Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1918, war poet Captain John Ebenezer Stewart M.C., 8th Battalion, the Border Regiment, attached to 4th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment, was killed in action during the Fourth Battle of Ypres.
The only son of a slater and plasterer, he was raised in poverty and through determination and hard work obtained a university place. Captain Stewart attended the Glasgow Provincial Training College for a teacher-training course in conjunction with the University of Glasgow, and graduated with a Master’s Degree in 1910. As well as academic subjects, he was qualified to teach singing, physical exercises, and woodwork, and took up a position at Langloan Public School in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire.
Captain Stewart enlisted with the Highland Light Infantry at the outbreak of the Great War and served as a private. Before the end of the year he had received a commission in the Border Regiment. With them he saw action in Flanders and on the Somme, and in 1917 was awarded the Military Cross “for conspicuous bravery in the field”.
His book of poems was published in 1917, and before that he had written much in the way of prose and poems for various periodicals. While finding the idea of war abhorrent, he faced it with the four features of stoicism - wisdom, morality, courage, and moderation: "Lo, when I joined the fight, and bared my breast to all the darts of that wild, hellish night, I only stood the test, for Fear, which I had feared, deserted then, and forward blithely to the foe I prest, King of myself again”..
In April of 1918 Captain Stewart was given command of the 4th Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment, and met his death later that month during the fighting at Kemmel Hill during the Fourth Battle of Ypres. He has no known grave and is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing near Passchendaele. He is also remembered on the Roll of Honour of the Glasgow Provincial Committee for the Training of Teachers, and on the Glasgow Provincial Training College War Memorial.
John, from Coatbridge, was 29 years old.
Two lines from his poem “The Somme Revisited” perhaps speaks for all of the fallen: Make our story shine, in the fierce light it craves”.