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Lt. Col. (ret) Malcolm Campbell has had a long and storied life path that has brought him to New Brunswick, not once, but twice.

His story began in 1947 in Sheffield, England, where he was born. His father was in the RAF, and in 1953, the family immigrated to Toronto. His father was recruited by De Havilland Canada to work on their aircraft projects. 

Mac was the kind of kid who took himself to church. His parents were not regular attenders.

“My parents were Anglicans. They would defend the faith, but they weren’t partakers,” he said.

“I felt comfortable there. I was made to feel welcome as a teenager.”

When he finished high school, he joined the Canadian Army and went through the Black Watch Depot at CFB Gagetown. 

At the time, the late 1960s, the army was short on junior officers because many of theirs, who’d served in the Korean War, were at retirement age. That led to an opening for Mac, who jumped at the chance to take officer training.

“I became a lieutenant in the Black Watch, initially in Gagetown,” he said, adding he attended St. Luke’s on base off and on.

Right after marrying Shirley, who is from Hartland and whom he met in 1971, he was posted to CFB Badin in Germany. That was where their only child, daughter Allison, was born.

“Regular church attendance is a hard thing to do,” said Mac of serving in the military. 

He described himself as a C&E — a Christmas and Easter attender — but he often attended church with the padres in the field.

By 1975, the Campbell family was back in Canada, posted to Montreal. He returned as the adjutant of the battalion, looking after all the administrative needs.

In the early 1970s, the Black Watch was removed from the regular order of battle, and all soldiers were assigned to other regiments. Mac was assigned to 1RCR — the Royal Canadian Regiment.

By 1983, Mac was a major and posted to London, Ont. and it was there that his church attendance became more stable.

“I belonged to the chapel on base,” he said. “I was a member of the parish council and ran the Sunday school.”

He had a young company of soldiers, so to keep them busy, sharp and reasonably sober, he enrolled them in the Duke of Edinburgh program.

“When they tend to drink, they tend to get in trouble,” he said.

It was during this stint that Prince Philip, husband of HRH Queen Elizabeth and originator of the Duke of Edinburgh program, was in North American for a tour.

“I was selected to be his Canadian equerry,” he said, adding the role dealt with the Prince’s administrative and security needs, requiring Mac to carry a 9 mm gun.

This was not long after the IRA had blown up the Prince’s uncle, Lord Mountbatten, so security was tight.

Before the royal visit, though, Mac had to attend a two-week course at Buckingham Palace on how to be an equerry, which is described as an officer who attends or assists members of the Royal family. His accommodations were a suite at the Tower of London.

Mac thoroughly enjoyed the Prince’s visit to Canada, noting the Prince had a strong faith in God.

“It was lovely,” he said. “He’d say, ‘Mac, we’re going to the room now.’ He’d decided which scotch to have and say, ‘pour one for yourself.’ And we’d sit and talk.

“I was also a Brit, so maybe that helped!” he said.

After short stints at the Toronto staff college and the National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa, the family was off to Lahr, Germany from 1986-88.

Mac again attended the base chapel, and it wasn’t long before he and Shirely were asked to start a Sunday school on base.

“They found out I’d done it before,” he said. “So we did, and then it took over my life!”

The registration forms poured in, to the point where they had to rent space in a public school. They had 19 teachers and 320 students — all children of Canadian soldiers.

Its success led to some embarrassing moments, like when the children invited their Catholic friends, and the priest accused him of poaching his flock; and when the Sunday school brought in more money than the church.

As for curriculum, he instructed the teachers to keep it light and stick to the basics: the 10 Commandments, love one another, that sort of thing. No fire and brimstone to scare young children. 

For two years starting in 1989, Mac was in Ottawa for a second time. The family began attending St. Helen’s Anglican Church in Orléans, where Mac was a Sunday school teacher. He also led the prayers of the people.

This was his first foray into layreading, which included a four-month course.

By 1991, Mac was a lieutenant colonel, and served as the base administrative officer at CFB Borden.

“I was a member of the protestant chapel and the choir, but I was not allowed to be part of the parish council,” he said.

He was too high up in the base command and his membership would have come with complications.

In 1994 it was back to London as commander home station of the Regiment. 

“I looked after the administration of a lot of battalions,” he said.

He attended St. Andrew’s Anglican Church, served as warden and sang in the choir. He was also a member of St. John Ambulance and was made a brother in the Order.

His excellent connections in the military helped him procure older out-of-service ambulances that were refurbished and sent internationally, which was an important project of St. John Ambulance.

In 1998, a completely new career position opened up — that of liaison officer between the Canadian and American governments at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. 

Part of that role included lecturing at Boise State University in Montana, on the topic of Canada-U.S. relations, which he enjoyed.

During his stint at Leavenworth, the Americans encouraged Mac to further his education, and while there, he earned a Masters of Arts degree in Human Resource Development and a Masters in Business Administration.

“I worked, did my studies and did chapel,” he said.

Before leaving Fort Leavenworth, he was awarded the U.S. Meritorious Service Medal, “for outstanding meritorious service as the Canadian Liaison officer to the United States Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, from Aug. 3, 1998 to July 31, 2002. Lt. Col. Campbell’s outstanding performance was characterized by exceptional leadership and unparalleled devotion to duty. [His] superior ability to facilitate information exchange reflects great credit upon him, the Combined Arms Center and the Canadian Army.”

In 2002 the family returned to Canada, and Mac was posted to Halifax for one purpose — to retire. He was 56 years old and had spent 36 years serving in the Canadian Armed Forces.

The couple lived in Tantallon and Mac served at St. Nicholas church with Father Nash. In his spare time, he earned graduate certificates in Adult Education from Dalhousie University, and in Negotiation, Mediation and Conflict Resolution from St. Mary’s University.

But retirement in Nova Scotia did not last long. Allison, a teacher-librarian, had left Canada for Australia in 1997, and she urged her parents to join her, her husband Todd, an engineer and group captain in the Royal Australian Air Force, and their three sons, Iain, Kyle and Riley.

“So we packed up and went to Australia in 2004,” he said. 

It was the beginning of his second career — that of a private citizen. 

It took Shirley two weeks to find work as a nurse. Her career had always been portable as they moved within Canada and Germany.  

Mac took a job as registrar in the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle in New South Wales. He was essentially the business co-ordinator for the diocese. He kept the job for two years and attended St. John’s in Raymond Terrace. 

His next job was as the general manager of a large construction company, with that MBA the Americans talked him into coming in rather handy. 

During his time there, from 2008 to 2017, the company built close to 3,000 high-end homes. He retired at the age of 70, and he and Shirley moved to Hervey Bay, Queensland, a retirement community.

For two years Mac directed the choir at St. John’s Anglican Church, but homesickness was starting to get to Shirley.

“Shirley had followed me all over the world, and she wanted to go back to New Brunswick,” said Mac.

So they put their plan to return to Canada in motion, much to the disappointment of Allison and her family.
Where in New Brunswick was the question, and at the height of the pandemic, real estate pickings were slim. 

In December 2021 they found a suitable home to purchase in Oromocto, precisely where he began his army life in 1967. 

“I had two requirements: an Anglican church, preferably using the Book of Common Prayer, and a Tim Horton’s,” said Mac of the decision to move to N.B. “I’m a firm believer in blooming where you are planted.”

He is blooming now at St. Peter’s in Fredericton.

“Mac is a member of the choir, serves on vestry and more recently has become St. Peter's lay reader,” said the Rev. Canon Elaine Hamilton, interim priest-in-charge. “Like several people at St. Peter's, he steps forward in an unassuming way to take on tasks that need doing.

“He reminds me of Michah 6:8 (Amplified version):  ‘And what does the Lord require of you except to be just, and to love (and to diligently practice) kindness (compassion), and to walk humbly with your God (setting aside any overblown sense of importance or self-righteousness.)’”

Recently he was at Christ Church (Parish) Church and saw an adult upgrading class in session. Wishing to upgrade his computer skills, he began asking questions. That chance meeting has resulted in him being appointed to the board of the Central Valley Adult Learning Association as its treasurer. The MBA continues to come in handy!

Allison and her family plan to visit Canada in the fall. 

Photo captions:
1.  The Black Watch on parade at CFB Gagetown in July, 1967. Mac Campbell is sixth from the left.
2.  Mac sorts through photos and documents from his life in the Canadian Army. McKnight photo
3.  Gov. Gen. Ray Hnatshyn awards Mac Campbell the Order of Military Merit in 1990.
4.  HRH Prince Philip's gift to Mac after he acted as the prince's equerry during a visit in 1983.
Submitted photos


Joseph Guy about 1 month ago

Excellent article, Very much appreciated.

Sharon Vickers about 1 month ago

What a wonderful and interesting story.

Soili Dymond about 1 month ago

I just realized when reading about Mac's life that we were posted in Germany at the same time. Also our daughters attended Sunday school in one of the schools. Mac certainly had very interesting life. He really should write a book.

Linda Dohetty about 1 month ago

Wow what an exciting and busy life. Amazing !!!

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