No.5350 – Private Bevil Bernard James Edwards – 28th Battalion AIF
Bevil Bernard James Edwards was born in Cottesloe in 1897 to Horace and Rose Edwards. He was educated at Fremantle Boys School and after leaving school took up work on the Fremantle wharf as a Stevedore. During this time he also served in the 87A Citizens Militia in Cottesloe. His father Horace was the Governor of Fremantle Gaol. On the 1st March 1916 aged just 18 Bevil went to the Fremantle Drill Hall to enlist in the AIF. With the signed permission from his parents Bevil was given a fitness test and was accepted for service. (Interestingly, Bevil’s cousin, John Albert Woods, had already been to war and been killed in action by this time).
The medical examiner found Bevil to be 5 feet 6 inches tall; weight of 112 lbs; chest measurement of 30-33 inches; fresh complexion; blue eyes and brown hair. His religious denomination was Presbyterian.
Bevil was initially allotted to No.50 Depot and then was transferred to No.55 Depot. On the 27th March 1916 he was assigned to the 14th Reinforcements to the 28th Battalion. He trained with this group in WA until they embarked at Fremantle Harbour on the 7th August 1916 aboard the HMAT Miltiades. After the long sea voyage they arrived at Plymouth England on the 25th September 1916. After disembarking Bevil and his group were marched into the 7th Training Battalion at Rollestone Camp on the 26th September. While in camp Bevil was granted a period of leave though unfortunately he overstayed his leave by three days so when he returned he was put in the guard room and as a punishment was given 7 days detention and had to forfeit ten days pay.
On the 16th November 1916 Bevil left camp and proceeded to Folkestone where they took a ship to France. After arriving at Etaples; Bevil went into the 2nd Australian Division Base Depot. He stayed here for just over two weeks and was then sent to join up with the 28th Battalion; being taken on strength on the 4th December 1916. Bevil was assigned to B Company where he became a Lewis Gunner. The 28th Battalion were then in the Flers sector undergoing the coldest French winter for decades. As a result of this cold weather many men reported sick and Bevil was no exception. On the 13th December he was sent to the New Zealand Stationary Hospital at Camiers where he was diagnosed with Bronchitis and Influenza. On the 31st December Bevil was transferred to 6th General Hospital at Rouen and on the 9th January he was sent to the No.2 Convalescent Depot. On the 19th January 1917 Bevil was sent to Etaples where he was put into the 2nd Australian Division Base Depot, though he only remained here for five days before leaving to rejoin the 28th Battalion.
On the 2nd March 1917 the 28th Battalion were going to relieve another battalion in the front line and were in the vicinity of the sunken road at Warlencourt when a shell fell, killing Bevil and wounding several other men. Bevil was buried by a few mates in a shell hole; they later marked the spot with a cross. Private G.C. Owen of King St East Fremantle was in the burying party and he wrote that:"I was one of the burying party at Le Sars on 3rd March 1917 and I assisted in burying the body of this man. He had been killed by a high explosive; the back of his head had been blown away. I took his disc and personal belongings from him and handed them over to Sgt. Major Jones of B Company, to which deceased belonged. We buried him in the sunken road about a hundred yards behind the line. It would be about 1000 yards along the road from Martinpuich. He was buried alone in a shell hole.” Another soldier stated that: "He was known among us as Curly Edwards.”
These accounts and his personal effects were eventually delivered to Bevil's parents. Rose and Horace were exceptionally pained by the loss of their son; the fact that they had provided parental consent for Bevil to go to war caused them a great deal of guilt and grief for years following.
After the war Bevil was exhumed and reburied in Warlencourt British Cemetery in plot VI.H.28.
His mother Rose was granted a pension of 25/- per fortnight after his death.
Many thanks to Brad Colley, Great Nephew of Bevil's cousin, John Albert Woods, for sharing some of this story, and to Andrew Pittaway for his research and photographs.