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Unknown Soldiers Grave
Fromelles Association of Australia

John William CAMP

Regimental Number
3265A
Rank
Sergeant
War Service
Egypt and Western Front
Prior Military Service
Town Guard (6 months); Cyclist Company, Duke of Edinburgh’s Own, Volunteer Rifles (1 year)
Enlistment
03 Aug 1915 at Liverpool, NSW
Embarkation
02 Nov 1915 from Sydney, NSW, on the HMAT A14 Euripides
Next of Kin
Aunt - Miss Margaret Anne CAMP, Main Rd, Plumstead, Cape Province, South Africa
Date & Place of Birth
15 May 1882, Kimberley, Cape Province, South Africa
Parents
Charlotte nee WALLACE and William CAMP
Marital Status
Single
Siblings
Three sisters, one brother (Edward, South African Rifles – Killed in action 1917)
Occupation
Carpenter
Physical Description
5 feet 6 inches, 112 pounds (167.6cm, 50.8kg)
Eyes brown, Hair light brown, Complexion dark
Religion
Church of England
Fate
Killed in Action, 19 Jul 1916, Fromelles, France - aged 34
Place of Burial
No known grave
Commemorated
V.C. Corner, (Panel 7), Australian Cemetery Memorial, Fromelles, France
Positively Identified
No

John Camp - South African born

John Camp is commemorated on the family gravestone in Wynberg, South Africa, together with his grandparents, two uncles and his maiden aunt – the aunt he had named as next of kin. His remains however lie in France having been killed in action on 19th July 1916.

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Camp family headstone at St John's Parish Cemetery in Wynberg, Cape Town, South Africa
source South Africa War Graves Project

John William Camp, born on 15th May 1882, was a part of a large extended family with both his parents also born in South Africa. His father, William, was one of fifteen children born to an Englishman who had married into an established Cape Dutch family, the Van Den Eykels. William’s occupation was listed as a post cart driver on his children’s baptism records.

John and his siblings - Edward, Rosa, Harriet and Sarah - were born and grew up around the diamond-mining areas of Barkley West and Kimberley in the Cape Province of South Africa.

As a young man during the Boer Wars, it was only to be expected that John would serve in the local militia. His AIF records state that he served in the Town Guards and in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Own Volunteer Rifles. It is highly likely that his younger brother served as well.

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Town Guard at Kimberley, Cape Province, South Africa. Town Guards were local militia recruited to defend townships during periods of unrest. It is not known where John or Edward may have served but it is likely to have been either Barkley West or Kimberley, the towns where the family was based.
source Angloboerwar.com website

Left for Australia

John left South Africa for Australia, possibly around 1912 if a Hobart shipping record for a Mr J.W. Camp is correctly attributable to him. Certainly, by 1913, John William Camp is listed on the electoral roll employed as a carpenter at the Quarantine Station at North Heads in Manly. It seems that John was establishing himself in Australia as he purchased land in Berith St, Bexley - now the suburb of Kingsgrove in Southern Sydney.

In August 1915, he enlisted in the AIF at Liverpool as a private in the 2nd Battalion. He claimed to be 29 years of age, lowering his age by 4 years, and nominated his unmarried aunt, Margaret Ann Camp, as his next of kin. It is unclear why he did not nominate his mother who was still alive at this time but perhaps she was already in ill-health as she died the following year.

By November, Private John Camp was aboard a military transport ship with the 2nd Battalion bound for Egypt to join other troops as part of the re-organisation and training of Australian forces post-Gallipoli.

John at War

While in Egypt, John was transferred to the 53rd Battalion and also suffered a number of bouts of tonsillitis needing hospitalisation. During this time, he was promoted to corporal and, immediately prior to embarking for France in June, promoted to sergeant.

The 53rd Battalion arrived on the front line for the first time on 10 July 1916 and became embroiled in its first major battle on the Western Front, at Fromelles, on 19 July. Sergeant John William Camp was one of the battalion’s more than 600 casualties.

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Men of the 53rd Battalion waiting to don their equipment for the attack at Fromelles. Only three of the men shown here survived the action and those three were wounded
source Australian War Memorial Australian War Memorial Collection A03042

Private Robert Thomas, 3433, also of the 53rd Battalion provided an eyewitness report of John’s last moments. This report for the official enquiry into the fate of John Camp indicates that he was probably killed instantly during a charge from the trenches. As is often the case in these enquiries, there were some conflicting reports as to John’s fate but ultimately the enquiry found, on the basis of Private Thomas’ evidence, that Sergeant John Camp had been killed in action on 19 July 1916.

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In September 1917, Pte Thomas re-affirmed his evidence (copy below)
source AWM: Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Files, page 9
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Above is Pte R.W. Thomas eyewitness report to the enquiry (dated 28 June 1917) into the fate of Sgt John Camp, missing in action 19 July 1916.
source AWM: Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Files, page 8

Commemorated on three continents

In addition to the family headstone in South Africa noted earlier, Sergeant John Camp is remembered:

  • in France on panel 7 of V.C. Corner at the Australian Cemetery Memorial at Fromelles
  • in Australia at
  • panel 156 in the Commemorative Area at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra; and
  • the Manly War Memorial on the northern beaches of Sydney.
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Manly War Memorial with Sgt John W Camp at end of list
source David Roden, NSW War Memorials Register

John’s Family

His younger brother, Edward, remained in South Africa. He worked as a digger and lived with his wife, Maria, and young family in Barkley West, Cape Province. Like John, Edward enlisted when war broke out and joined the South African Infantry, 3rd Regiment. He too was killed in action – on 20 September 1917, aged 31. He is buried in Belgium and commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial.

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Name of Private E. H. Camp inscribed on the Menin Gate memorial at Ypres
source Findagrave website, memorial 11984163
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The cap badge for the 3rd Regiment, South African Infantry.

Charlotte, John’s mother, died just days after John was killed. She had been suffering pneumonia for about 2 weeks and died in Kimberley on 23 July 1916, unaware that her son had pre-deceased her.

His aunt, Margaret Ann Camp, as sole legatee of his estate would have received the proceeds from the sale of John’s land after probate was granted in 1918. She also received his war medals after some feisty interchanges with authorities about her right to receive them as his paternal aunt. Margaret had never married and she lived in Plumstead, a suburb in the southern parts of Cape Town. She outlived her two nephews by almost three decades, dying in 1945.

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Probate was granted in the estate of J. W. Camp in January 1918. His land was subsequently sold (see the second property listed in the auction advertisement at right) with proceeds going to his aunt in South Africa.

The Search for DNA

John was reported as having got near to the German second line, so there is a very good chance he is one of the men now buried at Pheasant Wood, known unto God.

In terms of tracing Y DNA, John has no known offspring, his only brother (Edward) died in 1917 and Edward’s son died in infancy. Going back to the next previous generation, Grandfather Camp had six sons amongst his fifteen children, so it would generally be easy to find a male descendant. Certainly, there are living relatives that researchers have contacted, including down the male line for a YDNA match, but, so far, no one has come forward.

On the mitochondrial side, we have been unable to find descendants on John’s mother’s line. She was born Charlotte Johanna Wallace in 1856 to George Day Wallace and Sarah Helena Eretszen. The search continues.

Seeking DNA Donors

Fromelles Association of Australia

Contacts

The Fromelles Association welcomes all contact regarding this soldier.
(Contact: royce@fromelles.info or geoffrey@fromelles.info).
We also urge any family members to contact and register with the Australian Army
(Contact: army.uwc@defence.gov.au or phone 1800 019 090).

Donations

The Fromelles Association maintains this web site, purely by donations received.
If you are able, please contribute to the upkeep of this resource.
(Contact: bill@fromelles.info ).