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Arthur Oswald STEWART


Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Sgt 750 21y6m 9/2/1916 29/7/16 KA 5

Sergeant Arthur Oswald Stewart (1893 - 1916)

Stewart Brothers Booklet

The Stewart Family

The family of Thomas and Nellie Stewart - two boys and two girls, lived at Fairy-Knowe, Roslyn Street, East Brisbane.  Their two sons enlisted in 1915 for service in the Great War. One was killed in action; the other came back after spending a long time in German prisons.

Mr and Mrs Stewart were members of Wharf Street Congregational Church.  Mrs Stewart was President and her elder daughter Gwenda an active member of the Queensland Women’s Electoral League.  Their younger daughter Olwen married a Melbourne doctor in Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Brisbane in 1929.  The stories of Tom and Arthur Stewart, two young soldiers who served King and country on the battlefields of Gallipoli and France, illustrate once again the impact of war on their own lives and the lives of their loved ones at home.

Enlistment and service

The second son of Thomas and Nellie Stewart of Fairy Knowe, East Brisbane was Arthur Oswald Stewart who had joined the firm of S. Hoffnung & Co as a salesman before enlisting on 9 February 1915, aged 21 years 6 months. His friends presented him with a gold wristlet watch, a case of gold-mounted pipes and tobacco pouch and a fountain pen. The warehouse manager commented on his patriotic spirit and manly qualities.

Training at Enoggera Camp followed and Arthur embarked with the 25th Infantry Battalion from Brisbane on HMAT Aeneas on 29 June 1915.  His regimental number was 750.  He proceeded soon afterwards to Gallipoli where he was promoted to the rank of Corporal.  He was admitted to the Field Hospital in September with a back injury and discharged to duty on Gallipoli soon afterwards.

After appointment as Sergeant, he was wounded by a piece of stone and transferred by hospital ship to Alexandria, Egypt where he disembarked with jaundice in November. Arthur’s parents were notified of their son’s transfer to hospital.

In a letter dated 25 November 1915 to the Minister of Defence, the Honourable W Pearce, they wrote: 

“The parents of Sergeant A.O. Stewart, #750, C. Company, 25th Battalion, 7th Brigade, desire to thank you for the promptness of the dept. in notifying them of their son’s condition and his whereabouts. We feel confident that he will be well cared for in the 19th General Hospital Alexandria. Yours faithfully, Thos & N. Stewart.”

Arthur’s casualty form recorded several admissions, including one for a crushed abdomen, to auxiliary hospitals in Cairo before he was able to rejoin his unit at the beginning of February 1916.

With the 25th Battalion reinforcements, Sergeant Stewart embarked from Alexandria on SS Minneapolis for Marseilles, France on 18 March 1916. Charles Bean wrote of the eagerness of the troops to reach the Western Front: 

“Day after day as their transports arrived, they marched at intervals through Marseilles to the troop trains that would carry them to the British zone, 130 miles north of Paris.

“Their journey up the Rhone Valley – with the orchards in blossom, and, beyond, the winding blue river and the distant Alps – was like a plunge into fairyland. The halts were thronged by friendly, welcoming French people. From the moment the Australians set foot in France their confident approach and breezy friendliness evoked an outstanding response from the French. Long before they had given any evidence of their quality on the Western Front, the population had them marked as ‘des bons soldats’; that confidence was never lost and led to some astonishing scenes in the last stage of the war4.” 

The weather became wet and cold as the troops neared Paris which they bypassed on their way to Calais. There they headed inland towards detraining points at or near villages in French Flanders.

The Australians were adapting to the conditions of trench warfare in France during the following months but by May were experiencing heavy German shell fire, the pounding of trench mortar bombs and the mud.  

In June Sergeant Stewart was admitted to field ambulance stations twice.  He was treated for bronchitis and on another visit for pyrexia.  He returned to duty again on 8 July and participated in the battles around Pozières.  

Sergeant Stewart was reported missing on 29 July in The Brisbane Courier on 18 September 1916.  As late as 9 April 1917, his mother in East Brisbane hoped he was still alive somewhere. She wrote to Major J. M. Lean:

“I wish to thank you for sending me the information you received from the front regarding the fate of our dear boy Sgt A. O. Stewart 750 = 25th Battalion.  I feel that it still gives me a gleam of hope that he may yet be living and perhaps as prisoner and I also know how hard it must be to get news of them if they are prisoners but when the war is ended, surely, then we shall know.

Again thanking you,

I am, his anxious mother

N. Stewart.”

In fact a court of enquiry found he had been “killed in action” on 29 July.  Corporal Salter reported unofficially: 

“He was too game and used to go out on his own. He was killed in the second stunt at Pozières.”

Arthur’s wallet, writing wallet, letters, post cards, two note books, photo and photographic paper were sent to his mother at Fairy Knowe, East Brisbane.  The valued items presented to Arthur before he went away were not returned – the subject of further correspondence in the later months of 1917.

One detects Mrs Stewart’s pain and grief in the many letters she wrote to Major Lean.  In one of them she said:

“We claim no pension, although he was allowing me £1 per week, but we counted no cost, while the need of our country was so great so the sorrow is alone mine. He left Queensland on the 29th June on transport A60 so that he was away exactly 13 months to the day he was killed 29th July 1916 and we have heard since on the very best authority that he was buried with tem. (temporary) Sgt Price eight days later, but you will have all these facts yourself now. I may state in conclusion that Colonel Walker whose brigade my son was in at Gallipoli and in France spoke most highly of him when he paid us a visit on his visit to Brisbane…”

Arthur Stewart is remembered on honour boards at Saint Andrew’s Uniting Church and on the Hoffnung Memorial.  His sister Gwenda applied for a medallion badge for Gallipoli in 1967 when she said:

 “I treasure the memory of my brother and keep the words, ‘Let those who come after see to it that his name be not forgotten’.”


Select Bibliography
• Australian War Memorial records
• Commonwealth War Graves Commission
• National Archives of Australia, military records and letters
The Brisbane Courier, 18 Sep 1916, 12 Dec 1929
• Bean, C. E. W., Anzac to Amiens, Penguin Group Edition, 2014
• Saint Andrew’s Uniting Church Archives, Brisbane, Wharf Street Congregational Church Year Books 1909 – 1920
The Courier-Mail, 16 Nov 1938, 12 July 1939, 28 Nov 1941
• Queensland Register of Births, Deaths, Marriages
• State Library of Queensland
 

Compiled by Noel Adsett, Brisbane.  January 2015.

 

 

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