition of valuable services to the British Forces in Salonica.   No further explanation was given for the three months in Egypt or why she specifically received this award.   

However, for the next twelve months from March 1918 to February 1919 Matron Campbell remained in Salonica and her record makes no note of any leave.   She was among the last to leave, remaining until March 1919, well after the war had ended, overseeing the departure of the wounded and of her nurses for England.

She is again reported being as being taken ill and was admitted to the 12th Southmill General Hospital, South Kensington on 30 March until discharge on 23 April 1919.


Following her return to England, Beryl was granted leave for non-military employment to complete a Course of Instruction with the Mansions Motor Training Garage, 78 York Street, London from 19 May 1919 until 19 August 1919.  A report from the training facility stated that: 

“Matron Campbell passed satisfactorily through the course of Motor Mechanism and Driving”.

Tragedy in the family

In June 1919 everything changed for Beryl.   Family responsibilities took precedence over all else and she was discharged from the AANS to sail to Canada to rescue her dead sister’s four orphaned children.   Her sister, Rachel Rose, and brother-in-law, James Daley (who lived in Alsask, Saskatchewan, Canada) succumbed to the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic leaving their four children orphaned.  The children’s ages ranged from 11 months to 6 years.

On 17 September 1919, Beryl embarked for Montreal en route to Australia.  She met her older sister, Alice, in Canada and together they returned to Kilburnie with the children.

Following her return to Australia, Beryl was formally discharged from duty on 4 January 1920.


Royal Red Cross 1st Class

Beryl was awarded the Royal Red Cross 1st Class in June 1918.   A letter was forwarded to John Campbell on 13 November 1918 advising him of the award and read:

His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased, on the occasion of His Majesty’s Birthday, to award the Royal Red Cross Decoration to the undermentioned lady of the Nursing Service, in recognition of her valuable service with the British Forces in Salonika :

Matron Beryl Anderson Campbell.

A copy of the letter is in the photo gallery.  The award was delivered to her father and remains as a valued family artifact.  It has no name engraved on it.

Medaille des Epidemies

The President of the French Republic also awarded Beryl the Medaille des Epidemies en Argent on 21 July 1919.  There was no accompanying documentation with this award but it was noted in the London Gazette No. 119 dated 17 October 1919.


She also received the 1914-1915 Star (#29274), the British War Medal (#77729) and the Victory Medal (#64660).

Marriage and family

Beryl married George ‘Harold’ Walker, a widower and wealthy Melbourne solicitor, on 22 June 1921 in Queensland.  The family tells the story that they probably met through his organization of donations for Australian soldiers fighting overseas.  

The newly married couple moved permanently to Melbourne where they had a family of four children; Isobel, who died of cancer in 1930 aged seven, Helen, Elizabeth and one son, Harold John Romaine Walker.  

Harold Walker was a partner in the legal firm of Atkin, Walker & Strachan of 123 William Street, Melbourne until he retired in 1945.  

Beryl and Harold lived at Stonnington Place, Toorak from 1925 until after Harold died in 1951.  In 1956, after living alone for five years she bought a house together with her daughter Helen and husband, because of her increasingly severe diabetes.

A granddaughter, with whom she lived, has memories of her going to church each Sunday, sitting in the same seat in the same pew.

Salonica Nurses Reunions

Beryl kept up links with the Salonica nurses for decades.   She attended these regular reunions with her good friend and colleague Matron Jessie McHardie-White.  


Beryl passed away suddenly of a heart attack in November 1962 aged 74 years.  

While she had not lived in Queensland for many years, she is remembered for her service on the Saint Andrew’s Uniting Church Honour Roll Boards as someone who was linked by family to the church and made an invaluable contribution to the servicemen she nursed and women she worked with.


Beryl is survived by four grandsons, one granddaughter, two great-grandsons and three great-granddaughters.

Ruby, Beryl’s twin sister, became a well-known artist, who was encouraged by Beryl and stayed with her while attending art courses in Melbourne.  She remained single and lived at Kilburnie Station. Ruby passed away in 1977.

(The Campbell Family descendants generously donated the Ruby Campbell Art Collection, consisting of over 90 works, to the Gladstone Gallery & Museum in 2014.)  

John ‘Gordon’ Lesley Campbell, Beryl’s youngest brother, who served in 5th Light Horse Regiment WW1, stayed on at Kilburnie Station and his daughter and grand-daughter, Heather and Fiona and their family still live on the property today. 

Alice Kate Leslie Campbell, an older sister of Beryl, had a daughter, Jill Campbell, and a son, Paul Campbell.  Alice also raised Peggy (one of her sister Rachel’s orphaned children from Canada) from a very young age but did not formally adopt her.  Peggy lived for a time with Alice at Pelham, a cattle station north of Chinchilla after her marriage and then later moved to Toowoomba.  (Peggy's son, Scott, always considered Alice his grandmother.)

Rachel Rose Campbell another of Beryl's older siblings was born in 1879.  She married James Daley and they moved to Saskatchewan, Canada.  Both James and Rachel died from the Spanish Flu in 1919 leaving their four children orphans.  Scott, Rachel's grandson (her daughter Peggy's son) grew up in Toowoomba.

Select bibliography
• Anne Prince, ‘Really Rather Extraordinary’: The Leadership of Matron Beryl Campbell in the Australian Army Nursing Service in World War I. eScholarship Research Centre, The University of Melbourne publication - Seizing the Initiative:  Australian Women Leaders in Politics, Workplaces and Communities.
• Australian War Memorial, military records, photographs as listed
• Trove – digitized newspapers, National Library of Australia
• Queensland State Archives, Immigration records
• Saint Andrew’s Uniting Church Archive
• State Library of Queensland, John Oxley Library – Campbell Family Papers, OM90-02, photographs, biographies, diaries 
The History of Queensland:  Its People and Industries (illustrated) in Three Volumes, An Historical and Commercial Review – An Epitome of Progress, Printed and published for the States Publishing Company, Hussey & Gillingham Limited, Currie Street, Adelaide. Vol 2, p904.
• - BMD and military records
• Australian Country Hospitals Heritage Association Inc Archive for early hospital photographs
• - information on Australian WW1 hospitals

With special thanks to the Campbell Family descendants, Anne, Heather, Fiona and Scott, for the invaluable information and photographs provided.

Researched and written by Miriam King March 2016.  Edits and additions by Miriam King, April 2024 © 



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