William Norman Johnston Campbell

“He would have been her pride and joy and cannot have been too happy to say goodbye to her only child.”

William Norman Johnston Campbell enlisted on May 14, 1915 but didn’t tell his widow mother Eleanor until the day he was leaving. “He would have been her pride and joy and cannot have been too happy to say goodbye to her only child,” said Brenda Spilker, Campbell’s granddaughter.

He trained as a signaller for the 75th Battalion in England and in April 1917 he arrived in France and served in famous battles such as the Battle of Vimy Ridge and the Battle of Hill 70. He also served at Ypres, Arras, Amiens, Canal du Nord, Valenciennes, and Somme.

In 1919, Campbell returned to Port Moody, British Columbia where he married a Scottish woman. There he ran an insurance and notary public business until the Depression hit and they moved to Columbia Valley, B.C. near the Washington border.

He enlisted in the Second World War and served as an instructor sergeant with the Rocky Mountain Rangers around B.C. He was an expert in gas attacks, particularly mustard gas.

Campbell was born in 1896 in a little clapboard house near New Wesetminster, B.C. He was the only child of Eleanor and William Norman Campbell, a rugged Scot from Golspie who had served in the in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in Kabul, Kandahar, South Africa, India, and China in the days leading up to the Boxer Rebellion. Eleanor was widowed after her husband died while breakingup a log jam, leaving ten-year-old Campbell to help make a living for himself and his mom. Shortly after Campbell’s dad died, he and his mom moved to Port Moody where Campbell became a messenger boy for RBC Royal Bank. Aroung 1915 Campbell and his mom moved to Ontario where he worked at a bank in Burk’s Falls, a village north of Toronto, and Eleanor worked as a cook in logging camps.

Campbell died in Maple Ridge, B.C. in 1978. “He had asked that his boots be put on his feet and this was dutifully done so that the old soldier could die the soldier.”

Do you have an ancestor who served in the Great War? Submit their story and it could be included on this Great War Album website.