Mayor of Orange, Alderman McNeilly extols the virtues of conscription, claiming that those who fail to enlist are “arrant cowards … shirking their honest duty“, while Ald Bouffler declares “It [is] better to die in the interests of freedom and the empire, than rust and die here in Australia of old age”. Conscription Meeting
Born in Orange in 1896, Charles Gordon Stewart was one of six children born to Malcolm John Stewart and his wife Mary (nee Beckenham). The family was particularly civic minded and displayed a keen interest in Orange and its townspeople; they were actively involved with St John’s Presbyterian Church.
“Gordon” – as he was known – was educated at Orange Public School and Orange High School, where he served in the Senior Cadets. In July 1912, aged 15, he commenced work as a junior messenger at Orange Post Office. Gordon remained at the Post Office for 42 years; the only exceptions being his war service and relief duties at Bathurst Post Office.
Following his older brother Malcolm’s example, Gordon enlisted for war service in July 1916. He proceeded to Cootamundra Training Camp, then, in August, to the Depot Signal Training Company in Kiama. He embarked for overseas duty in February 1917, a Sapper in the 1st Divisional Signal Company, Reinforcement 25. Sapper Stewart disembarked in Plymouth in April and was marched into Parkhouse Training Depot. On 29 June he proceeded to France and was taken on strength with the 1st Divisional Signal Company at Abbeville.
On 23 June 1918 Malcolm was awarded the Military Medal for keeping communication lines intact while under heavy enemy fire. The Commonwealth Gazette, No. 75, 17 June 1919 states:
Near Chuignolles on 23rd August, 1918, Sapper Stewart was linesman with a Brigade forward station and did valuable work repairing lines under exceptionally heavy shellfire. It was owing to his personal courage and devotion to duty that communication to the Battalion was maintained throughout the day.
Sapper Stewart remained abroad on duty after the signing of the Armistice on 11 November 1918. On 12 January 1919 he was appointed Lance Corporal; he returned to Australia on 24 October 1919, and to Orange three days later.
Gordon returned to work at the Orange Post Office and was promoted through the ranks to Senior Postal Assistant. Known for his smiling, good natured countenance and attention to duty, Gordon was popular and well respected among co-workers and members of the public alike. In 1923 he married Thelma Jane Payne in Orange. The couple had two sons, Dick and Doug.
Charles Gordon Stewart died at Orange Base Hospital on 19 January 1954, aged 57. The Central Western Daily of 21 January 1954 reported:
The exceptionally large attendance at the church, and the beautiful array of floral tributes, and the lengthy funeral cortege presented a striking tribute to the high esteem in which the late townsman was held.
Gordon Stewart is commemorated on the Orange High School Roll of Honour and St John’s Presbyterian Church Orange Honour Roll.
Gordon’s brother, Malcolm Herbert Stewart, also served in WWI; he was invalided home from the war in September 1916.
Convinced that the Americans and Germans are working together against the British, Minister for War, David Lloyd George, gives an interview to Roy Howard, President of the United Press of America. He addresses President Woodrow Wilson all but by name, demanding that he butt out, declaring that “there can be no outside interference at this stage … The fight must be to a finish – to a knockout.” The Times publishes the interview on 29 September.
British troops storm Stuff Redoubt and advance north of Flers to the east of Eaucourt l’Abbaye on the Somme
The Romanian Army continues to advance through Transylvania; Romania now occupies one-third of the region
The Leader advertises the upcoming display of war photographs at the Oddfellows’ Hall
The Battle of Thiepval Ridge begins on the Western Front. The three-day battle is part of the final stages of the Battle of the Somme. British troops finally capture Mouquet Farm; they storm Gueudecourt as the cavalry pursues the retreating Germans.
British intelligence intercepts the telegram to Washington from the American ambassador in Berlin. The information is forwarded to the British Minister for War, David Lloyd George.
Greek ships join the Allied fleet under Admiral Louis Dartige Du Fournet, the French Commander-in-Chief
British troops under the command of Brigadier-General Sir Charles Preston Crewe capture Igalulu, east of Tabora in German East Africa.
The Mayor of Orange, Ald ET McNeilly receives a telegram from Prime Minister Hughes requesting that a National Referendum Committee be formed in Orange. Conscription Meeting
The Leader reports that a portion of land in Molong has been allocated for a returned soldier. Land For Soldiers
The Battle of Morval begins on the Western Front. The four-day battle is part of the final stages of the Battle of the Somme. British troops capture Lesboeufs and Morval and surround the village of Combles.
The American ambassador in Berlin dispatches a telegram to Washington with a message from the German Government. Germany is “anxious to make peace”, and urges President Woodrow Wilson to make an “offer of mediation” to end the war.
Six German airships, including super-zeppelins L-30 and L-31 conduct raids over Britain. 43 people are killed and 31 injured.
Wreckage of Zeppelin L-33 shot down over England 23 September 1916. Image courtesy Great War Primary Document Archive Inc (GWPDA).
The Australian Parliament passes Prime Minister Hughes’ Military Service Referendum Bill. The Bill,first proposed on 13 September, is passed on its third reading after a session lasting 26½ hours. The Bill is agreed to by 17 votes to 9.
British troops continue their advance to the east of Courcelette on the Western Front
Former draftsman with the Orange Lands Office, Herbert Henry Percy, sends word from the front. He describes the new Lewis automatic machine gun and claims that in a years’ time “we will just about have the Germans on the run”. Soldiers Letters