Laurence James (George) BREWSTER


BREWSTER, Laurence James

Service Number: 708
Enlisted: Not yet discovered
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 8th Light Horse Regiment
Born: 26 August 1893, place not yet discovered
Home Town: Northcote, Darebin, Victoria
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Farm labourer
Died: Died of Illness, Heidelberg, Victoria, Australia, 14 October 1917, aged 24 years
Cemetery: Coburg Pine Ridge Cemetery, Victoria, Australia
Bell Street & Elizabeth Street Coburg, Moreland City, Victoria
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World War 1 Service

12 Feb 1915: Involvement Private, SN 708, 8th Light Horse Regiment
12 Feb 1915: Embarked Private, SN 708, 8th Light Horse Regiment, HMAT Armadale, Melbourne

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Biography contributed by Stephen Brooks

618 Trooper Laurence James Brewster, 8th Light Horse Regiment AIF, died of illness 14th October 1917, aged 24.

Known as “George” around Cobram, Brewster enlisted in Cobram on 12 October 1914, one of the first Australians to enlist. He was drafted into the 8th Light Horse and was wounded on Gallipoli during the famous charge at the Nek when the Regiment was almost destroyed in a few minutes. George was wounded by rifle fire at Gallipoli, and on another occasion a shell burst on the dug-out he was in, knocking down the sandbags and nearly burying him, badly injuring his spine. Brewster suffered from a severe gunshot wound to the arm and was sent home medically unfit in 1916 as he had lost so much weight. He then developed lung problems, and was discharged from the AIF in Melbourne and awarded a pension of 60 shillings a fortnight. Brewster became a minor celebrity in the recruiting drive being one of the first men to be expatriated back to Australia (via Malta and England).

He was, sadly, one of the first men returned home, to die as a result of war service, some 15 months later.

While in hospital, he developed the symptoms of tuberculosis in both lungs, apparently due to exposure. Just after he was returned to Australia in March 1916, medical reports on his arrival suggested that he was "thin and wasted" and that he had lost three stone since enlisting (he weighed just nine and a half stone even then).

Brewster died from the effects of his tuberculosis at the Austin Hospital on the 14th October 1917. He was buried with full military honours in the Coburg Cemetery. The coffin, borne on a gun carriage drawn by six beautiful black horses, with riders, was covered with the Union Jack, on top of which his uniform was placed, preceded by a firing party of 15 men and a bugler, also a mounted charger, representing the Light Horse of his regiment.

His two brothers, Arthur and Charles George also served in the AIF. Arthur, twice wounded went on and fought in the war in Russia before he returned to Australia. Charles returned in mid-1918 due to severe gunshot wounds, inflicted in Belgium during 1917.  

L.J. Brewster’s family placed the following notice in the Melbourne papers during 1917.

“I have fought the good fight,

I have finished my work.

It is only an old piece of bunting,

Only an old tattered rag,

Yet thousands have died for its honour,

And shed their best blood for the flag."