Lt. Col. Hugh Stewart
Approximately 2500 men, who were born or lived in Kilkenny, enlisted in the British armed forces at the outbreak of the First Word War in 1914, and it is estimated that about 450 men from the county were killed.
This is a short profile on one Kilkenny soldier, Lt. Col. Hugh Stewart, born in the city on Good Friday the 15 April 1881. He was the son of Capt. Hugh Stewart, and Mrs. Harriet Stewart. There were five children in the family; Mary Elizabeth, Agnes Grace, Harriet Amy, Hugh and Herbert St. George. His brother, Herbert, also fought and survived the Great War with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Capt. Hugh was the Governor of His Majesty’s prisons in Kilkenny from 1877 to 1891. Following his retirement he moved to County Dublin where he resided with his
family at ‘Hatley’, Kerrymount Avenue, Foxrock. Capt. Hugh Stewart, formerly of the Cheshire Regiment, died in 1909 and his wife passed away in 1934. It is said that Harriet still kept a house in Kilkenny.
Hugh Jr. was a medical student and entered Trinity College, Dublin, where he graduated in 1904 and qualified as a medical practitioner in 1905. In the same year he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps with the rank of Lieutenant and was promoted to Captain in January 1909.
He served with the 1Oth Field Ambulance and spent five years in India where he married Muriel Dalzell McKean in 1907. The couple had one child, Hugh DalzelI, who in 1932, age 23, was serving with the British army.
Capt. Stewart arrived in France in August 1914 and was most likely involved in the Battles of Cateau, Marne and Messines. He received further promotion to Major in October 1915 while he was with the 10th Field Ambulance. When he transferred to the 94th Field Ambulance, which was part of the 31st Division, during the Battle of the Somme, he was promoted to acting Lieutenant Colonel and became the unit’s Commanding Officer.
In 1916, Lt. Col. Stewart was the first officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps to be awarded the Military Cross for ‘Gallantry in the Field’. This occured during the Somme offensive between July and November 1916. He won another gallantry award, the ‘Distinguished Service Order’, in November 1917, but it is not clear in which engagement he achieved this distinction. One possibility is the Arras offensive in the spring of 1917, which was a major engagement for the 3l st Division. Stewart was also included in a despatch from Gen. Sir Douglas Haig to the Secretary of State for War, which was published in January 1917. He was mentioned a second time in a despatch from Haig in April of the same year.
Lt. Col. Stewart from Kilkenny was killed during an attack at Strazeele in Northern France on the 12 April 1918. The war diary for this day stated: “The 93rd Brigade were driven back by a very heavy counter-attack, the 92nd Brigade had to fall back with them, and Lt. Col. Stewart was killed.” An officer, who survived the attack, stated: “It was terrible, everyone being blown to bits by shellfire.”A sad conclusion to the profile of this Kilkenny soldier is the news that his entire five piece medal group and bronze memorial plaque was auctioned off in 2006 by Purdy and Sons Auctioneers, London.