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A tribute to...

Thomas John Stevenson

Published: Tue 9th Nov 2021

"Thomas Stevenson, although 39 and the father of five children, saw it his duty to join the Australian Imperial Force.

- by Barry Stevenson, Member Penshurst RSL Sub Branch

Thomas John Stevenson born Portadown, Northern Ireland in 1873.

After serving as an apprentice tailor at age 20, Thomas joined the British Army's Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

Serving in the Sudan War as an infantry man with General Kitchener's Army of the Nile, he fought in the battles of The Atbara and Omdurman to recapture Khartoum.

He was awarded the Queens Medal and the Khedive's Medal with clasps Atbara and Khartoum. After that war he remained with the "Warwicks" and served in Egypt, the U.K., Malta and India, rising to the rank of Sergeant. This rank is considered 'the backbone of any Army.'

On the North West Frontier in India, Thomas served with the Warwickshire Mounted Infantry.  In 1908, whilst still in India, he applied for discharge to migrate to Australia.  Thomas's wife Susan and children Lily and William, left for Australia from Colombo on RMS Orpheus.  They settled in Longreach, Western Queensland where Thomas's brother Robert Stevenson was living.

In 1914, England had become embroiled in another war and Thomas, although now 39 and the father of five children, saw it his duty to join the Australian Imperial Force. He enlisted in May 1915 as a Private at Enoggera Camp in Brisbane where he was given the Regimental Number 87 and became an original member of 'A' Company, 26th Battalion, 7th Brigade, 2nd Division AIF. He then sailed for Egypt on HMAT Ascanius on May 24th 1915.

In September, his Battalion landed at Gallipoli as part of the 2nd Division AIF.  Thomas saw action against the Turks at Courtney's Post, Steele's Post and Russell Top.  Thomas served there until the evacuation of the Gallipoli Peninsula in December 1915. Thomas was now an ANZAC and entitled to wear with pride, a brass 'A' on his uniform's colour patch.

Whilst in Egypt he spent time in the 3rd Auxiliary Hospital in Heliopolis for an ankle wound sustained at Gallipoli.

The 2nd Division AIF sailed for France in March 1916 then travelled by train from Marseilles to Armentieres on the Western Front.  With the big battle of the Somme raging, the 2nd Division moved into position to further the gains made by the Australian 1st Division which had sustained heavy casualties on Pozieres Ridge.

Private Thomas John Stevenson was killed in action on the night of 29th July 1916 by German artillery fire.  His 7th Brigade became caught by enemy machine-guns and heavy shelling when they were held up by uncut barbed wire entanglements as they attacked the German trenches on Pozieres Ridge.

On a poignant note a letter he penned to his daughter Lily, then 11 years old, dated June 23rd 1916 was received in Longreach about the time of his death.

My dear little Lily,

I received your very nice little letter safely some time ago and was pleased to get such a nice letter from you and to see you are alright. I was sorry to hear you had been sick but hope you are right again by this time. I was glad to hear Joe was so fat. I suppose he has a big lot of teeth now. Look out and don't let him bite you. I am out of the hospital a long time now and have left Egypt. We have been in France a good while now and have to fight the Germans now instead of the Turks. I hope we soon have them all finished so I can get back to see you all again. I was pleased to see you had such a nice lot of rain over there. We get a bit too much of it over here. I did not get the parcel yet but I hope it comes along very soon now. Now dear Lily I will have to knock off. Don't forget to kiss Joe and all the rest of the boys for me when you get this. Now with best love I remain,

Your Loving Father

T J Stevenson

xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Thomas's legacy lives on through a growing line of descendants: 10 grandchildren, 16 great grandchildren, 22 great great grandchildren, 6 great great great grandchildren.

I visited Gallipoli for the Centenary of ANZAC with my eldest son Bryan in 2015 then journeyed to France to pay our respects at my Grandfather's grave.  Six other Stevenson Family members have travelled to France from Australia since 2015 to also pay their respects at Thomas Stevenson's grave.

This Remembrance Day, show your support to RSL Australia by purchasing a poppy or donate today at Poppy Appeal.

Lest We Forget


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