A number of the men on the Memorial served with battalions from interstate. One of these is Stephen Grainger Rabone. He was a Queenslander by birth, born in Townsville on 12 June 1895, but his father Stephen Thomas Rabone was living at Burwood in Sydney during the war years. Stephen’s mother had died and his father had remarried, his step- mother being Mrs E.L. Rabone in the file. Stephen was educated at Toowoomba Grammar School (grad. 1912) and was a bank clerk with the Bank of Australasia in Toowoomba when he decided to enlist. He travelled to Sydney, perhaps to discuss his decision with his father, and enlisted there on 6 December 1917.
By late 1917 enlistments in the AIF had slowed to a trickle, as men and their families realised the enormous risks of front-line service. The long casualty lists from Gallipoli and France made signing up a courageous decision – a type of courage quite different perhaps from the exhilaration and exuberance of the early enlistments. Stephen was 22 years and 6 months old, 5’6” tall, weighing 144 pounds; he had a dark complexion, brown eyes and brown hair, and was of the Church of England religion.
Stephen was inducted at Liverpool in Sydney’s west, and moved immediately to the Show Ground Camp near the CBD. He was attached to the 1st Depot Battalion before joining the 26th Reinforcements of the 3rd Battalion. With this body he embarked for Europe at Melbourne on the transport A71 Nestor – a voyage that was to last nearly two months. He disembarked at Liverpool in England on 30 April 1918, and was immediately sent to the training facility at Sutton Veny. As he prepared for service at the front he was transferred to the 35th Battalion, a 9th Brigade battalion of the 3rd Division, made up mainly of men from Newcastle and known as “Newcastle’s Own”.
He crossed the Channel on 22 July and passed through the depots to be taken on strength by his battalion on 31 July. Just eight days later Stephen found himself in the first phase of the great offensive – the “Black Day” of the German army – as the Allies began the continual advance that would lead to an armistice in November. Unfortunately, after just three weeks’ front-line service Stephen was killed in action on 22 August, on a day that the battalion took all its objectives, but still lost sixteen men killed as it pushed the Germans closer to defeat.
Stephen Rabone was buried nearby at the Point 80 French Military Cemetery, known today as the Cote 80 National Cemetery, Etinehem (grave D.16). It is located about 8 kilometres south of Albert. On his body were found a few possessions that were sent home to his father in Sydney. Among them was a cheque book of the Bank of Australasia, a wallet, cards and photos.
The medals, plaque and scroll for Stephen were collected by his father and step-mother at ceremonies in Sydney in the early 1920s. In the larger cities these ceremonies were public expressions of the pride felt by communities trying to assuage their grief and find some meaning in the sacrifices made by all – their children and themselves.
In later correspondence the army wrote to the officer in charge of the Toowoomba Drill Hall, Newtown, advising him of the loss of a former member of the local militia. The Taxation Office wrote to the army to verify the details of Stephen’s service for reconciliation with the Bank of Australasia’s income tax records. Stephen Rabone was 23 years old when he died.
Toowoomba Grammar School Archive Records state that he started school on 24th July 1909 and left on 1st June 1912. The School Magazine of November 1918 states: RABONE, S.GRAINGER – Eldest son of S. Rabone, now of Sydney – at School 1909. Killed in action in France, August 8th, 1918.
Headstone for S G Rabone taken by Ann Hallam