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:
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.
Around 25 October, William and Euphemia heard the news Edgar was dead. A notice was published in the Hamilton Spectator on 27 October 1917.
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.
William continued on at the bakery and died in 1928. Euphemia died at Hamilton in 1938.