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Edgar David GRIERSON

Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Cpl 21039 28y4m 26 Oct 1915 1919 4

Corporal Edgar David Grierson (1887—1956)


Family background and early life

Edgar David Grierson was born in Balmain, New South Wales on 2 June 1887, eldest of four sons of John and Annie Florence (née King). The family lived at Murwillumbah where their father worked on boats. The boys lost their parents when they were quite young. Their mother died in 1898 when Edgar was 11 and their father accidently drowned in the Tweed River at Murwillumbah in 1903. Edgar, then 16 years old, went to sea over the next ten years to work on ships, visiting mainly Australian ports including Rockhampton, Melbourne, Brisbane, Devonport, Geelong, usually returning to the port of Sydney. He served in various positions such as assistant cook, steward and trimmer on vessels named Bombola, Barwon, Hobart and others.  

In 1907, he was engaged as an ordinary seaman on SS Yulgilbar from the Scottish ports of Troon and Glasgow to Sydney.  As trimmer on the ship Bombola he sailed from Melbourne to Sydney in January 1915 and later that year while in Brisbane on 26 October, enlisted to serve overseas in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF).

Enlistment details

On his attestation paper, Edgar Grierson then 28 years four months old, named his brother Arthur of Ruperts Walk, Marylands New South Wales as next-of-kin, gave his religious denomination as Presbyterian and his occupation as engine driver.  He was allotted to 35th Battalion, 9th Field Artillery Brigade and commenced training at Enoggera Military Camp.  He was promoted from gunner to corporal in January 1916.


Just one week before he embarked with his unit at Melbourne on HMAT Argyllshire A8, Corporal Edgar Grierson married Selina Matthews in Sydney on 5 May 1916.

Selina Matthews who was born at Carlisle, Cumberland in England in 1882 came to Sydney on the ship Orsova in 1911 following the deaths of her parents in Carlisle. She was 33 when she married Edgar Grierson.

Selina Grierson’s name replaced Edgar’s brother’s name as next-of-kin on her husband’s military record and her contact was through the Young Women’s Christian Association in Sydney in Castlereagh Street.  She later advised the officer-in-charge, base records, of her change of address to Burnside Homes1, Pennant Hills Road, Parramatta where she probably worked.

Overseas service

Experienced in life on board ship, Edgar would have found much of interest on Argyllshire during the voyage to Plymouth where he disembarked on 10 July 1916.  He was transferred to the 3rd Divisional Ammunition Column at the end of September.  There followed a period in Fargo Military Hospital in Birmingham while Edgar Grierson was treated for bronchitis.  

At the beginning of 1917 he joined the Reserve Brigade Australian Army Artillery and crossed the channel to the Australian General Base Depot at Étaples. Some weeks later, he again suffered illness requiring hospital treatment at Rouelles and Harfleur in France before transfer by hospital ship to Richmond Military Hospital in Surrey.

By December Corporal Grierson was considered fit for short training courses in England. He attended Trench Mortar School and Australian Gas School early in 1918 but again suffered debility requiring admission to hospital and a period of furlough in England.  Corporal Grierson’s war record notes he rejoined his unit in the field in France in late October 1918.  Though fighting ceased following the Armistice on 11 November 1918, Corporal Grierson was engaged in duties in France till the end of March 1919.

Return home

He returned to Australia on the ship Borda, disembarking on 27 June 1919.  He was discharged from the AIF soon afterwards and received the British War Medal and Victory Medal in recognition of his services.

Life after the war

In civilian life, Edgar Grierson returned to marine work.  Edgar and Selina lived at the Tweed Heads Pilot Station where Edgar was a boatman until the Maritime Services Commission closed the service in August 1941.  Their daughters, Faith and Jane Annie Florence, were born there.  Faith became a nurse and married Sergeant J. T. Flythe of Richmond, Virginia, USA in June 1943.

After the closure of the Tweed Heads Pilot Station, Edgar and Selena and their daughter Jane moved to Brisbane.  In 1949 they were living at Ballarat Street, Mt Gravatt while Edgar was employed as a winchman. Selina died at the age of 71 at Raby Bay on 31 October 1953.

In his retirement, Edgar’s love of the sea remained with him.  A widower at the age of 67 years, Edgar Grierson was a passenger on Queen Elizabeth departing Southampton for New York on 3 December 1954.

 He died at Raby Bay on 21 June 1956, at the age of 69 years.

1. Burnside Presbyterian Orphan Homes were children’s homes founded in 1911 by philanthropist Sir James Burns. Burnside pioneered cottage care in Australia and was a functioning village with 14 cottages, all grand in scale, its own farm, hospital and school and a gymnasium and swimming pool. In 1955 Burnside changed its name to Burnside Presbyterian Homes for Children, as the word ‘orphan’ was stigmatising and misleading.

• National Archives of Australia, military records, World War 1
• Australian War Memorial, Embarkation Rolls and unit histories
• New South Wales Unassisted Passenger Lists 1826 – 1922
• New South Wales Register of Births Deaths and Marriages, 
• Queensland Register of Births Deaths and Marriages
• Australian Electoral Rolls, 1930 - 1954 
• Ancestry on line
Brisbane Courier, 7 April 1903, page 5
Tweed Daily, Murwillumbah, 18 December 1936, page 6; 12 October 1937, page 4; 1 November 1940, page 4; 23 September 1942, page 4
Northern Star, Lismore, 9 August 1941, page 5

Compiled by Noel Adsett, Brisbane.  March 2017 ©



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