CAMPBELL, James Alexander
(Service number 3/83)

First Rank Sergeant Last Rank Staff Sergeant


Date 29 July 1884 Place of Birth Timaru (Kingsdown)

Enlistment Information

Date 11 August 1914 Age 32 years
Address at Enlistment Dalgety's Buildings, Napier
Occupation Dental Surgeon
Previous Military Experience Edinburgh University O.T.O. Artillery Unit
Marital Status Single. Later married on 21 October 1916 at All Saints, Forest Gate, London, to Lilian Jane LINDAY.
Next of Kin J. CAMPBELL, Kingsdown, Timaru
Religion Church of England
Medical Information Height 5 feet 10 inches. Weight 146 lbs. Chest measurement 34-36½ inches. Complexion fair. Eyes hazel. Hair brown. Eyes both 6/6. Hearing and colour vision both good. Limbs and chest well formed. Full and perfect movement of all joints. Heart and lungs normal. Teeth fine. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicoce veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. No slight defects.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation Main Body
Unit, Squadron, or Ship Ambulance
Date 16 October 1914
Transport Star of India
Embarked From Auckland, NZ Destination Suez, Egypt
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With New Zealand Dental Corps

Military Awards

Campaigns Egyptian; Balkans (Gallipoli); Western Europe
Service Medals 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Victory Medal
Military Awards

Award Circumstances and Date

Mentioned in despatches for valuable services rendered in connection with the war.

Prisoner of War Information

Date of Capture
Where Captured and by Whom
Actions Prior to Capture
PoW Serial Number
PoW Camps
Days Interned
Liberation Date


Date 18 December 1918 Reason No longer physically fit for war service on account of illness contracted on active service - general debility.

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

17 September 1915 admitted to 2nd Australian General Hospital. 4 November 1915 admitted to Hospital Ship Mauretania, with enteric; 4 December 1915 arrived at Greylingwell War Hospital, Chichester.- enteric. Thereafter transfers between Camp and Codford, then to N.Z. Reserve Group. In late April 1916 admitted to Walton-on-Thames Military Hospital (Mount Felix); on 26 November 1917 admitted to Walton-on-Thames Hospital - TB. 18 December 1917 transferred to leave. On 31 October 1918 the Medical Board found that he was affected by general debility - rheumatism & deafness; progress was slow and discharge was recommended.

Post-war Occupations

Dental surgeon


Date 25 June 1927 Age 43 years
Place of Death Great North Road, Auckland
Cause Suicide by gas poisoning
Notices Timaru Herald, 27 June 1927
Memorial or Cemetery Timaru Cemetery
Memorial Reference General Section, Row 1, Plot 40
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

James Alexander Campbell was the second son of James and Rebecca Ann (née Gibson) Campbell, of Kingsdown. He was educated at Kingsdown School, leaving in 1900 to work in a dentist’s office in Timaru. His brothers John Gibson Campbell and Robert Campbell also served in World War I.

James was one of the first to enlist, finding himself in September 1914 among 2100 under canvas at the Auckland mobilisation camp. James and his brother Robert were named among 17 past pupils of Kingsdown School at the front or preparing to go, at the school's picnic and prize day in December 1915. Mr Craigie, M.P. and past pupil, referred to the Great War as “the most momentous war of all history” and noted that Kingsdown, in proportion to its population, had nobly done its share in sending men.

At the December 1917 Kingsdown School picnic, Mr J. Craigie, M. P., complimented those present on their patriotism and made the observation that few districts in New Zealand, if any, were better represented at the front in proportion to their population. At that date, 33 past pupils had gone to the Front and of the 31 survivors, all were still serving; among the names read out were the brothers James, John, and Robert Campbell.

James gave 4 years and 131 days of service (11 August 1914 - 18 December 1918), in the Field Ambulance, well over 3 years overseas, though they were years punctuated with illnesses. Early in December 1915, while serving with the N.Z. Field ambulance, he arrived at Greylingwell War Hospital, Chichester, the telegram stating “No further particulars. I hope we shall soon hear that he is progressing favourably towards recovery.” In April 1916 he was admitted to Mt Felix Hospital; in July 1916 he was well enough to leave the New Zealand Military Hospital at Walton-on-Thames.

He was mentioned in despatches - for valuable services rendered in connection with the War (brought to notice of Secretary of State for War and published in the Press by the War Office). This advice was published in the New Zealand newspapers in October 1918, when he was one of the officers mentioned for war services.

Sergeant J. A. Campbell returned to New Zealand on the "Ulimaroa", embarking on 1 May 1918 at Liverpool and arriving on 14 June 1918, when he returned home for a brief spell before returning to camp. He was Dental Officer on the "Ulimaroa", an experience which was not without repercussions. He was severely chastised for irresponsibility and sub-standard efforts - criticisms which were unjustified as James had faulty equipment and insufficient supplies on board. He had treated 1086 patients in London between 21 July 1917 and 13 April 1918.

On discharge in December 1918, he intended to return to Rowleys Buildings, Church Street, Timaru. He was appointed to Trentham Dental Hospital, but was granted privileges from 21 November 1918, at which time his address was Kingsdown, Timaru; and he was to be struck off the strength of the N.Z.E.F. from 18 December 1918. He was discharged as Lieutenant, but this was amended to Staff Sergeant. At the May 1919 meeting of the South Canterbury Hospital Board, as the honorary secretary to the South Canterbury Branch of the New Zealand Dental Association, he advised two appointments of honorary dental surgeons to the hospital and temporary treatment of school children at the hospital.

His medals had been issued prior to his death in 1927. Lieut. J. A. Campbell, N.Z.D.C. Dental Surgeon, was presented with a Parchment Commission (appointed to temporary rank of Lieutenant) soon after 11 September 1919. He was appointed an Officer in the Land Forces (i.e. Territorial Force) of the Dominion of New Zealand, from 14 October 1918. In October 1919 he was recorded as Dental Surgeon, Timaru; he was, indeed, resident in Timaru in May 1919, but in September appears to be in Christchurch. On 15 May 1920 he headed north (from Timaru) to attend the dental conference.

James came to a sad end when he was found dead by suicide (gas poisoning) in his surgery in Auckland in 1927. At the time he was residing at a hotel in the city. What effects did a long period of war service have? James had enlisted, was on Gallipoli until the evacuation, earned his commission (as Lieutenant in the Dental Corps), and later saw service in France. When he came home he was assessed as suffering from general debility (rheumatism and deafness).

James was one of four local men welcomed home in January 1919 at a big gathering in the Kingsdown School, under the auspices of the local Patriotic Society. There was musical entertainment before the men accepted suitably inscribed gold medals as a token of the district's appreciation of their gallant services for King and Country.

It would appear that this James Alexander Campbell was, inadvertently, posted to the Reserve List (with permission to retain rank and wear the prescribed uniform). His name appeared in the Gazette of 17 October 1935 on the Officers' Retired List, the recommendation having come from the Director of Dental Services on 18th September 1935; this despite Notification of Death having been received on 28 July 1927.

In fact he had been confirmed in his rank (Lieutenant) and transferred to the Reserve of Officers, on 3 October 1923, as notified in the N.Z. Gazette of 25 October 1923. Earlier still, James had disputed his rank on his Discharge Certificate, but it was pointed out that his service in the NZEF and his commission did not overlap and were separate services.

In March 1917, William Campbell, brother of James, John and Robert, appealed against his call up on the ground of undue hardship - he already had three brothers at the front and two others working on his father's farm; he was unable to sell or lease his own farm. He was twice granted a sine die adjournment. And in June 1917 his father appealed against the call up of another brother, Percival Campbell, as Percival was most essential in the working of the farm, and James already had three sons at the front; he was financially able to employ labour but where could he get it?

James’ death was indeed a tragic end. “I have been a trier. This place has proved a white elephant. Continued ill health and domestic and financial worries have got me down, and I cannot go any farther.” That was the message left by James Alexander Campbell. A cleaner found him dead in his dental surgery in Auckland, a gas mask over his face connected to the gas jet. Just prior the proprietress of the Royal Hotel where he had been staying received a letter from him in which he said that he would not be back that night. He enclosed receipts for premiums on an insurance policy for £500 with the A.M.P. Society’s Wellington office, and gave her authority to operate the policy. “You should get your money first,” he said. “Take it and please send the rest to my wife.” He also thanked Mrs Reilly for all she had done for him, and closed his letter by saying “Good-bye.” This lady said that he was a sober man, and that she had never seen him the worse for liquor. The coroner returned a verdict of suicide by gas poisoning.

On 21 October 1916 at All Saints’, Forest Gate, London, he had married Lilian Jane Lindsay. James and Lilian went to London in 1922; James returned in 1923 and Lilian in 1924. Lilian was residing in England at the time of his death.

James having left no will, his brothers, P. Campbell and Robert Campbell, sought administration of his estate. There were insufficient funds available to meet the claims made on his estate, and administration was in the hands of the Public Trustee.

The family brought James home for burial in the Timaru Cemetery.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [12 July 2014]; N Z Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5530 0022325) [13 July 2014]; N Z Defence Force Territorial Force Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5937 0362531) [13 July 2014]; Timaru Herald, 20 December 1915, 28 December 1917, 24 June 1918, 27 January 1919, 22 May 1919, 15 May 1920, New Zealand Herald, 5 September 1914, 2 May 1916, 7 October 1918, 27 & 28 June 1927, Otago Daily Times, 9 December 1915, 22 May 1916, 16 March 1917, 17 October 1917, 28 June 1927, Auckland Star, 1 May 1916, Press, 4 May 1916, Star, 19 July 1916, Sun, 18 December 1916, Evening Post, 7 October 1918, 2 & 9 November 1918 (Papers Past) [12, 16 & 20 July 2014; 28 June 2016]; Timaru Herald, 27 June 1927 (Timaru District Library) [14 July 2014]; UK/NZ travels ( [17 August 2014]; Timaru Cemetery burial record (Timaru District Council) [11 April 2015]; Probate record (Archives NZ/FamilySearch) [28 June 2016]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, SC branch NZSG

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