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Edwards, Percy Malcolm (1875–1958)

by Richmond Cubis

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Percy Malcolm Edwards (1875-1958), soldier, public servant and costume manufacturer, was born on 5 December 1875 at Collingwood, Melbourne, son of William Samuel Edwards, coachbuilder, and his wife Catherine, née Malcolm, both English-born. On leaving East Prahran State School at 15 he joined a firm of Melbourne warehousemen, Robert Reid & Co., with whom he worked for six years. He served with the volunteer artillery in 1893-97 and, in 1898, having moved to Western Australia to become a clerk in the Department of Railways, joined the field artillery in Perth.

On the outbreak of the South African War Edwards enlisted as a company sergeant major in the 1st Western Australian (Mounted Infantry) Contingent. He served in the Colesberg area, the advance to Bloemfontein and in the Transvaal. Near Pretoria, on 4 June 1900, he took part in what he later claimed to be the first mounted charge with fixed bayonets. He was twice mentioned in dispatches and was also awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for gallantry at Diamond Hill. Under cover of darkness he and two others broke through the Boer lines and blew up the Delagoa railway. Their action strengthened the British position and also enabled recovery of a trainload of British prisoners and two trainloads of merchandise. Edwards returned home in December 1900 and resumed his public service career. On 30 January 1901, at St Alban's Anglican Church, Armadale, Melbourne, he married Elena Danson; they had no children.

Edwards continued his militia service and was commissioned in the 18th Light Horse Regiment in 1908; he served with the 25th L.H.R. in 1912-13 and in October 1913 joined the Australian Field Artillery. In 1908 he had resigned from the public service and established a successful softgoods factory in Perth. Volunteering for active service in World War I, he was commissioned lieutenant in the 8th Battery, 3rd Australian Field Artillery Brigade, Australian Imperial Force, on 17 October 1914.

Edwards served throughout the Gallipoli campaign and was promoted temporary captain in July 1915 and adjutant of the 2nd A.F.A. Brigade in October. In Egypt, next February, he transferred to the 4th Divisional Artillery, leaving for France in June. He commanded the 112th Howitzer Battery from March 1916 to January 1917 and temporarily led the battery's parent unit, the 24th Brigade. He then transferred to the 11th A.F.A. Brigade, commanding the 111th Howitzer Battery for the rest of the war except for brief temporary commands. His main service was in the Somme and Passchendaele offensives. Promoted major in July 1916 and temporary lieutenant-colonel a year later, he was twice mentioned in dispatches and awarded the Distinguished Service Order in the New Year honours of 1918. He returned home in September 1918 and was demobilized in November.

Little is known of Edwards's civilian life after the war. He and his wife moved to Sydney in 1920 and in 1929-42 ran a women's costume manufacturing and importing business in George Street. He rejoined the Citizen Forces, commanding the 14th A.F.A. Brigade in 1921-25, and was placed on the retired list as an honorary colonel in 1936. Survived by his wife, he died at Mosman on 23 July 1958 and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Defence Department, Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa, P. L. Murray ed (Melb, 1911)
  • J. S. Battye (ed), Cyclopedia of Western Australia, vol 1 (Adel, 1912)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The Story of Anzac (Syd, 1924)
  • London Gazette, 27 Sept 1901, 1 June, 28 Dec 1917, 1 Jan 1918
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 10 Nov 1923, 8 May 1929
  • war diaries, 3rd and 4th Australian Field Artillery brigades AIF (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

Richmond Cubis, 'Edwards, Percy Malcolm (1875–1958)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/edwards-percy-malcolm-6096/text10445, published in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 20 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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