WW1 widow invited to Gallipoli

Marjorie Cameron from Laurieton will be in Gallipoli for Anzac Day.
Marjorie Cameron from Laurieton will be in Gallipoli for Anzac Day.

NINETY year old Marjorie Cameron from Laurieton is preparing for the trip of a lifetime.

Mrs Cameron will join a select group of World War I widows on an emotional journey to the other side of the globe, to attend the dawn service at ANZAC Cove and the service at Lone Pine.

Described as "living ANZAC legends", Mrs Cameron is one of 115 women still alive in Australia who were married to veterans of the Great War.

"I received a letter in late 2013 inviting me to attend the Gallipoli centenary commemoration this year," Mrs Cameron said.

Many forms and medical checks later, the government is flying Mrs Cameron and nine other widows to Gallipoli.

Despite her senior years, Mrs Cameron is fit, bright as a button and lives independently, all of which made her an ideal candidate for the pilgrimage.

"I am excited; it is a real privilege to have the opportunity to represent all the war widows, and to go on behalf of my husband," Mrs Cameron said.

Having previously travelled to the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Bali, Thailand and New Zealand, Mrs Cameron will be accompanied by her daughter Jenny, from Bathurst.

"My last big overseas trip was with my son and his wife, who took me to Canada and Alaska for my 80th birthday," Mrs Cameron explained.

"There were plenty of offers to come on this trip as my carer, but Jenny will be a real asset."

When the Courier spoke with Mrs Cameron last week, she and Jenny were due to fly to Sydney on Saturday, where they were to meet fellow travellers, carers, and staff from the Department of Veterans' Affairs.

The group was then due to depart Australia on Tuesday, with Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Veterans’ Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson expected to farewell the women.

Mrs Cameron’s husband Ernest Christian Adkins, served on the Western Front under the surname Rogers. Only 16 years old when he signed up, Ernest’s father would not give his permission, so Ernest changed his surname and “stretched” his age a little in order to enlist.

“He was recognised by a former school friend, who convinced him to make peace with his father before he left for service,” Mrs Cameron explained, adding that Ernest changed his name back after the war.

Ernest served with the 12th Field Artillery Brigade, spending three and a half years in France and Belgium.

“He didn’t talk much about the war, although he did mention the terrible conditions at the Somme,” Mrs Cameron said.

A RSL member, Ernest Adkins may not have marched in commemorative services himself, but his widow will represent him with pride this ANZAC Day. She plans to wear his medals; a British Service Medal, Allied Victory Medal, Belgian Veterans Cross and Somme Commemorative Medal.

“I expect it will be an emotional experience,” Mrs Cameron said, adding that her son Peter and grand daughter Kylie have both attended the Gallipoli dawn service.

The widows have been supplied with a smart outfit, or “uniform” to wear during special occasions. Warm gloves, a scarf, anorak and an Akubra hat have also been supplied to help them cope with cold overnight temperatures and potentially warm days.

“I am very grateful to the Veterans’ Affairs staff who have arranged it all so well and made such an effort to look after us,” Mrs Cameron said.

Asked what she thought of the “living ANZAC legends” tag, Mrs Cameron smiled before admitting it was nice to be acknowledged.

“I suppose when all the widows pass on, that will be the end of an era,” she said modestly.

Ernest and Marjorie met during World War II in Sydney and were married in 1950. She was 25 and he was a 51 year old widower. Together they had three children, John, Peter and Jenny. 

Ernest died in 1984, aged 85.

In 1990 Marjorie married a World War II veteran, Alan Cameron, who passed away in 2000.

With nationwide interest in the centenary of the Gallipoli landings, Mrs Cameron will be one of many lucky Australians to attend the commemorations. While young backpackers had formed the bulk of the Gallipoli crowd in the past, this year, more than half will be over the age of 45.

All will arrive at the check point at Akbas by 1.30am on April 25, before travelling across the peninsula by coach. The road to the ANZAC commemorative site will close strictly at 3am.

Mrs Cameron is looking forward to meeting the other women who will make this journey with her. They are aged from 71 to 92 and come from across the country.

The group are due to return to Australia on March 29. Mrs Cameron plans to return home to Laurieton the following day and has agreed to share her experiences with the Courier on her return.

“It will be an amazing experience,” Mrs Cameron concluded.

“Ernest would have been very pleased for me.”


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