52 Weeks to Better Genealogy – Week 19 – military records

I don’t have any military ancestors, unless you include Fijians from the time before Christianity ended tribal warfare. So when the National Archives of Australia put digitised World War I Service records online a couple of years ago I went looking for the siblings of my direct ancestors who were born in the years that would have made them eligible for military service.

I found four, three of whom didn’t return from France.

Ernest Harold Goode (1885-1917), of Millthorpe, NSW, second son of William Goode and Elizabeth Grace Pascoe. Killed in action in France 25th February 1917.

George Harold Goode (1887-1918), of Millthorpe, NSW, third son third of William Goode and Elizabeth Grace Pascoe. Killed in action in France 2nd June 1918.

Douglas James Stewart (1899-1918), of Holbrook, NSW, eldest son of James Simpson Stewart and Annie Lawson. Killed in action in France, 10th August, 1918.

Eric Eason (1894-1976), of Blayney, NSW, eldest son of John Eason and Lily Adelaide Grace Goode. Discharged 4th September 1919 on disembarkation in Sydney. Hid mother Lily Eason, nee Goode, was the eldest sister of Ernest and George Goode.

I have started to examine one of these files in more detail. Douglas James Stewart was my grandmother’s first cousin. He was born and raised in Holbrook, which is near Albury in southern New South Wales. He was just barely 18 when he joined the Australian Expeditionary Force in Sydney on Sunday, 18th February, 1918. My mother says she was told that he looked older than he was, and the women of the town used to give him white feathers, calling him a coward. He joined up as soon as he could:

NAA: Base Records Office Australian Imperial Force; B2455, First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers. 1914-1920; 3013311, Stewart Douglas James : SERN 3718

Both parents had to sign the form as he was under 21 years.

The whole file is 61 pages, and although some pages are certified copies of other pages, most are original records. There is the correspondence the AIF Office received from his father James Simpson Stewart requesting further details about his son’s death, requesting a photograph of the grave, and enquiring about medals. Copies of replies from the Office are there, as is an inventory of the personal effects sent to the next of kin.

It’s very sad. I never knew Douglas James Stewart, nor did my mother, and I’ve never even seen a photograph of him. It’s sad that he has been reduced to pieces of paper in an old file, but it’s brilliant that he can be remembered now that the pieces of paper are available for me to view at home on my computer.

Lest we forget.

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