Lieutenant Commander Patrick Houston Shaw-Stewart, 63rd (Royal Naval) Division

December 30, 2019

 

Remembering the Fallen:  on this day in 1917, Lieutenant Commander Patrick Houston Shaw-Stewart, 63rd (Royal Naval) Division, was killed in action in France while in temporary command of the Hood Battalion.

The youngest son of Major-General John Heron Maxwell Shaw-Stewart, Royal Engineers, he was educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford, where he excelled, winning many academic prizes and gaining first class degrees in Classical Moderations and Greats.   He was offered a fellowship at All Souls College, but instead chose to pursue a career in banking, and became one of the youngest managing directors in the history of Barings Bank.   

Shortly before the outbreak of the Great War, Lieutenant Commander Shaw-Stewart returned from working in the United States to be commissioned into the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.  In February of 1915 he sailed to the Mediterranean, with the war poet Rupert Brooke among his travelling companions.  Two months later he commanded the firing party at Rupert Brooke’s funeral on the island of Skyros.  After seeing action at Gallipoli, he was attached to the French forces for most of the year 1916, and was awarded the Legion d’Honneur and Croix de Guerre.  

Not content with being appointed as a staff officer away from the action, he appealed to the War Office and was able to re-join the Hood Battalion in May of 1917.  Lieutenant Commander Shaw-Stewart was killed in action in France seven months later and lies buried at Metz-en-Couture.  A memorial was erected in his honour at Balliol College, and he is also remembered on the war memorial at All Souls College.  Although considered by many as a war poet, only one of his poems relates to the Great War – Achilles in the Trench - it was written before the fighting at Gallipoli and not published until after his death. 
Patrick, from Llanbedr in Wales, was 29 years old.

 

 

Achilles in the Trench

 

I saw a man this morning

Who did not wish to die;
I ask, and cannot answer,
If otherwise wish I.

Fair broke the day this morning
Upon the Dardanelles:
The breeze blew soft, the morn's cheeks
Were cold as cold sea-shells.

But other shells are waiting
Across the Aegean Sea;
Shrapnel and high explosives,
Shells and hells for me.

Oh Hell of ships and cities,
Hell of men like me,
Fatal second Helen,
Why must I follow thee?

Achilles came to Troyland
And I to Chersonese;
He turned from wrath to battle,
And I from three days' peace.

Was it so hard, Achilles,
So very hard to die?
Thou knowest, and I know not;
So much the happier am I.

I will go back this morning
From Imbros o'er the sea.
Stand in the trench, Achilles,
Flame-capped, and shout for me.

 

 

 

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December 11, 2018

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