Like many young men in the district in the early 1900s, Ernest Cameron was a keen amateur cyclist. Courtesy of Max Cameron & Linda Rollings.
Private Ernest Cameron
Pakenham & District War Memorial
Born: 1882 - Emerald Hill (South Melbourne), Victoria
Enlisted: 26 May 1915 aged 31
Unit: 23rd Battalion, 2nd Reinforcement (SERN: 1699)
Served: Egypt & Gallipoli
Died: 28 January 1920 - Ballarat, Victoria
Ernest was the son of John James Cameron and Sarah Ann King. By 1909, Ernest was living in Pakenham, working as a labourer (1). In 1911 he married Florence Huckson, daughter of Alexander Grant Huckson, who was a local farmer. Ernest was a keen cyclist and while living in Pakenham competed in local races (1a). Ernest was almost 32 years old when he enlisted in May 1915. He embarked for Egypt with the 23rd Battalion, 2nd Reinforcement in July, and was then sent to Gallipoli (2). Ernest served there with Bill Abrehart, another digger from Pakenham (3). In November 1915, Ernest was injured by a bomb blast, receiving a wound to the tibia just below the left knee. A piece of shrapnel was removed at Gallipoli, with more metal extracted from the bone in hospital at Malta. While the wound was healing, Ernest was left with a stiff knee and mobility issues. He refused an operation and was returned to Australia in March 1916. Ernest was discharged as permanently unfit in July 1916 (4). He initially settled with Florence and their two young children at South Melbourne (5). Ernest was amongst the first soldiers officially welcomed home to Pakenham in late May 1918. Each soldier was presented with a special gold medallion (6).
In late 1918, Ernest took over the licence for the Havilah Hotel in Victoria St, Ballarat East. Tragically, Ernest was found dead in the Gong Gong Reservoir in January 1920. Found on his body was a watch chain with the gold medallion given him by the people of Pakenham (7). The evidence at the coronial inquest suggests Ernest was suffering from what would likely be diagnosed today as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). During the “bad times” he was “apparently unable to control himself, but afterwards could not remember what he had done and said, and would break down and cry, and go out alone for an hour or two”. According to Florence, after one of these attacks he had said “If it were not for you, Flo and the kiddies, I would not stand another”. Florence believed Ernest had taken his own life following another such attack, as he was otherwise passionately fond of his children, had no domestic troubles and believed his war gratuity would resolve his financial difficulties. The coroner returned a verdict of “found drowned” (8).
The assistance of Ernest’s descendants and relatives Warwick & Joan Patterson, Max Cameron, Linda Rollings and Alex Huckson is gratefully acknowledged.
(1) Ancestry.com.au - ER - Flinders - Pakenham - 1909 p 3
(1a) South Bourke & Mornington Journal 1/1/1914, p. 3 & 26/3/1914, p. 3
(2) (4) & (5) NAA B2455 CAMERON E
(3) SBMJ 4/11/1915, p.3
(6) PG 7/6/1918 p. 3
(7) & (8) Ballarat Star 9/2/1920 p. 4