Serial No. 2444
Stephen Longhurst - Information
Stephen Longhurst belonged to a significant Campbelltown family who had settled Kentlyn. Stephen was a son of George and Eliza Longhurst. George had migrated to the Australian colonies from Kent, England in the 1880s. The Longhursts settled in the Parramatta area, where Stephen was born in 1894. The following year, George and Eliza moved to the Campbelltown area, to a homestead estate off the National Park Road, which was later named Georges River Road. Here, he established fruit orchards and farms, and was soon joined by his brothers Robert, Mark and William. They lived on Kent Farms and later in East Minto, as Stephen attended East Minto Public School and joined the Cadets.
When the war began, Stephen was living in East Minto and working on the family farm. Stephen watched his cousin, James, enlist in the AIF in Campbelltown in January 1916. His other cousin, William Augusta, also joined the ranks two months later. Stephen followed suit, signing up at the Royal Showground Camp in Sydney on the 27th of April 1916, at the age of 21. Stephen trained with the Dubbo Depot Battalion, and was then shipped overseas for war service. He departed Sydney on the 30th of September 1916 upon the HMAT Aeneas, as a Private with the 54th Battalion.
He arrived in Plymouth, England in mid November and was marched out to the 14th Training Battalion. After further instruction, Stephen proceeded to the trenches just days before Christmas on the 21st of December. When he arrived, he was marched into Etaples Depot. Here, he experienced his first bitter winter in Europe, before joining the 54th Battalion in the field in February 1917. At the time, the British Army were preparing for the Arras Campaign, an operation to occupy German reinforcements away from the French Nivelle Offensive. However, during this period, the German Army was withdrawing to the Hindenburg Line. To conserve manpower, the Germans had constructed a new defence line, shortening their front. It was well protected, with concrete bunkers and barbed wire. The Allies were ordered to attack the Hindenburg Line, the Australians hitting it at Bullecourt. After the Second Battle of Bullecourt, the 54th relieved the line. Stephen was then killed in action on the 15th of May 1917, as they were consolidating their new position; he was only 22 years old. Sadly in the chaos, the whereabouts of his body was lost. Stephen’s name was later recorded on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial in France.
Back in Campbelltown, the Longhursts received the telegram reporting the death of Stephen. It was one of the first immediate losses for the family, and sadly, it would not be the last. It was also a terrible reminder of what may lay in store for loved ones whom were still in danger serving at the front.