The four long years Private Stewart Franklin had served his King and Country were marked by the gift of a gold watch, “suitably inscribed”, at a surprise party to celebrate his return.
Stewart and his younger brother, Glen Franklin, sons of Edwin and Ann Franklin (nee Curtis), whose families were pioneers of the Tamborine and Canungra district, were welcomed home as heroes in 1919, according to reports published in the Beaudesert Times.
An item headed Welcome home, printed on August 1, 1919, told of the brothers’ arrival at the Wonglepong railway station, which was “very tastefully decorated with flags and pot plants” and how they received “three ringing cheers given by the Canungra contingent”.
The Beaudesert Times also reported the surprise party at Sarahvale, the home of the young men’s parents, where “a most enjoyable evening was spent with songs, music and games”.
Around midnight, as the guests enjoyed cake and tea, Mr AG Campbell presented the engraved gold watch to Stewart Franklin, on behalf of all his friends.
“While expressing regret that their friend, Stewart Franklin, had been allowed to leave home without any recognition, it was now their wish to present him with some token to commemorate his safe return after the long and weary years of warfare, and would ask him to accept from his friends a gold watch, suitably inscribed,” read the account.
“The returned hero, on rising to respond, was greeted with applause. He said he was very pleased he had got away without any demonstration or fuss of any kind as he had but gone to the call of duty.”
Stewart Franklin was almost 23 years old when he enlisted on September 11, 1915.
A machinist, he was allotted to the 10th reinforcements of the 25th Battalion, and, in his own words, had left without “fuss of any kind”, embarking on the HMAT Commonwealth in Brisbane on March 28, 1916.
After some six weeks’ training in Egypt, Stewart left for France and the Western Front, boarding the Tunisian at Alexandria on May 30, and arriving in Marseilles a week later.
Stewart had been with his battalion in the field for only a week before being wounded in action, suffering a gunshot to the right thigh on August 5, during the Battle of Pozieres.
He was transferred to England, where he was treated at the Beaufort Hospital, Bristol, and by the end of the month was classed as ‘A’. Returning to France on the SS Victoria from Folkestone, Steward did not rejoin his battalion until January 8, 1917.
Although the 25th Battalion had a supporting role at the Battle of Bullecourt, from early April to mid-May, 1917, its next major offensive action of the war was at the Battle of Menin Road in Belgium on September 20.
Victory there was followed by the capture of Broodseinde Ridge on October 4, where Stewart was wounded in action for the second time, suffering a gunshot wound to the cheek.
He was treated in hospital in France and rejoined his battalion on October 29.
Stewart enjoyed a brief break from the war, going on leave to England from January 29 to February 14, 1918, before the battalion began a long, hard year of fighting.
The 25th helped to turn back the German Spring Offensive, launched in March, and then fought at Morlancourt from March to June.
However, by May 5, Stewart was sick in hospital with trench fever, rejoining his battalion on June 15.
A fatigue party from the Australian 7th Brigade (Australian 2nd Division) pass the former German bunker known as “Gibraltar” at the western end of Pozières, 28 August 1916. The infantry are laden with empty sandbags, heading towards the fighting around Mouquet Farm, north of Pozières.
Although the 25th’s actions at Hamel in July, Amiens in August and then through the Somme Valley had helped to push the Germans towards defeat, they had also taken a heavy toll on troop numbers.
Casualties and a lack of reinforcements from Australia brought an order for the 25th and several other battalions to disband so their men could be used to reinforce others.
A ‘mutiny’ by the men won a temporary reprieve for the 25th and it went into action for the last time on October 3, breaking through the German defences around Beaurevoir.
Nine days later, when the battalion was disbanded, Stewart was among its men transferred to the 26th Battalion.
Like the 25th, the 26th Battalion had fought last action of the war at Beaurevoir, with the Armistice declared on November 11.
It was more than four months before Stewart returned to England, arriving at Weymouth on March 26, 1919, ahead of his journey home to Australia.
He left England on May 15 on the HT Ypiranga, one of the German ships ceded to Britain as part of its war reparations, and arrived in Brisbane on July 5. Almost four years after enlisting, Stewart was discharged from the Army on August 8.
Franklin Street, Canungra, is a lasting legacy of the part played by Stewart’s pioneering forebears in driving the development of the district from the 1870s onward.
The Ypiranga, on which Stewart travelled home to Australia, was a German vessel ceded to Britain. The ship had been among those that responded to the ‘CQD’ distress call from the Titanic in April, 1912. It was later the first ship to enter Sydney Harbour flying the flag of the League of Nations.