Charles Atholl Stewart (Charlie) - 1884 to 1915

 

Charles was born on 21 January 1894, the 8th child of John Stewart and Elizabeth Inches, at 181 St Andrews Road, Pollokshields, Glasgow. The official birth registration gives the street number as 91, which is not very likely, given that No. 181 was the family home of the Glasgow Stewarts. He was the only member of the family whose middle name came from a place - his grandfather came from Blair Atholl.

 

All that is known of Charles is that he was considered to be the best-looking member of the family:

 Charles Stewart

 Charles Atholl Stewart (1894-1915)

At the outbreak of war, Charlie enlisted as Private No. S/3276, in the 8th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders. The prefix ‘S’ indicates that he was attached to one of the new service units. It is likely that he would have undergone 6 to 8 months training, perhaps in
Bedford, before travelling to France. The date of landing is given on his Medal Card as 9 July 1915. The Victory and British Medals, which normally accompanied the Star, were also awarded.

The Medal Card (see below) bears the rather bald  “Died”  in the Remarks column.

 

In his Army file, which contains an Informal Will from his Pay Book, is the statement that he Died of Wounds at No 15 Advance (sic) Dressing Station on 15 November 1915. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records his name as Charles Athole (sic) Stewart, his age at death as 21, and a reference to his memorial at Loos-en-Gohelle.

 

This information raises some interesting questions:

1   If Charlie was injured and Died of his Wounds, he could reasonably be expected to have a grave. The Loos Memorial contains a large number of inscribed panels arranged in Regiments. It commemorates 20,633 officers and men who have no known grave but who fell in the Loos sector, mostly in 1915.

 

2   The 8th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders was under the command of the 44th Brigade, itself a unit of the 15th (Scottish) Division. The Brigade’s HQ was very close to where the Loos Memorial was built. It was not far from a large German defensive position, the Lens Road Redoubt, which was attacked and captured by the 15th Division on 25 September 1915. By 8 am, the troops were in control of the village of Loos, and were marching on Hill 70, to the south-east. Later that morning, they were pinned down on Hill 70 and, in the afternoon, sustained heavy casualties near Chalk Pit Copse. The next day, the Division continued the attack on Hill 70, but confused orders meant that the British artillery shelled its own men.

By 27 September, the 15th Division was relieved.

The 8th Battalion lost 502 men and officers in the Battle of Loos.

Battle of Loos

Charles Atholl Stewart may have been among them.

But the record states that he Died of his Wounds almost 7 weeks later, when there was no reported military action.

Click the map for a description of the Battle of Loos, September 1915.

(The only other significant action in the Loos sector took place from 9 to 12 October and did not involve the 15th Division.)

 

3   Moreover, Charlie is stated to have died at an Advanced Dressing Station, a mobile unit just behind the front line where a casualty’s wounds could be dressed. All casualties, except for the very lightly wounded, would be then be shipped out by stretcher or by horse-drawn ambulance to a Casualty Dressing Station several miles behind the front line. The most seriously injured would be transported to hospital or even evacuated to England.

It seems illogical that a man could Die of Wounds in a dressing station close to the front line, when the category usually signified a death outside the battlefield.

The position of Charlie Stewart’s unit on 15 November 1915 is not known at the time of writing. If it remained billeted in the Loos sector then one scenario is that he was seriously wounded, perhaps by a sniper, and rushed to the nearest Advanced Dressing Station (No 15), where he died.

This view does not, unfortunately, explain why there is no grave.

 

In his Soldier’s Will he bequeathed everything he possessed to his sister Elizabeth.

 

 

William Kenneth Stewart (Kenneth) - 1898 to 1918

 

Kenneth was born on 8 July 1898, the 10th and last child of John Stewart and Elizabeth Inches, at 181 St Andrews Road, Pollokshields, Glasgow.

 

It is not known when he enlisted as Private No. #268933 in the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders), although the family say that he gave the wrong age to gain admission. If he volunteered before 1916, proof of age was seldom required. However, official records do give his correct age – 20 – at death. In support of a later date of enlistment, his Medal Card (below)



shows that he was awarded only two medals, the Victory and the British. He did not receive the Star Medal because it was discontinued after
December 31, 1915. Moreover, the Medal Card does not give a date of landing in France and this was normal after 1916. After September 1916, new recruits were assigned to a unit of the Training Reserve, rather than to a traditional regiment like the Black Watch.

 

It seems likely that Kenneth joined up between January and September 1916.

 

At some stage, he transferred to the 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders as Private No. 235694.

The Battalion was a unit of the 76th Brigade from 19 October 1915 to 11 November 1918. This was part of the 3rd Division of VI Corps of the Third Army. It was transferred to XVII Corps on 31 Jan 1917.

 

The Regimental Diary for the period shows that the men spent the majority of their time away from the front lines. When they were not marching between positions, their time was taken up with training, drills and parades, sports competitions and church services and funerals (for officers only). Getting to the baths was a particularly noteworthy event. Units seem to have been frequently rotated so that nobody spent too long in the front line trenches. Many of the entries relate to relieving other units, or being relieved by them. At the front line, the unit would work on the trenches, go on raids or prepare for an upcoming assault.

 

In 1917 and 1918, the Battalion took part in a number of engagements:

 

9 - 11 April 1917 - 1st Battle of the Scarpe near Arras - an important and costly battle

14 - 19 June 1917 - near Arras - 70 killed

26 - 28 Sept 1917 - near Watou

26 - 29 March 1918 - involved in the German Spring offensive in the Wancourt Sector

5th May & 19 - 20 May 1918 - at La Bassee Canal near Hinges

14 - 15 June 1918 - the Battalion marched to Sandpit Cemetery for funeral of 4 officers killed on 15th

23 Aug 1918 - at Berles-au-Bois Ayette

30 Aug 1918 - at Mory Ecoust

27 Sept 1918 - at Flesquieres

2 - 7 Oct 1918 - at Masnieres

 

Kenneth was Killed in Action on 23 October 1918. On the previous evening, the Battalion had marched into Solesmes by crossing assault bridges erected over the swollen River Selle and settled into comfortable billets. A defensive front had been established by 62 Division on 20 October on flat ground that slopes down to the village of Romeries.

On 23 October, the Gordons went forward to this line, and “attacked and took Romeries”. By 9am, they were organising their billets. There is no indication of the level of resistance they faced and no details of casualties. The engagement is mentioned nowhere except in the Regimental Diary. The impression is given of an easy conquest. Nevertheless, it was here that Kenneth Stewart must have lost his life.

 

He is buried just up the road at the Romeries Communal Cemetery Extension.

 

In his Soldier’s Will he bequeathed all his belongings to his sister Elizabeth.