In his late teens in the mid 1920’s Norman Campbell had wanderlust. A couple of his friends had left home to work on cruise ships and he thought that it was about time he saw a bit of the world too. Much to his mother’s dismay he applied to the Salvation Army to sail on The Vedic, a ship they had commissioned to take willing volunteers to a new life in Australia. He had little money to spare and so this seemed the perfect solution. He didn’t think twice about leaving his childhood sweetheart behind either!
After some training at a fruit farm down in Essex, which he was amused to think did little to prepare him for life in the outback, there was a ‘send off’ party at home in Ditton Hill, Surbiton before he and his friend headed to Liverpool where The Vedic would set sail. In Norman’s memoir he describes the events of the journey and his few years of trying to make a life for himself, mainly in sheep farming, a world apart from his original desire to wear and bowler hat and work in the City of London when he was a lad.
His adventures in Australia were far from straight forward. Work was tough and pay was minimal, especially as he had to pay off The Salvation Army out of his wage packet, but he enjoyed it and loved to speak of those days years later. Just before his hundredth birthday I visited Norman and he got out his well loved map of Australia. The detail with which he could still account for the places he worked in, the people he met and his experiences was remarkable and we whiled away a happy afternoon, me just listening to his eventful stories.
It was his mother and not his sweetheart who asked him to come home. She wasn’t well and times were hard for the family in the early 30’s. Thus Norman saved for his passage home and in August 1931 Norman returned. His journey was equally exciting visiting Ceylon (Sri Lanka) The Suez Canal, Port Said and Naples. he was greeted by even tougher times ahead during the depression, but at least he brought with him a head full of wonderful memories.
Norman’s own account of his life, The Life and Demise of Norman Campbell, (his chosen title!) is available on Amazon in paperback and will be out as on Kindle in the autumn.