19th Australian Infantry, 18th November 1916
Synopsis of Life and Military Service
Robert George Stuart was born about 1898 at Inveravon, Banffshire and was the son of James and Elspet Stuart, who were farm workers.
He was the youngest of seven children of James Stuart and Elspet Geddes or Stuart although in all the Census up to his birth there is no mention of James in any of them. He was to attend the nearby Roman Catholic School at Chapeltown, Braes of Glenlivet, Banffshire. When he was around 17 years old, Robert left to emigrate to Australia. It is not known who he went to reside with but he seems to have stayed in the small village of Oakwood, Inverell, New South Wales.
When war broke out, Robert enlisted on 15th May 1915 at Liverpool, New South Wales, Australia. His records describe him as follows:
- Height – 5’ 8 ½ “
- Weight – 166lbs
- Chest – when extended: 33-36”
- Complexion – Dark
- Eyes – Blue
- Hair – Dark Brown
- Religion – Roman Catholic
- Occupation – Farm Labourer
He was initially allocated to the 7th Reinforcements, 13th Battalion, Australian Infantry where he completed his training until 20 June 1915, when Robert was transferred to ‘A’ Company, 19th Battalion Australian Infantry of the Australian Imperial Force. Robert left Australia from Sydney on 25th June 1915 onboard the H.M.A.T. ‘Ceramic’ A40, bound for Egypt where they completed some further training from late July until mid-August, and on 19 August 1915 landed at ANZAC Cove as part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force.
They were involved in the Attack on Hill 60 on the 21st August 1915, the last action of the August Offensive, before settling into defensive routine in the trenches. From mid-September the 19th Battalion was responsible for the defence of Pope’s Hill and on 11 October 1915, Robert appears to have received a minor (unspecified) wound as he returned to duty two days later. The 19th Battalion withdrew from the peninsula on the night of 19 December 1915 and moved to the Allied base at Mudros (Moudros), Lemnos, Greece.
On 7 January 1916, Robert Stuart disembarked from Mudros with his Battalion for Alexandria, Egypt where they conducted further training.
He left Alexandria on 18 March 1916 arriving in Marseilles, France on 25 March 1916 to join the British Expeditionary Force.
The Battalion took part in its first major offensive around Pozieres between late July and the end of August 1916 which was notable for the fact that the German shelling was the most intense ever experienced by the AIF during the war and was accompanied by nearly continuous German counter attacks to recover their vital ground. After a spell in a quieter sector of the front in Belgium, the 2nd Division, which included the 5th Brigade, came south again in October. The 19th Battalion attacked near Flers between 14 and 16 November, in conditions that have been described as the worst ever encountered by The Australian Imperial Force. The 19th had captured the notorious ‘Maze’ defence system at Flers on the 14th November, however the failure of the flanking battalions to reach their objectives left the 19th Battalion out on its own holding a salient deep within German lines.
For two days and nights the battalion held their position against counter attacks and intense shelling, the battalion using German weapons and ammunition in order that their own ammunition could be used for their Lewis guns. Of the 451 all ranks who went into the attack, 381 became casualties. Robert received a Gun Shot Wound in the lungs and left thigh on the 14th November 1916 so it is probable that his injuries occurred in this battalion attack.
Robert died 4 days later from wounds received in action at No.36 Casualty Clearing Station, which was based at Heilly, Somme, France. He was aged 19 years and 6 months. His Personal Effects included:- Letter, Photo, Wallet, Religious Medallion, Testament, Razor, Scapula, Keys, Wrist Watch, Ring, Souvenir, Badges and Notebook.
His Final Will & Testament leaving all his belongings to his mother ‘Elsie’ Stuart, Easter Scalan, Glenlivet or in the event of her death to his sister ‘Bessie’, Chapel House, Woodcliffe, Stirling.
He is buried at Heilly Station Cemetery, Mericourt-L’Abbe, Somme, France.
The following family information has been ascertained :-
- Father: James Stuart
- Mother: Elspeth Geddes or Stuart, born 29 September 1857 at Grange, Banffshire.
- Sister: Elizabeth, born c.1878 at Inveravon, Banffshire.
- Brother: James, born c.1881 at Inveravon, Banffshire.
- Brother: Charles, born c.1883 at Inveravon, Banffshire.
- Brother: John, born 1886 at Inveravon, Banffshire.
- Brother: Alexander Stopani, born c.1889 at Inveravon, Banffshire.
- Brother: William, born c.1892 at Inveravon, Banffshire.
- Sister: Annabella, born c.1903 at Inveravon, Banffshire.
In the 1881, 1891 and 1901 Census, Isabella Turner is shown as residing with the family as the mother-in-law of Elspet. Isabella is shown throughout as being a pauper. In all the aforementioned census, James Stuart is not mentioned.
Records show that William lived at the following addresses :-
- 1901 – Nether Clashnoir, Glenlivet, Banffshire.
- 1916 – Easter Scalan, Glenlivet, Banffshire.
Robert George Stuart is honoured and remembered on the following Memorials:
- Chapeltown of Glenlivet War Memorial, Our Lady of Perpetual Succour Church, Glenlivet.
- Australian War Memorial, Canberra, Australia.
Links to Additional Information
- Lives of the First World War – Robert George Stuart.
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission – Robert George Stuart.
- A Street Near You – Robert George Stuart.
- Find A Grave – Robert George Stuart.
- IWM Memorials – Chapeltown of Glenlivet.
- 1881 England, Wales & Scotland Census.
- 1891 England, Wales & Scotland Census.
- 1901 England, Wales & Scotland Census.
- Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
- Australian Service Records
- Vincent Stuart