David Campbell was one of Australia’s most accomplished poets.
Campbell was born on 16 July 1915 at Ellerslie Station, near Adelong, New South Wales. He was the third child of Australian-born parents Alfred Campbell, a grazier and medical practitioner, and his wife Edith Madge, née Watt.
In 1930, Campbell went to The King's School, Sydney, and in 1935, with the support of the headmaster, he enrolled at Jesus College, Cambridge, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1937. He continued to play rugby he excelled at school. His studies in English literature developed his interest in poetry.
Campbell returned to Australia from Cambridge in 1938 and on 6 November 1939 joined the Royal Australian Air Force. He had learned to fly while at Cambridge and went to train as a pilot at Point Cook. He served in New Guinea, where he was injured and awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, and flew bombing missions from Darwin in the Northern Territory.
Campbell married Bonnie Edith Lawrence on 20 January 1940 at St John's Anglican Church, Toorak, Melbourne. They had two sons (including John) and a daughter, but were divorced in 1973. In 1946, he settled on a family property, Wells Station, near Canberra, and in 1961 he moved to Palerang, near Bungendore, New South Wales. In 1968, he moved again to The Run, Queanbeyan, New South Wales.
On 18 February 1974 Campbell married Judith Anne Jones in Sydney. From May to September 1975 they travelled in England and Europe, his first trip abroad since his Cambridge days.
He had many literary friends. These included, in addition to poet and editor, Douglas Stewart, historian Manning Clark, poet Rosemary Dobson, writer Patrick White, and poet and academic A. D. Hope. He was interested in painting, golf and polo, and was a keen fisherman, an activity he often shared with Douglas Stewart. Manning Clark has written about aspects of his friendship with David Campbell. Campbell, wrote Clark "was an enlarger of life, not a straitener or measurer, or a life-denier" the key to him being found in "the two books he re-read each year: The Idiot by Dostoevsky, and The Aunt's Story by Patrick White. "He was the war hero, the victor in the boxing ring, the strong man in the rugby scrum, the fisherman, the horseman, the polo player who knew all about Myshkin [character from The Idiot] and Theodora Goodman [character from The Aunt's Story]. I saw him knock out a man in the bar at Delegate for casting doubts on his manhood. The next morning I saw him cast a fly with such delicacy that it landed on the waters of the Snowy River with the grace of a butterfly."
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