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Adrian Consett Stephen (1892–1918)

A cable message has been received from the War Office announcing that Lieutenant Adrian Consett Stephen, of the Royal Field Artillery, was killed in action on March 14. Lieutenant Stephen was the second son of Mr. Consett Stephen, of the firm of Stephen, Jaques, and Stephen, solicitors. He was educated at the Sydney Grammar School and at St. Paul’s College in the University of Sydney. He graduated B.A. in 1913, and obtained his L.L.B. degree in 1915 after spending a year in the office of Messrs. Minter, Simpson, and Co., and he would have been called to the Bar but for his decision to enlist. After joining the R.F.A. as a sub-lieutenant, he went to the front almost immediately, and with the exception of the short interval of his ordinary leave remained there until his death. He volunteered at first for a trench mortar battery, but afterwards rejoined his battery in the R.F.A., to which he became deeply attached, and in which he gained his remarkable distinctions. He was mentioned in despatches in May, 1917, and in June of the same year was awarded the Croix de Guerre for work on the Somme. In October, at the Passchendaele ridge, he gained the Military Cross for conduct which was officially described as follows:-“Whilst in command temporarily of his battery, under very heavy enemy shell fire, during an S.O.S. action, this officer, by his great coolness, set a magnificent example to his men. To maintain the necessary fire he himself manned one of his guns, and during the same action attended to and carried into safety a badly wounded N.C.O. His example and courage went a great way to enable the battery to be kept in action, as the battery was being very heavily shelled. Two days later this officer, by his coolness and resource, was the means of saving life during a very intense enemy bombardment. Awarded the Military Cross for the above - M. F. Falkiner, Lieut.-Colonel."

Lieutenant Stephen was promoted during this period, and for two months was acting major in command of his battery. While he was in command the whole of his battery gained a very rare distinction, for it was recommended, "So that their endurance and achievements might be placed on the records of the Royal Regiment of Artillery." In a letter received on the same day as the cable message announcing his death he mentions having been offered a captaincy, which he hesitated to accept, as the offer was conditional on his leaving his old battery.

A friend writes:-"Adrian Stephen's military record speaks for itself. It bears witness to the strength and fineness of his character, to his courage, and to his all-round ability." Readers of the Sydney Morning Herald have already had opportunities of noting his literary skill, and the humour and sympathy with which he observed every aspect of life at the front. But only his friends and fellow-students can appreciate the loss which this country has suffered by his death. He had many rare gifts, and they would all have been to the fullest extent at its service. He seemed certain of success in whatever career he had chosen, whether literature or the Bar. To wide reading and an independent judgment he united a happy wit, admirable power of expression, love of life, and social qualities which made him a leader alike in his college and his regiment. His literary powers as yet are known only by a few essays and skits, and by the plays performed by the University Dramatic Society and the Stage Society, his patriotism by his eagerness to volunteer, and by his desire, repeatedly expressed, to be considered in all his military career a representative of Australia. But though his promise was unfulfilled, he has assuredly added lustre to a name which is already distinguished in literature and law. He belongs to the band of men claimed by this inexorable war who, in the words of one of the heroes of Verdun have thought it "their duty to do more than their duty, who knew that no life could produce anything more fruitful than this example of patriotism, since a death like this brings about the quickening and expansion of many lives after it." It will be the consolation of his friends to know that, little as he anticipated a military career, he entered into it with the utmost zest, and carried through his long term of service with the vigour of his youth, and the enjoyment of a man who had no misgivings, and made friends everywhere and in all ranks.

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'Stephen, Adrian Consett (1892–1918)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 26 July 2024.

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