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Older Soldiers

By Marg Powell, Specialist Library Technician, Metadata Services | 6 May 2016

Diary of Private Edmund Douglas Stewart, 26th Infantry Battalion, 1916-1917

Edmund Stewart was one month short of 44 years when he enlisted in June 1916, although he had attested to being 42 and 11 months.

Until June 1915 the age requirements had been 19-38, however this was expanded to include men between 18-45 of age, which meant that those previously ineligible were now able to enlist.

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Ipswich City tennis club, 1920

Ipswich City tennis club, 1920

Private Stewart kept a brief diary of his voyage starting from Fremantle, Western Australia until he was encamped at Rolleston, Salisbury Plains, England.

Stewart had resigned his position as manager of the Australian Bank of Commerce in Ipswich, to do “his duty” and join the forces of the AIF.  He had been a keen cricketer, as had his father Charles Lennox Stewart, as well as a fine horse rider and hurdler.

Stewart now found himself in the company of all manner of men, suffering the indignity of having his kit stolen several times, but he took delight in finding acquaintances from Warwick and Killarney.

Whilst anchored off Freetown, Sierra Leone, some of the company went ashore, bringing back with them an assortment of wildlife including a python and two monkeys. Stewart along with several other men were bitten and the offending creature was deemed too dangerous to keep onboard.

HMAT Boonah A36, departing Brisbane 1916

HMAT Boonah A36, departing Brisbane 1916

Later that year the 26th battalion fought in the Battle of Menin Road, Belgium and on 20 September, Stewart was severely wounded by a gun shot to his left arm, shattering the bone.

AWM E00711 Battle of Menin Road - wounded at side of the road, Belgium September 1917

Fortunately Edmund Stewart was able to return to his career with the Australian Bank of Commerce in Ipswich, where he remained until he retired two years before his death in 1934.

He left behind his three children - Valmai, Ronald and John and his second wife Frances.

Edmund Stewart's diary has recently been digitised and transcribed by the State Library of Queensland.

Further reading:

Marg Powell


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