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Charles Leopold SOUTAR

Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Cpl 2047/ 1907 24y 17 Sep 1914 7 Sep 1919 4

Corporal Charles Leopold Soutar (1890 - 1949)  

Soutar Brothers Booklet

Charles (‘Chas’) Leopold Soutar was 24 when he enlisted in September 1914, and subsequently served as a Driver in the Australian Army Service Corps in Egypt, and then as a Corporal in the 58th Infantry Battalion in France.  He was shot in the left thigh during a notable and successful counter-attack by the Australians at Villers-Bretonneux on 25 April 1918, and this caused some ongoing physical problems.  Post-war he married and became a banana grower in northern NSW, but died in 1949 at the age of 59, and his death was accepted as war-caused by the Repatriation Commission.

Family background

Chas was one of the five sons of Alexander Soutar and his second wife Catherine nee O’Sullivan. Scottish-born Alexander was a joiner journeyman when in 1878 in the town of Montrose he married Jane Stormant, with whom he had one daughter - Elizabeth Jane. Jane died in 1880 and Alexander emigrated to Australia with his daughter Elizabeth.

After one year in New South Wales, Alexander moved to Queensland, and in Brisbane in 1885 he was married to Irish-born Catherine by the Rev. Charles McCulloch, with Presbyterian rites.  They had seven children together before Catherine passed away in 1902, and five of these offspring were living at the time of Alexander’s death in 1911.

Alexander was buried in Toowong Cemetery with the Rev. Dr Ernest Merrington from Saint Andrew’s (then Presbyterian, now Uniting) Church officiating.  Alexander’s children obviously thought very fondly of him - they regularly placed tributes to him in the newspapers over the following years.

Alexander’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth continued as a member of the Saint Andrew’s congregation, and was part of the family connection that saw Chas’ name – and that of his brother Edward who served in the 9th Infantry Battalion and is the subject of a separate entry - included in the World War 1 Honour Boards in the Merrington Peace Chapel in the Church.

Early service

Chas was born in Charleville on 9 January 1890, and when he enlisted in Lismore on 17 September 1914 he was 24 years old and working as a railway attendant/employee.  One of his older brothers was given as next-of-kin and his religion was recorded as Church of England.  The medical examination noted that he was 164.5cms tall, weighed 60kg, and had a dark complexion, black hair and grey eyes.

Chas was placed as a Driver in the 10th Company of the Army Service Corps with the service number 2451, and embarked in Melbourne on the HMAT Armadale A26 on 20 October 1914.

The transport units were not required at Gallipoli given that only a relatively small, rough area was taken and held by the Anzacs, and the transport units such as the 10th Company had to content themselves with the role of general base transport in Egypt.

After an admission to the 17th General Hospital in Egypt on 5 August 1915, Chas was repatriated to Australia on the HMAT Wiltshire A18 and arrived back in September 1915.  He returned to duty in Melbourne in January, and at Broadmeadows ‘re-attested’ because his earlier papers had been misplaced.  With a new service number of 1907 he was placed in the infantry.

Infantry service

Chas embarked for the second time in Melbourne in 1916 on the HMAT Port Lincoln A17, and after a short period of training in England transferred to the 58th Battalion, being taken on strength with that unit at the end of September 1916.  He joined at a time of re-building for the sadly depleted 58th - which had suffered very heavy casualties in the Battle of Fromelles (July 1916) and then had to man the front line in that sector for another two months.

In March 1917 the 58th took part in the advance that followed the staged withdrawal of the German Army to the Hindenburg Line, and during this time Chas was promoted to Lance Corporal.  In June he was promoted to Corporal and the following month was transferred to the staff of the 15th Training Battalion in the UK.  Chas returned to France and the 58th in November 1917, and with the rest of his comrades had to endure the bitter cold of that winter.

A major German offensive was launched in late March 1918 and the 58th was involved in defending the sector around Corbie.  During the successful counter-attack at Villers-Bretonneux on 25 April Chas was wounded in action - with a bullet wound to his left thigh that damaged his sciatic nerve - and this effectively ended his war service.  He was admitted to the Reading War Hospital in England on 29 April 1918 and moved from there to the 3rd Australian Auxiliary hospital in Dartford on 6 June 1918 – where nine days earlier his younger brother Edward had been admitted.  One imagines that there would have been a happy re-union of the two brothers.

Chas returned to Australia on the HMAT Borda A30, arriving back in December 1918.  A medical board in July 1919 noted there was considerable wasting of the left calf and not much movement in the left foot, but Chas was keen to be discharged and this was formally done on 7 September 1919.


In 1920 Chas married 19 years old Florence Adeline Allan in Murwillumbah, and they went on to have two daughters - Joyce and Nancy – as well as a son Alexander Florance who served in the Second World War (in the 2/2nd Battalion and then the RAAF).

There is limited information available on Chas’ activities through much of the 1920s, but we do know that from 1929-31 he was employed by a banana grower who considered him an excellent worker of good habits and sobriety, who sometimes needed time off because of the effects of his war service (and for which the employer didn’t deduct any wages).  In the depths of the economic depression in 1931 this employment ceased due to ‘no more work’. For the next three years Chas’ occupation in the electoral rolls is listed as labourer, but from 1935 onwards he was a farmer at Numinbah growing bananas.

Chas died on 7 May 1949 in Chillingham, aged 59, and was buried with Presbyterian rites in the Murwillumbah General Cemetery (Presbyterian Section F, 59, 513).  He was survived by Florence – who was granted a pension as his death was accepted as due to war service – and their three children.

Select bibliography
• Australian electoral rolls.
• Australian War Memorial – embarkation rolls, unit war diaries.
• National Archives of Australia – service records, repatriation record.
• NSW marriage and deaths registers.
• Queensland births register.
• Neville, Lindsay, Equal to the task: The Royal Australian Army Service Corps (Historia, Kenmore Queensland, 1992)

Note: Honour Board 4 has Chas' name listed as 'Chas Leonard Soutar'

Written by Ian Carnell AM, Buderim.  May 2017 ©



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