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Alexander Arthur Evans (1881–1955)

by D. V. Goldsmith

This article was published:

Alexander Arthur Evans (1881-1955), soldier, accountant and politician, was born on 3 November 1881 at Launceston, Tasmania, son of Alexander Evans, soap manufacturer, and his wife Elizabeth Grace, née Groom. He was educated at Launceston Grammar School and became a clerk.

Evans served in the South African War with the 2nd Tasmanian Imperial Bushmen from March 1901 to May 1902 and was wounded, mentioned in dispatches and promoted from private to sergeant. For part of his service he was 'galloper' (mounted orderly) to the commander-in-chief, Sir Redvers Buller. On returning home he retained his interest in the army, serving for five years with the Launceston artillery, and was appointed lieutenant in the senior cadets in 1912 and second lieutenant in the field artillery, Australian Military Forces (militia) in February 1914. By this time he had distinguished himself as a sportsman; he rowed for Tasmania, won major cycling events and represented the State in road races, sailed and played club football. In 1902-14 he worked for Massey-Harris & Co. Ltd and for Sir Philip Fysh & Co. as area manager at various towns in northern Tasmania. On 7 July 1910, at St John's Anglican Church, Launceston, he married Gladys Jeanette Luttrell.

When war began in 1914 Evans was appointed as a second lieutenant in the 3rd Artillery Brigade, Australian Imperial Force, and embarked in October with the first contingent. He was promoted lieutenant in February 1915 and reached Gallipoli on 25 April, though his battery's guns were not taken ashore until early May. He served with the 9th Battery at Razorback Ridge and Lone Pine; he was wounded on 7 August, mentioned in dispatches and also received special mention in divisional orders for conspicuous gallantry in May-June. He was awarded the Military Cross for his action when a Turkish shell struck a gun-pit, setting fire to ammunition and surrounding scrub. Dazed by the explosion, and at great personal risk, he organized survivors and extinguished the fire. He continued to serve as an artillery officer in France and Belgium in 1916-18, his units including the 9th, 103rd and 110th batteries. He also served briefly as an artillery staff officer at 4th Division Headquarters. He was promoted captain in July 1916, major in September 1917 and at the close of hostilities commanded the 10th Field Artillery Brigade as a temporary lieutenant-colonel. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in the King's birthday honours in 1918, was twice mentioned in a dispatches and wounded several times.

Evans returned to Australia in November 1919. He rejoined the Citizen Forces and was awarded the Volunteer Officers' Decoration in 1931. At the beginning of World War II he returned to full-time duty with the army recruiting staff and was finally demobilized in 1945 as a temporary lieutenant-colonel.

Between the wars Evans played a significant part in the business and political life of Tasmania. After farming at Mangalore, Victoria and in the Derwent Valley, Tasmania, he turned to accountancy in Launceston, becoming in 1922 a founding member of Evans & Garrott, accountants and secretaries. He was an alderman in 1922-31 and became mayor of Launceston in 1925. He entered parliament in 1936 and remained a member of the Legislative Council for Launceston until 1942. He was also secretary to major racing and trotting clubs in northern Tasmania and on retiring to Hobart continued his interest in these sports. Known as 'Mr Racing', he was usually portrayed on a horse when members of the Legislative Council were caricatured. Survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters, he died of coronary vascular disease on 3 June 1955 in Hobart and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Defence Department, Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa, P. L. Murray ed (Melb, 1911)
  • L. Broinowski (ed), Tasmania's War Record 1914-1918 (Hob, 1921)
  • London Gazette, 14 Mar 1916, 1 June 1917, 28 May, 3 June 1918
  • Weekly Courier (Launceston) 21 Apr 1921, 17 Dec 1925
  • Examiner (Launceston) 4-6 June 1955
  • Mercury (Hobart), 4 June 1955
  • Evans file, War records section (Australian War Memorial)
  • records, State Library of Tasmania
  • private information.

Citation details

D. V. Goldsmith, 'Evans, Alexander Arthur (1881–1955)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 22 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

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