Don Campbell

Before joining Small Ships, Member Don Campbell sailed on a few vessels. Don joined the M.V Macdhui as Deck-boy at 15 years of age on 23rd December 1937, his uncle James Campbell was the Chief Officer. Don left the Macdhui during 1941 as Ordinary Seaman. He then served on the Moa Moa for about 5 months (before she was acquired by Small Ships Section) rising to Able Seaman. Don’s next ship Caradale broke away from a convoy heading north to arrive in Sydney on 31st May 1942, the same night that Japanese Midget Subs attacked Sydney Harbour. The following day Don re-joined the M.V Macdhui and left for Townsville with a load of aviation fuel and ammunition amongst other supplies. From Townsville they carried a couple of hundred Australian troops to Port Moresby, arriving 15th June.  On the 17th June members of the 39th Battalion were unloading aviation fuel from the hold when a Zero flew overhead, followed by 18 Japanese bombers and fighters. M.V Macdhui took a direct hit mid-ship which killed four crew members.  The resulting fire was extinguished by Don and the Chief Officer. They returned to the wharf to continue unloading fuel.

 M.V. Macdhui on fire

The next day the same Japanese bombers returned, to inflict four direct hits. One went down number 3 hatch, the next on the gun crew aft. Don was in the gun crew and the explosion knocked him out. Shortly after the bombers left the area, the fires became fierce and the Captain ordered the crew to abandon ship.

Sometime later Don awoke on the number 5 hatch, in silence, lifeboats gone, the ship on fire and taking a list. After climbing on the poop deck Don found the Steward badly wounded. Don called from the deck to a RAAF launch that was circling the M.V Macdhui and the RAAF officers conveyed Don and the Steward back to their camp.

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