James Ernest Stewart GC (EGM recipient)

b. 1885 ? d. 03/05/1946 South Kensington, London.


James Ernest Stewart (1885-1946) is believed to have been born in Tientsin, China in 1885, the son of James and Mary Stewart (nee Reeks). He had three brothers, Charles, John and Henry and one sister, Mary. Little is known of James Jnr’s education, though he did train to be an engineer on the Chinese Railways prior to the outbreak of World War I.

George Cross

On 23rd August 1913, James married Margaret Sophia Heywood, daughter of Sir Arthur Percival Heywood and Margaret Effie Sumner. The couple had a daughter, Diana Margaret, born in 1915. In 1914, after the outbreak of war, James returned to England, and was gazetted as a Temporary Lieutenant in the London Gazette of 12th January 1915 and joined the Royal Engineers. He was posted to Gallipoli and took part in the landings. He then was transferred to the Western Front with the 11th Pioneer Hampshire Regiment.

According to the 11th Battalion’s War Diary, he joined them as Commanding Officer on 15th August 1918, and left them on 10th April 1919. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and awarded the Military Cross. After the Paris Peace Conference which led to the Treaty of Versailles, he was appointed Railway Adviser to the Commissioner of Danzig. In 1922, he returned to North China in his previous capacity as a engineer.

In September 1927, Lieutenant T.S.Knowles of the East Yorkshire Regiment had disappeared  in the mountains while on a holiday journey from Peking to Ta T’ung Fu. He was reported missing on Armistice Day. Although the North China winter was already closing in, Stewart immediately volunteered to organise a search into the mountains, and set off alone that same evening. At the time, hostilities between two rival war lords were in full swing and, as Knowles had fallen victim to one of the parties, considerable risk was attached to the rescue. He continued his search until he found that Knowles had safely reached Tai Yuan Fu.

For his actions, Stewart was awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal of the Civil Division on 26th June 1928. Little else is known of his inter-war life, though by the time of the outbreak of World War II, he had returned to England. Sadly, his wife Margaret died in 1940, and later that year, his EGM was automatically exchanged for the newly created decoration – the George Cross. He attended an investiture at Buckingham Palace in October 1941. During the war, he served in the Home Guard in Fulham for two years.

James died on 3rd May 1946 in Kensington, London and he was cremated, and his ashes were interred in Denstone, Staffordshire. His medals including his GC, MC, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf are not publicly held.