STEVENSON, Edgar Richmond

NAME:  Edgar Richmond STEVENSON                                                                                     098         

SERVICE NO:  2155

YEAR OF BIRTH: 1895

PLACE OF BIRTH:  Hamilton

DATE OF ENLISTMENT: 29 May 1916

PLACE OF ENLISTMENT:  Hamilton

AGE AT ENLISTMENT:  21

UNIT: 39th Battalion

EMBARKED:  25 September 1916

TROOP SHIP:  HMAT A9 Shropshire

FATE:  Killed in Action – 4 October 1917  – Ypres, Belgium

Edgar Stevenson was born in Hamilton in 1895, a son of William Tyson Stevenson and Euphemia Evangeline Heazlewood.  Euphemia was a daughter of William Grange Heazlewood, said to be the first European child born at Hamilton, then The Grange, in 1844.  Edgar’s parents were from Portland and married in 1888.  At that time, William Stevenson was operating a bakery in Portland.

Soon after their marriage, William and Euphemia moved to Hamilton where their children were born.  They had five boys and three girls, and Edgar was fourth born.  The children attended Hamilton State School and William operated the Glencoe Bakery on Coleraine Road.  After finishing school, Edgar went into the family business, working as a baker.  He was a member of the Independent Order of Rechabites, the North Hamilton Minstrel Company and spent two years with the 20th (Corangamite) Australian Light Horse.

On 30 May 1916, Edgar joined the muster with other local 39th Battalion recruits at the Hamilton Town Hall to march to the train station. They were bound for camp at the Ballarat Showgrounds for training.  Just two days before, his brother Alexander John Stevenson had sailed with the 39th Battalion, 1st Reinforcement.  Lex, as he was commonly known, had enlisted ten days before Edgar and left with the second embarkation of the 39th Battalion. Edgar had to wait a further four months before he too sailed for England, on 25 September 1916.

Edgar arrived in England on 11 November 1916 and marched to Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire for training.  Lex was already there and the brothers were reunited.  Edgar and Lex were the closest in age of the Stevenson brothers, the third and fourth born of Euphemia and William.  They farewelled each other again when Lex left for France in November.  Edgar was a month behind him arriving in France on 21 December 1916, in the midst of a very cold winter.

On 6 August 1917, the Hamilton Spectator published part of letter Edgar wrote home to his mother from Belgium in May.  It was spring, and his mood seemed bouyant as his wrote of  wildflowers and the new foliage of  trees, a welcome sight after enduring winter in the trenches.  He was writing from a wood that he said had been the King of Belgium’s hunting ground during peacetime.  He included a poem for his mother:

stevo

“”The joys of a Letter from Home.”.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1873; 1914 – 1918) 6 Aug 1917: <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119854777&gt;.

It was June 1917 before the 39th Battalion faced their first major battle, the Battle of Messines from 7-9 June.  Edgar, known as “Steve” was a Lewis gunner and his training was being put to use. The 39th’s next major battle was the Battle of Broodseinde on 4 October 1917.  The 39th, camped at Vlamertinge, left at 4:30pm to march to the east of Ypres. After a break of four hours, they set out again, reaching their destination around 2:00am.  At 6:00am they started a barrage of fire and after fifty minutes began advancing. The Lewis gunners were at the forefront.  It was minutes after, around 7:00am, that Edgar was hit with shrapnel from a shell and killed.  By his side was William Leslie Smith of Dunkeld, who was also killed.  The two Western District lads were buried together with Edgar’s brother Lex assisting.  Witnesses said Lex placed a cross on the grave of his brother.  The 39th Battalion lost over 200 men and the scene at Broodseinde Ridge on that day was bleak (below).  An extended account of the 39th Battalion’s involvement on 4 October is included in the Battalion’s unit diary for October 1917.

brood

BROODSEINDE RIDGE, 4 OCTOBER 1917. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria. https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/E00961/

Around 25 October, William and Euphemia heard the news Edgar was dead.  A notice was published in the Hamilton Spectator on 27 October 1917.

“Family Notices.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1873; 1914 – 1918) 27 Oct 1917: 4. <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119858833&gt;.

Little did they know that “Lex (on active service)” was also dead, dying from gunshot wounds wounds on 12 October. On 2 November, the grieving family’s duel death notice was in The Age.

“Family Notices.” The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954) 2 Nov 1917: <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article155173795&gt;.

William continued on at the bakery and died in 1928. Euphemia died at Hamilton in 1938.

Edgar is remembered on the Hamilton War Memorial and with a memorial stained glass window at the former Hamilton Baptist Church.  A tree was planted for him along Anzac Avenue in 1918.

ONLINE RESOURCES

Australian War Memorial – 39th Australian Infantry Battalion

Australian War Memorial – 39th Ausgralian Infantry Battlaion unit diary – October 1917

Australian War Memorial – Battle of Broodseinde Ridge

Australian War Memorial – Red Cross Missing and Wounded Files – Edgar Richmond Stevenson

Australian War Memorial – Roll of Honour – Edgar Richmond Stevenson

Australian War Memorial- WW1 Embarkation Roll – Edgar Richmond Stevenson

Commonwealth War Graves Commission – Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial Edgar Richmond Stevenson

Discovering Anzacs – WW1 Service Record – Edgar Richmond Stevenson

Newspaper Articles from Trove – Edgar Richmond Stevenson

The 39th Battalion AIF – The Battalion – Flanders

The 39th Battalion AIF – Two Men Forth… – Alex and Edgar Stevenson, Bakers, of Hamilton

The AIF Project – Edgar Richmond Stevenson

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s