• Ernest Charles Leslie Stewart

Army / Flying Corps
  • Australian Engineers
  • 10th Field Company
  • Private

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  • 1914–1915 Star
  • British War Medal
  • Birth

    Cooma, New South Wales, Australia

  • Enlistment - WW1

    Rockhampton, QLD, Australia

Stories and comments
    • a Drover's Journey to the Somme
    • Posted by annstewie, Saturday, 10 January 2015

    Pte Ernest Charles Leslie Stewart Service No 18535 10th Field Engineers 3rd Division Ernie Stewart was born at Boggy Plains, Countegany, near Cooma, NSW. He was the second youngest of the 12 surviving children of Sam Stewart and his wife, Alice Owers. Sam's parents were William Stewart and Esther Hannah, migrants from Northern Ireland, who arrived in 1842. After a time at Gundaroo, William took work as a stockman at "Boboyan" in the Naas Creek Valley (now ACT), where Sam and his twin, Esther, were born. A few years later, the family had their own selection at Cooma Creek. At the age of six, Sam saw his mother struck by lightning and when he was 15, his father died and he probably needed to find work. This he did - as a stockman at "Myalla" station, one of the 20 well run properties owned by William Bradley. Here Sam met and married Alice Owers, daughter of Abraham Owers, an ex-convict carpenter/chimney builder and his wife, Alice Mayo, a young English immigrant. Their daughter, Alice, had been born at Ballalaba near Braidwood, and were neighbours of the Clarke brothers, who later took up a bushranging career! Sam and Alice bought a property at Boggy Plains, in 1886. As well as running cattle, Sam introduced trout into the Badja River, which his homestead overlooked and he then established a fishing lodge. Guests were picked up from the train station at Cooma and brought out to the lodge. There was a school and post office on the property as well. Ernie grew up with his many brothers and sisters and remembered a happy childhood, except for the death of two older brothers from illness, in their 20's. Gathered around the fire at night with guests, tall tales would be told of Sam's adventures at the Kiandra Goldrush with his father, how Alice's brother-in-law, Trooper William Wash took part in the capture of the Clarke Gang and of Sam shooting through the roof of an Inn at Bunyan, when the landlord refused to open the door to them late one night. In 1913, Ernie joined the police force, but when he enlisted, he had followed his brother, Jim, to Queensland and was droving. He asked permission to travel to the Dawson River, to arrange for the care of his cattle and horses. He also must have paid a farewell visit to his parents, as the people of nearby Numeralla village presented him with a gold badge. Because of his experience with horses, Ernie was assigned to the 10th Field Engineers. He left Sydney, in August 1917 and by March 1918, the 3rd Division was sent to the Somme Valley. Later they took part in the Battles of Hammel, Amiens, St. Quentin Canal and the Hindenburg Line. Ernie said he was both wounded and gassed during this time. In November, he was hospitalized with influenza and went on leave. After rejoining his unit, he badly sprained his foot and was evacuated to England and then went on leave, in February 1919. It may have been during this leave, that he visited cousins in Belfast. The families must have kept up a correspondence, since his grandparents had emigrated, more than 70 years before. The Irish cousins must have been impressed with the young Australian, as they named their new baby after him. His seems to have travelled extensively, as his family remember an address book, listing the names of many young ladies from all over the UK. None won his heart, however. He returned to Queensland later that year, went back to droving and married Mary Beaumont, in 1920. He then tried growing cotton on a soldier's block, before turning to carpentry - building houses and later freight wagons for the railway. The couple raised two children, in Rockhampton and the family remembers wonderful holidays spent back at Boggy Plains, in the ensuing years. Ernie died in 1962 and Mary three years later. REFERENCES; "From Kilkeel to Cooma", Stewart Family History Group, Cooma NAA Army Service Record Series B2455 Digger History "3rd Division AIF: 10th Field Engineers" , diggerhistory.info/pages_conflicts_periods_ww1/1aif/3div/3rd division.html (Accessed 30/12/2014)