Eustace John BEWS

Badge Number: 30140

BEWS, Eustace John

Service Number: 7591
Enlisted: 10 September 1917
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 10th Infantry Battalion
Born: Wallaroo, South Australia , 1 May 1886
Home Town: Moonta, Copper Coast, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Labourer
Died: Adelaide, South Australia, 20 August 1949, aged 63 years, cause of death not yet discovered
Cemetery: AIF Cemetery, West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide
Section: KO, Road: 17, Site No: 26
Memorials: Point Pearce Memorial and Flagpoles to Narungga Men and Women, Point Pearce Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

10 Sep 1917: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 7591, 10th Infantry Battalion
30 Oct 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 7591, 10th Infantry Battalion
30 Oct 1917: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 7591, 10th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Aeneas, Melbourne
29 Jul 1918: Wounded AIF WW1, Private, SN 7591, 10th Infantry Battalion, Merris (France), Shrapnel wound to right hand.

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Biography contributed by Saint Ignatius' College

Eustace John Bews

Life before enlistment

Eustace John Bews is an Aboriginal man and was born on 1st May 1886 in Wallaroo South Australia to Mrs Jessie Bews of Moonta and a father who is unknown. There is little information on his life before the war, but it is recorded that he got into trouble a lot. Bews got convicted for drunkenness and shoplifting on multiple occasions. Bews left the Yorke Peninsula to live near Mount Gambier southern. However there he got convicted for shop-breaking and was sentenced to six months of hard labour by the Mount Gambier Court.

During the enlistment

After his six months of hard labour, Bews moved back to Moonta. On 21 May 1917, he enlisted for the second time (There are no records of Bews’ first enlistment sheet. However, on his second enlistment sheet Bews said that he was rejected due to his teeth). Bews was an Aboriginal man, age 31, 5 foot 2, 55.7kg, blue eyes, dark hair at the time of his enlistment. Bews was accepted and was sent to Mitcham Camp in Adelaide. Bews failed to report to the site after a week and did the same thing the next week. Bews was absent without notice for the third time but had 14 days detention in Fort Glanville with pay docked. When released, he missed training camp for the fourth time. This resulted in his discharge on 1 August 1917 after 71 days of service. His behaviour was considered “Bad” on his discharge slip.

Six weeks later on the 10th of September 1917, Bews enlisted again, this time under the identity of 50th Battalion member Arthur Walker [PROFILE (/explore/people/131931)]. Walker was also an Aboriginal man who lived in Moonta. Walker was reported missing (assumed to be dead) after the Battle of Mouquet Farm. However, Walker's details are crossed out and Bews' overwritten on the Attestation Paper. Bews was assigned the role of being a 25th reinforcement of the 10th Battalion.

War Service

Bews embarked from Melbourne on the 30th of October 1917 to England on the HMAT Aeneas. On the 27th of December 1917, unfortunately, 2 days after Christmas, Bews was admitted to hospital due to Mumps, on board ship. He was repeatedly ill with mumps and influenze during his first months in England. He eventually joined the 10th Battalion in France on 10th April 1918. 

Bews was with the 10th Battalion when they entered Rainnevile in the Somme, However, days later the 10th Battalion and the other battalions of the 3rd Brigade were supposed to move to Amiens to battle the German Spring Offensive. This plan didn’t go ahead. Instead, they were moved to the line of near Hazebrouck to execute a night attack at Meteren. The attack went poorly and almost 80 men from the battalion were killed, most of them were from the C company.

 In April and May 1918, while the 10th Battalion was trying to stop the German Spring Offensive. Bews was reported as sick for most of May. Bews went absent during one of the rest periods but returned to participate in several successful smaller operations during June and July 1918. On 29th July 1918, Bews got a shrapnel wound on his right hand during the capture of Merris in May. He was in the hospital for a long time after the gunshot. He left England on 1st April 1919 and returned to Adelaide on 14th May 1919. Bew was discharged on the 6th of June 1919, He served the AIF for 1 year and 270 days. Bews was awarded the British War Medal, The Star Medal and The Victory Medal.

Where he ended up

In the early ’20s, Bews lived in Gladstone for a couple of years before returning to the Yorke Peninsula. Bews was convicted again in 1924 for ‘supplying alcohol to Aborigines’ under the provisions of the Licensing Act. Bews stood up for equal rights for Aboriginal soldiers during the 1920s and 1930’s when he wrote letters to “The Advertiser”. Bews was charged for ‘possession of alcohol’ in 1934 but the charges were dropped as he had been classed as a white man.

Bews continued to write letters in “The Advertiser”. During World War 2, Bews advocated for full citizenship rights for Aboriginal soldiers with the help of a fellow Aboriginal veteran of WW1, Herb Milera. Bews didn’t get married in his life and he never had any kids. Eustace John Bews passed away at the Royal Adelaide Hospital on the 20th of August 1949, age 63. Bews was buried in the Australian Imperial Force Cemetery (Kendrew Oval Row: 17 Site: 26) on West Terrace.

The ANZAC Spirit

Eustace John Bews was not always on the right side of the law, but when the time came to serve his country, Eustace put his life on the line. Bews’ determination to join the army was strong. He was rejected the first time as his teeth were in poor condition, however, the second time he enlisted he attempted to use another man’s name who died in the 50th Battalion. Although he did not end up using his name, this shows his courage and determination to join the Army. Bews had a strong belief for equality for all soldiers as he wrote letters to the editor complaining about the way Aborigines who were ex-soldiers were treated. Bews had great courage during the war. Although he only fought for a short period of time, he helped out the 10th battalion greatly by participating in smaller operations against Germany in France.