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.