Lieutenant James Noel Greer Stewart, MC


James Noel Greer Stewart was born on 25 December 1890 at 12 Dock Street, Belfast, the second child of accountant James Stewart and his wife Margaret Mary Russell Stewart (nee Greer). His father died when James was just 8 years old.

Stewart was educated at the Belfast Mercantile College. On 25 May 1909 he enlisted in the Royal Navy, serving as a stoker 2nd Class on HMS Vivid until, just three months later, he purchased his discharge.

By 1911 he was living at home with his mother and older sister Daisy at 10 Jubilee Avenue, Belfast, and working as an accountant. Either then or soon after he was employed by the Belfast Corporation.

Stewart enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Belfast on 28 August 1914 (No.1048). He was promoted to lance corporal on 17 September and corporal on 1 December. On 1 May 1915 he embarked for France as part of D Squadron.

On 14 January 1916 Stewart was briefly attached to No.9 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps. He reverted to the rank of private at his own request on 8 September and five days later was attached to the 33rd Division for temporary duty.

On 13 February 1917 Stewart applied for a commission in the Royal Irish Rifles. He left France soon after and on 5 May reported for duty at the No.2 Officer Cadet Battalion at Pembroke College, Cambridge. On 29 August 1917 he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant and posted to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles.

Soon after he was posted to the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, joining it in the line at Annequin, near Bethune, on 21 October, with two other officers and 62 other ranks.

The 2nd Battalion saw action at the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917. Its war diary for 23 November states:

On the morning of the 23 the 12 RIRs attacked the village of Moeuvres. The Battalion was in support. The 12 were held up and A, B & C Coys went up in support and fought their way about ¾ of the way through the village, but had to come back owing to the fact their flanks were in the air. D Coy moved up the trench to the W of the village with the high ground as their objective, but the enemies resistance was too great.

The casualties that day were one officer killed and four wounded; 16 other ranks killed, 99 wounded and 7 missing. Second Lieutenant Stewart was one of those listed as wounded.

While this wound was not severe enough to require evacuation to the UK, three months later he was sent to England for treatment of an ingrown toenail and abscess on his foot. He rejoined the 2nd RIR at Peterborough Camp in the Ypres front on 17 June 1918.

On 29 July Stewart took part in a daylight patrol, narrated as follows in the battalion war diary:

At 5-30 p.m ... a patrol was sent out under Lieut. D.B. Walkington and 2nd Lieut. J.N.G. Stewart composed of 4 Other Ranks with the object of obtaining identification. The patrol left our Line at X.11.b.68.02 and made direct for X.12.c.01.23. At this point a German Post was found, the patrol rushed the post which appeared to be held by about ten men. 4 prisoners were taken (1 N.C.O. and three men) 2 of whom were killed in No Man's Land on the way back as they shewed fight, when enemy machine gun opened fire. The remainder of the post were either killed or wounded. At this juncture the patrol was fired on by enemy Machine gun but no casualties occurred. The patrol re-entered our Line at 7.45 p.m. at about X.12.c.28.16.

Both officers were awarded a Military Cross for their part in the patrol. Stewart's citation reads:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty while leading a patrol. This patrol crawled out some 500 yards in daylight and surprised and rushed an enemy post of twelve men, killing four, wounding two, and making four prisoners. After bombing a small dug-out he then withdrew his patrol skilfully under heavy machine-gun fire. He showed great dash and disregard of danger.

Stewart was promoted to lieutenant on 28 February 1919. He was demobilised on 9 April 1919, and relinquished his commission on 1 April the following year.

During the Second World War he served as a lieutenant in the Royal Ulster Rifles. He died on 30 November 1951 at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.