Sharing Stories of Service: Donald Campbell

Able Seaman, Donald McCallum Campbell, 1943.

Donald Campbell was just 17 years old when he enlisted in the Navy. It was May 1943 and, with the Japanese starting to encroach on Australia, he was inspired to do his bit. After his initial training at the HMAS Cerberus base in Victoria, Donald was assigned to HMAS Parkes, a Bathurst-class corvette designed to undertake anti-submarine and minesweeping duties.

Five seamen from HMAS Parkes while deployed overseas during the Second World War, 1943-1945.

For the most part, life at sea was relatively routine on the Parkes. Occasionally, however, Donald and the crew saw some interesting sights. In December 1944 they rescued six Dutch POWs who had used a canoe to escape their Japanese captors. In August 1945 they helped extract Z Force commandos after a secret mission in enemy territory. They were also present at the surrender ceremony in Timor. Witnessing the transfer from Japanese to Allied power was no doubt a momentous occasion for Donald.

After the end of the war, Donald returned to Australia and was demobilised. He married his sweetheart, Kathleen, in 1957, and settled into a quiet, family-oriented life in Alderley.

Military service ran in Donald’s family. In World War One his father, Hugh Campbell, served as a Lieutenant in the 11th Field Company Engineers. Both Hugh and Donald were careful record keepers, savings diaries, letters, photographs and other mementos from various points in their careers. These are now preserved as part of the Hugh Andrew Geraldton Campbell Papers at State Library of Queensland. Many of the items in the collection are digitised and can be viewed online.

Hugh Campbell wearing his sergeant's stripes, prior to embarking for Adelaide, 1916.

Donald’s story is featured in the exhibition at Anzac Square Memorial Galleries..

This year we will be featuring 15 stories of service personnel from WWI to present. We encourage you to share your stories of service with us. To learn more about this campaign and how you can contribute, visit our website.

Further Reading:

Hugh Andrew Geraldton Campbell Papers-

Donald Campbell Service Record-

Australian Navy history of the HMAS Parkes-

Hugh Campbell Service Record-

Previous SLQ blogs on Hugh Campbell blog-


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Hi Marg. Lovely to come in contact with you again. You are doing a magnificent display of your passion. I love the story of the Campbells a co-incidence they came from EDHS area Enoggera and Alderley. The work you did on the Warnes brought us together through Olive Barlow who sadly passed away a couple of years ago. I am interested on a special project at the moment. Have you come across the Operation "Jaywick" A person from Mitchelton was involved in the Z Force and was a friend of a friend of mine. I would really like him recognised, probably at the remembrance near the Gaythorne RSL which has a huge gathering on Anzac Day. I am not as mobile as I would like to be and have no car any more but still go to history library each Thursday at Enoggera. Also a soldier's pay book has been handed in. Q265811 Percy William Barron. 24/10/1942. Would you be interested in it. Keep up the good work. Regards Merle.