New officer follows in the footsteps of last ANZAC

Published on Department of Defence (author), José Navarro (photographer)

Topic(s): Naval College, HMAS Creswell, Naval Heritage and History

Senior Naval Officer - Tasmania and Appointing Officer, Commander Robert Curtis, welcomes Thomas Claridge into the Royal Australian Navy. (photo: José Navarro)
Senior Naval Officer - Tasmania and Appointing Officer, Commander Robert Curtis, welcomes Thomas Claridge into the Royal Australian Navy.

When Thomas Claridge joined the Royal Australian Navy in Hobart last Friday, he was following in the footsteps of his great-grandfather Alec Campbell, who was Australia’s last ANZAC.

Thomas, 27, has traded his career as a secondary school teacher for a career as a Navy Helicopter Pilot.

His great-grandfather Alec Campbell was 16 when he falsified his age to enlist straight from school in June 1915.

Alec arrived at Gallipoli in October 1915 with the 15th Battalion and was there through to evacuation. He passed away in 2002 and was honoured with a state funeral in Tasmania.

Alec was one of several of Thomas’s family members to serve their country across both World Wars.

His maternal great-grandfather, Thomas Davidson, was a highly decorated infantry soldier in the First World War, awarded the Military Medal for bravery.

Another great-grandfather, Charles Claridge, also served in the First World War.

Thomas’s paternal grandfather, Robert Claridge, was a decorated pilot in the Second World War.

His uncle, Patrick Davidson, also served in the Royal Australian Air Force.

Senior Naval Officer - Tasmania Commander Robert Curtis appoints Thomas Claridge (fourth from left) as an officer in the Royal Australian Navy.

Senior Naval Officer - Tasmania Commander Robert Curtis appoints Thomas Claridge (fourth from left) as an officer in the Royal Australian Navy.

Midshipman Claridge is also the Grandson of former Collingwood AFL Football player Max Davidson. 

He hopes the leadership lessons he has learned from all the role models in his family will stand him in good stead for his career in the Navy.

“I am lucky to have had a lot of personal contact with strong leaders throughout my life,” he said.

“During sport, school and personal life I have seen a range of different types of leaders and have looked up to these people as role models with characteristics I would like to develop.”

He credits his family for inspiring him to join.

“My family has a strong history with the Australian Defence Force and it’s something I’ve thought about since I was a young boy,” he said.

The former Launceston local will now work to complete the New Entry Officers’ Course (NEOC) at HMAS Creswell at Jervis Bay on the NSW South Coast.

“I believe the Navy provides a far more appealing lifestyle than most other careers,” Midshipman Claridge said.

“I love the idea of being a part of an exciting workplace with great opportunities to travel and experience a range of roles and cultures, along with world class training aimed at continual learning and development of new skills,” he said.

Senior Naval Officer - Tasmania (and Thomas’s Appointing Officer), Commander Robert Curtis wished the new officer well in his Navy career.

“A career as a Navy officer is anything but ordinary and is an opportunity to make an immensely important contribution to Australia,” Commander Curtis said.

“A career as a Navy officer commences with training in leadership, seamanship, communications, Naval history, physical fitness and weapons handling.”

“NEOC graduates could be the future commanding officers of the Navy’s fleet of destroyers, amphibious ships, aircraft squadrons and submarines, just to name a few,” he said.