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australian rowers profiles and history

COL George I Stevenson CMG DSO VD

Yarra Yarra Rowing Club (VIC)

George Ingram Stevenson (1882-1958)

A veteran of the Boar War, after which he joined Yarra Yarra and held positions of secretary and committee, also treasurer of the Victorian rowing association. He entered and won a number of races in this period.

On declaration of WW1 he enlisted to serve with a distinguished career. He remained in the army until the mid-1930s. Before starting his own accountancy firm “G I Stevenson & Co”, he also re-joined Yarra Yarra at the end of WW1 to serve on the committee, then as vice president followed by the president’s position for 18 years (our longest serving president), he happened to be president during the second world war  until he was elected to the patron’s position.

There was a practice eight named in his honour after the 1929 fire. There is no indication that he competed after WW1,  In the club races held in the 1930’s there were G I Stevenson pairs on the calendar, some of the trophies that were competed for are on display in our trophy cabinet.

A clock in the trophy cabinet bottom shelf right hand side was a wedding present from the club, a club badge mounted on the front has since been removed. This clock was not appreciated by the family it was returned to the club.

Rowing record

1905 - Seymour Regatta, Maiden Pair, bow - First

1906 - Colac Regatta, Junior Four, bow seat - First

1906 - Colac Regatta, Maiden Four, bow seat - First

1909 - Geelong and Barwon Regatta, Junior Eight three seat - First

1906 - Upper Yarra Regatta, Senior Eight, five seat - First

1908 - Army Challenge Cup, Australian Field Artillery, five seat - First

1949 - Elected Patron of Yarra Yarra Rowing Club.

E J H Howard wrote the following biography of COL Stevenson in the Australian Dictionary of Biography in 1990.

George Ingram Stevenson (1882-1958), soldier and chartered accountant, was born on 8 March 1882 at Kelvinside, Lanarkshire, Scotland, son of George Stevenson, colliery cashier, and his wife Margaret Ann, née Ingram. The family came to Australia in 1888 and George was educated at Brunswick College, Melbourne. He served in the South African War with the Prince of Wales Light Horse and the 4th Battalion, Australian Commonwealth Horse, and was awarded the Queen's Medal with five clasps. Enlisting subsequently in the (volunteer) Garrison Artillery in Victoria, he was commissioned in the Australian Field Artillery on 20 September 1909 and became captain in 1912. He had qualified as a chartered accountant in 1909, went into practice in 1911 and was to establish the accountancy firm of G. I. Stevenson & Co. in Melbourne in 1933.

Shortly after the outbreak of World War I he joined the Australian Imperial Force and was posted to the 2nd Field Artillery Brigade as a captain. He embarked in October 1914 with the 6th Field Battery, landed on Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, and in May was promoted major and appointed battery commander. In an action on 14 November 1915 he directed the fire of one of his guns while its shells just cleared his head. Mentioned in dispatches, he was appointed C.M.G. for his Gallipoli service.

In March 1916 Stevenson was promoted lieutenant-colonel with command of the 21st Howitzer Brigade; he was mentioned in dispatches for consistent good work as a brigade commander and for meritorious service at Pozières, France. Given charge of the 2nd Field Artillery Brigade in January 1917, he commanded the group of artillery in the Lagnicourt Valley on 15 April 1917 at the time of the German breakthrough. The guns of all four batteries of the 2nd Field Artillery Brigade had to be abandoned, but their breech-blocks and dial-sights were removed by the retreating Australians. He later commanded the re-equipped brigade at the 3rd battle of Ypres and was again mentioned in dispatches for his skill and coolness.

Appointed in August to command the 3rd (Army) Field Artillery Brigade, by September 1918—during the attack on the Hindenburg outpost line—he had charge of the Left Artillery Group consisting of four artillery brigades. Stevenson was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in September 1918, the citation reading: 'This officer has commanded his brigade in the most able and efficient manner during the whole of the operations carried out by this [Australian] Corps since coming on the Amiens front. His brigade has been continuously in action and has constantly moved from one part of the front to the other. He frequently commanded large groups of brigades of artillery for active offensive operations and on occasions under the most trying conditions … His fearless courage under shell fire has been the means of maintaining the high morale that exists in his brigade.'

Embarking for Australia on Anzac leave in October 1918, Stevenson was discharged from the A.I.F. in February 1919; he was reappointed in May as officer commanding troops on transports and returned to Australia in January 1920. In July he temporarily commanded the 8th Field Artillery Brigade, Australian Military Forces, and was then given charge of the 22nd Field Artillery Brigade. In 1922-27 he was Commander Royal Artillery, 3rd Division, A.M.F., with the rank of colonel, and in 1931-35 commanded the 10th Infantry Brigade.

After demobilization Stevenson had resumed work as an accountant. On 30 May 1923 he married Frances Clare Dennis (d.1931) with Anglican rites at Christ Church, South Yarra, Melbourne. They were to have a son and daughter. On 22 December 1936 he married a widow, Hilda Mabel Kidd, daughter of H. V. McKay, at Toorak Presbyterian Church. Survived by his wife (D.B.E., 1968) and by the children of his first marriage, he died in East Melbourne on 11 July 1958 and was cremated. His son, Major General John Dennis Stevenson, A.O., C.B.E., served in Korea and Vietnam.

Jim Skidmore and Andrew Guerin
April 2022


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