Chaplains Also Died….


web Duneed-stewartAt the outbreak of WW1, George Alan STEWART was the minister of the Presbyterian Church at Boort, Victoria. He was the third son, and fifth child, of John and Mary (WEBB) STEWART of Mount Duneed, near Geelong, where they were farmers. George was born at Mount Duneed, where he attended the Mount Duneed State School, later completing training at Theological Hall, Ormond College, Melbourne.

Whilst at Ormond College he shared a Study with John FLYNN, who at that time was contemplating a vision which later led to the establishment of the Australian Inland Mission.  An offshoot of this was, of course, the Flying Doctor Service and the development of the pedal wireless.  Some of Flynn’s plans were developed on visits to the Stewarts at Mt Duneed, where he toured the district lecturing and showing slides to raise money for the pedal wireless.

In 1914 George volunteered for Army service as a Chaplain.  However, as there was apparently  no vacancy for that service, he resigned his Charge at Boort and enlisted instead as a Private.  It is believed that he first joined a Unit of the Light Horse, but that this Unit was later disbanded and he transferred to the Infantry.  His  “Statement of Service” has him serving as a Private at “Depot”, from 8/1/15 to 19/5/15; then as Acting Corporal, 14th Battalion, 6th Reinforcement.

On his Attestation Paper of Enlistment for Service Abroad, George nominated his mother, Mary, as his next of kin. Furthermore, he agreed to allot “not less than three fifths” of his pay for the support of his mother. This seems to have had the unfortunate consequence of the Army assuming that his father was dead, which was not the case.  In perhaps typical Army sexism, Mary received a letter which stated:

“It is noted that you are registered on the records…as next of kin, but, in order that our file may be brought up to date, it is desired to learn whether the above-named soldier had any nearer blood relatives than yourself, for instance, is his father still alive….”

The 14th Battalion, 6th Reinforcement, embarked from Melbourne on board HMAT A62 Wandilla on 17 June 1915, landing at Anzac Cove in early August. George is believed to have participated in the night march of 4th Brigade to Suvla Bay and took part in the first attack on Hill 971.  Following this “Lone Pine” fight he was reported missing on August 8 but must have rejoined his unit, in view of subsequent reports.

At the request of the Battalion commander, George acted as Chaplain after the death of (Chaplain) Captain Andrew GILLISON, who died of wounds on 22 Aug 1915 at the age of 47, and whom George buried.

George was wounded in the attack on Hill 60 on 26th August, receiving shrapnel wounds to his back, arm and foot (one report states he was wounded in the right shoulder).  He was placed in the hospital ship Formosa and transferred to No. 15 General Hospital, Alexandria.  Here, he died of his wounds on 5 September and was buried in the Chatby Military Cemetery, Alexandria.

At some time George was responsible for the rescue of three soldiers.  Some years after the war, one of these was a lecturer at the Working Men’s College (later the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology).  One of his students was George Neil STEWART (known as Neil), a nephew of George Allen STEWART.

Contributed by John Stewart (great nephew)

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