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Last Veteran From Ill-Fated WW I Campaign Dies - 2002-05-17

Australia has lost a link to an important moment in its history, as the last veteran from the ill-fated 1915 campaign at Gallipoli, Turkey has died at the age of 103.

Alec Campbell was the last survivor of the disastrous World War I campaign at Gallipoli. The battle occurred just a few years after the Australian nation was formed.

Mr. Campbell died Thursday in the southern state of Tasmania. A state funeral will be held next week in the Tasmanian capital, Hobart. Flags around the country are at half-staff to honor the old soldier, who lied about his age to enlist at 16.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard paid tribute, along with other leading politicians. Mr. Howard said the heroism of the troops at Gallipoli did much to shape what Australians think of themselves.

His widow said Mr. Campbell would be mystified by all the fuss his death has provoked.

"[He] Would probably think it was all quite mad and he would wonder why on earth it was. He never had a sort of high opinion of himself as a great hero or a symbol. He was very sorry he was the only one left. What had happened to the others worried him a lot," she said.

Mr. Campbell arrived in Gallipoli in late November 1915, joining an offensive against the German-allied Ottoman Empire. He remembered an "incredible hail of bullets" as the Australians landed on the sandy beaches.

A month later he left in the evacuation that ended the campaign. Eight-thousand Australian and New Zealand volunteers, known as Anzacs, died in the fighting.

After the war, Mr. Campbell worked as a builder and public servant. He proved a tough sailor, taking part in the grueling Sydney-Hobart yacht race six times.

Not long ago, when he was told he was the last surviving Gallipoli veteran, Mr. Campbell's response was modest: "Oh, well, that won't last forever."