A ‘remarkable’ son remembered

Private McCulloch and Lieutenant Stewart
Private McCulloch and Lieutenant Stewart

Recently the Gazette reported one of the first casualties of the air war, Lieutenant Nathaniel Stewart, of the Royal Flying Corps.

This moving tribute is paid to the young Lieutenant, who was one of the first Great War air gunners.


Lieutenant Stewart was the son of a former minister of Newton Stewart the Rev. Alex Stewart, and his father received the following letter from his son’s friend, Major Wedgwood Benn, who wrote: “Although you do not know me I hope you will allow me to express my deepest sympathy for the loss of your son. I have been acquainted with your son for nearly a year, and learned quickly to value his worth and enjoy his sunny good nature. His application as most remarkable, and for some time we used to labour each evening at his French studies. He turned then to practical use, and received spacial praise from the French Admiral for his work with him; indeed I always felt confident sending him up (in the air) because I knew he would never give in until he had made a success of the work at hand.

“One other thing among many for which I specially admired him was his ready and cheerful acquiescence in any decision however unpalatable. I never knew anyone who had finer discipline in this respect; and in him there was so much to excite affection.

“I was away elsewhere and didn’t go with him on his last trip. For a long time a bombardment of the area had been contemplated and on January 23 an attack was made. Your son went up in a seaplane to regulate the fire of one of the ships. I am told that he went off merrily returning some chaff flung at him as the seaplane was lowered. A few minutes later while actually writing a signal and making it by wireless telegraphy, he was hit by a rifle bullet. I t is thought that he died outright and suffered no pain at all. The pilot immediately returned to the ship, but no doctor could have done anything. That afternoon the objective was captured so that you may know that your boy, whose only and constant request had been to be given more arduous and more dangerous duty, died in the hour of victory.

“I myself an on my way home to The Old Knoll, Blackheath, London. If I can tell you any more or be of service to you please say so. I would offer to come to you, but I fear my leave is so short that I shall not be able to leave London.”