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Sir Donald Charles CAMERON KCMG, DSO, VD

Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Lieut Col 37y 1879 16 Sep 1916 29 Aug 1919 1

Sir Donald Charles Cameron (1879-1960)              


Family background and link to Saint Andrew's

Donald Charles Cameron was born in Brisbane on 19 November 1879, son of John and Sarah Annie née Lodge. His father who was born in British Guiana was a Member of the Legislative Assembly in the Queensland Parliament representing Mitchell from 1893 to 1896 and North Brisbane from 1901 to 1908. From 1903 to 1911 John Cameron MLA served as an Elder at Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Brisbane.

School and early working life

Donald Charles Cameron attended Toowoomba Grammar School from 1893 to 1895 and Brisbane Grammar School from 1895 to 1897.  At the age of 18 he became a clerk in the Queensland Meat Export and Agency Co., of which his father was Chairman of Directors. He toured Europe and Asia in 1899. While in China during the Boxer Rebellion he attached himself to an American infantry regiment and accompanied it to Peking.

Volunteer for the Boer War

He returned to Australia in 1901, volunteered for service in the South African War and was commissioned Lieutenant on 19 March in the Queensland Imperial Bushmen Contingent.  He reached Cape Town in May and for the next year participated in operations in the Transvaal and Orange River Colony. On 16 June he risked his life to rescue a wounded trooper and was mentioned in despatches. His unit was disbanded in June 1902.

Post Boer War

From 1902 to 1914, Donald Cameron, with his brothers, managed their family property, Kensington Downs near Longreach and were involved in their associated pastoral and other business activities. He visited Europe and the United States in 1903.  His name is recorded on the 1911 and 1912 communicants’ roll at Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Brisbane.


Donald Cameron married Evelyn Stella Jardine on 18 February 1914 at Saint John’s Anglican Cathedral in Brisbane and the couple visited China and Japan on honeymoon.  Miss Jardine was the daughter of Mr A W Jardine, Chief Engineer of the Harbours and Rivers Department.  Evelyn had spent most of girlhood in Brisbane and after her marriage, Donald and Evelyn spent two years on Kensington Downs Station before they went to England. The Great War broke out soon afterwards.

Enlistment and service

Donald Cameron enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 30 September and was appointed Captain in the 7th Light Horse Regiment. He transferred to the 5th LHR and embarked from Sydney on HMAT Persic for Egypt in December as second-in-command of “C” Squadron.

From 20 May 1915 until the evacuation, his regiment fought as infantry at Gallipoli. He was wounded on 9 June and again quite severely on 28 June in the heroic but fruitless attack on Turkish trenches known as the Balkan Gun Pits. This wound was to trouble him all his life as removal of the bullet just below his ribs was considered too dangerous.

As Major Cameron he rejoined his unit in Egypt on 3 January 1916, serving in the Suez Canal zone and Sinai for the next ten months commanding his squadron in numerous patrols and skirmishes. He fought in the Battle of Romani on 4-5 August. In February 1917 the Light Horse advanced into Palestine and took part in the Battles of Gaza and operations and patrols in the Wady Ghuzze.

He was promoted Lieutenant Colonel on 30 October and took command of the regiment which led in the attack on Beersheba and the advance on Jerusalem.

Lieutenant Colonel Cameron spent the early months of 1918 in England on leave. In April he returned to command the offensives against the retreating Turks which ended in their capitulation at Ziza on 30 October. Here he was faced with the task of protecting the enemy force from Allied Bedouin troops while he arranged the surrender.  

Mentioned in despatches

For his service in the Palestine campaign he was mentioned in despatches three times, awarded the Distinguished Service Order and the Order of the Nile and appointed Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG). 

S. W. Wigzell, author of Australian Dictionary of Biography 1979 (ADB) describes him: 

'He was an able commanding officer with a gift for obtaining ‘machine-like discipline’ from his men without having to demand it; morale in his regiment was always high.'

In S. W. Wigzell's biography he quotes Trooper Ion L. Idriess who served in the 5th LHR under him.  He said he was ‘never flustered’ in action and he was a ‘cool but quick thinker’.

Return to Australia and public life

After the Great War, Donald Cameron returned to Western Queensland and from 1919 to 1931 he represented Brisbane for the National Party in the House of Representatives. He had accepted an invitation to take part in the dedication of the war memorial stained glass windows and mural brass at Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church on 6 August 1922 but could not attend on account of illness. He represented the Electorate of Lilley in the Federal Parliament from 1934 to 1937 but it was ill health then that forced his retirement. He represented Australia at the League of Nations Assembly in 1923 and in 1926-27 was a member of a select committee on Commonwealth electoral law and procedure.

In parliament he was a leading spokesman for the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia. When a history of the 5th LHR was printed in 1926, he paid the printing costs and presented a copy to every member of the regiment. He commanded the 14th LHR from 1921 to 1924 and was President or Patron of many social organisations. For the Order of St John in Australia he was hospitaller and almoner.

The bottle trees in Anzac Square Brisbane

The bottle trees in Anzac Square, Brisbane were donated by Colonel Cameron in memory of the Light Horse Regiments with which he served. In 1932 he was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George. In World War II he served as Chairman of the New South Wales Recruiting Drive Committee for the Royal Australian Air Force.

Retirement and passing

Sir Donald lived in retirement in Sydney and Brisbane. Towards the end of his life he and Lady Cameron were hospitalised in Brisbane; she predeceased him as did their only daughter. After his death on 19 November 1960, his ashes were buried in accordance with his wishes near the grave of his grandfather in the family cemetery at Home Creek Station near Barcaldine.

Select Bibliography
• Wigzell, S.W., Cameron, Sir Donald Charles, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, MUP, 1979
• Gullett, H.S., The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, Sydney, 1923
• Wilson L.C. and Wetherell H., Fifth Light Horse Regiment, 1914-1919, Sydney, 1926
• Winn J., A History of the Toowoomba Grammar School Cadet Unit 1892-2002 
• National Archives of Australia, military records
• State Library of Queensland, portraits
• Australian War Memorial, First World War Embarkation Rolls
• Archives of Saint Andrew’s Uniting Church Brisbane, Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Annual Reports 1901 – 1925
• Archives of Brisbane Grammar School, The Golden Book 
The Queenslander, 26 June 1915, page 23 
The Courier-Mail, Brisbane, 21 November 1960

Compiled by Noel E Adsett, Brisbane, March 2015  ©



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