No. 867- Pte. STEWART,  James  Miller, 1st Machine Gun Battalion, was born in Auckland  New Zealand to Scottish parents in 1884, being one  of ten children. He left New Zealand in 1906 to seek adventure in Western Australia. He had settled down to his role as a Sleeper Hewer in Nannup WA, prior to the Great War breaking out on 4 August 1914.

James enlisted for War Service at Blackboy Hill Camp WA on 10 September 1914, being allotted to ” G ” Company of the 12th Battalion. He embarked from Fremantle WA on 2 November 1914 aboard the ” Medic “, bound for Alexandria, Suez Egypt. From late November 1914, James experienced difficult training in the shadows of the Pyramids, where the heat and persistent sand blasts were amplified by the scarcity of safe drinking water supplies.

James Stewart wrote a comprehensive War Diary, and some extracts follow :-

14 January 1915” Rumours of Turks marching on Canal “.

15 January 1915- ” Turks attacked canal. The boats are so numerous that they have to be tied up in threes and fours, no room to swing an anchor “.

21 April 1915- ” My Brigade has the honour of landing first on Gallipoli when the big day comes off “.

23 April 1915” Went aboard the Wiltshire with the 11th Battalion “.

24 April 1915” Had church parade and the padre blessed us all and said that in a few days time a lot of us would find ourselves in the next world. Our old OC said Boys you are expected to make a name for Australia, see that you do it. We must get the Turks off the ridge and hold it to the last man. That night we steamed out of the Bay and went a short way in the opposite direction to mislead any spies who might have been on the lookout “.

25 April 1915- ” We then got on a Destroyer and steamed slowly towards the Dardanelles. Stealing along in the shadows we came in sight of Gallipoli, and then without any smoke from the funnels, we swept towards the dark outlines of the ridge, towing with them small boats. We got to within a mile of the Coast before being seen and then the danger sign flashed twice and within two minutes the whole hillside seemed to burst into flames. One man dropped at my side, shot dead. We were then given the order to move the boats and pull ashore. As soon as we were all in, the Destroyers gave one sharp shot and cast our boats loose and our oarsmen pulled like  demons and within a short time the boat ground on the shore. I hopped out and went up to my neck in water, splashed ashore and ran across a short stretch of beach “.

James was wounded in action shortly after the dawn landing at Anzac Cove, spending 5-6 days under treatment before re-joining his Battalion mates at the front.  Trench life was extremely tough, with water being very scarce and of poor quality. Tinned food and biscuits were invariably eaten at night , to avoid swarming flies. Dysentry became a major issue amongst the men, and rats and lice infested the trenches.  Bodies of dead comrades remained in the trenches until retrieved by the Medical Corps. Daily life became dominated by falling bombs and persistent sniper fire.

19/06/1915- ” The dead are lying thick in front of our lines “

20/06/1915- ” I’ve been on patrol. Expecting further attacks from the Turks “.

22/06/1915” Turks asked for armistice to bury their dead, which was granted”.

21/07/1915- ” Had a narrow escape, a piece of shell knocked my dixie ( mug ) out of my hand while I was drinking tea, dixie unfit for further service as I would have been had it hit me “.

22/07/1915- ” Turks blew my observation post to pieces, I received a few splinters but not bad “.

23/07/1915 – 30/07/1915” Very bad from dysentry, went to beach today, and could hardly walk back up the hill again “

James was Wounded in Action on 7 August 1915, becoming shell-shocked by the constant close bombing. He was evacuated to Mudros by Hospital Ship , was delirious in Hospital for 6 days, underwent treatment and convalescence, before rejoining his Battalion at Gallipoli on 26 September 1915. The Gallipoli Campaign seemed to drag on without any gains until James was evacuated to Alexandria Egypt ,where he disembarked on 6 January 1916. During further training in Egypt, he was transferred to the 3rd Machine Gun Battalion at Serapeum.

In early April 1916, James disembarked in Marseilles France where he encountered some of the fiercest fighting of the War at Pozieres and on the Somme. On 25 July 1916, he received a severe gunshot wound to his left hand. He was quickly evacuated to England for treatment and convalescence. Recovery was very slow, and it would be more than 12 months before James could rejoin the Machine Gun Battalion at the front on 8 July 1917.

On 7 October 1917 he received a severe gunshot wound to his Right Arm which necessitated immediate evacuation to Eastbourne Military Hospital in England. During another lengthy rehabilitation process, James married English woman Gladys Weekes on 9 March 1918.He was subsequently posted to re-join the 1st Machine Gun Battalion in France on 20 April 1918.  In what was to be his final exposure to direct Military Action, James suffered a Shell wound to his left thigh on 11 August 1918, which led to a six week period of recovery. On 8 November 1918, he was granted leave to the United Kingdom.

On 26 March 1919, the Army approved a three month placement in Non-Miltary Employment for James in Nottingham with training in Steam Ploughs. After training was completed, he was transferred to the Command Depot at Sutton Veny until suitable transport could be procured for return to Australia with his wife and young child.

James was discharged from Army service on 19 November 1919, returned to a hard working life , which included struggling through the Depression to support his family and raise six children.  james Miller STEWART passed away on 2 November 1951 at the age of 65 years. He is interred in the Nannup Cemetery, Western Australia, with his headstone appropriately inscribed ” A Soldier at Rest “.


Service Medals Awarded

British War Medal – No. 377

Victory Medal – No. 376


Memorial Inscription

Nannup War Memorial, Western Australia.


{ Sincere thanks to Glenys Meads ( Nannup Post & Rail May 2002 )  for her feature ‘ The Story of a Veteran ” }.