Hedley was the third son of Joseph and Fanny Stewart and one of 9 surviving children who grew up in Rock Cottage, Beeston Mount, Bollington. He was baptised at Pott Shrigley 17 Jun 1888. He attended St John’s Parish School. Hedley worked as a `back tenter ` at Ingersley Vale Bleachworks , the same mill as his father and several siblings. Hedley was a sidesman at St. John’s church and secretary of the St. John’s Parish Sunday School. He was a member of the Church Council, and secretary of the Free-will Offering Scheme.
Hedley was 25 when he enlisted into the Royal Fusiliers on 20th November 1914, becoming PS/4227 Private Stewart (the PS relates to Public Schools Battalion)
He trained in England on the Epsom Downs for a year before being sent to France with his regiment on the 14 November 1915. This is a photo of him in England during training 26th February 1915.
It is not known when Hedley changed battalions. 21st Battalion was formed at Epsom on 11 September 1914 by the Public Schools and University Men’s Force. It came under command of 98 Brigade, 33 Division 26 June 1915 and landed in France in November 1915. It was transferred to GHQ 27 February 1916 and disbanded 24 April 1916 with many of the men being commissioned as officers. 23rd Battalion was formed at the Hotel Cecil in the Strand, London, on 25 September 1914 and came under command of 99 Brigade, 33 Division in June 1915. It landed at Boulogne in November 1915 and transferred with the Brigade to 2 Division 25 November 1915.
23rd Bn was part of V Corps of 5th Army at the The Battle of the Ancre, 13 – 18 November 1916. The seven-day bombardment before the battle cut the wire on most of the attack front and destroyed many German defensive positions, except the dugouts built deep below the villages near the front-line. The rain stopped on the night of 11/12 November and a full moon illuminated the landscape. Towards dawn on 13 November, a mist developed which reduced visibility to nil. The mist helped the British advance by reducing visibility but caused many units to lose the barrage as they struggled through mud. Losses in 2 Division from 13–16 November were about 3,000.
He died exactly a year to the day later on 14 November 1916, aged 27, and was buried at Serre Road Cemetery No. 2, south of Arras, France.
An extract from the War Diary read as follows:
‘The road out of Mailly-Maillet to Serre and Puisieux entered No Man’s Land about 1,300 metres south-west of Serre. On 1 July 1916, the 31st and 4th Divisions attacked north and south of this road and although parties of the 31st Division reached Serre, the attack failed. The 3rd and 31st Divisions attacked once more on the 13 November, but again without success.’
The map shows the Mailley-Maillet to Serre road the red flag by the road marks the German frontline and today is the location of Serre No1 cemetery. Serre No2. is located on the same road just off the map. It was in this area that the battalion attacked on 13th November. Serre was a target on the opening day of the somme, 1st July 1916. It was taken until February 1917, when the Germans withdrew to the Hindenburg Line.
His father (Joseph Stewart) received the following letter from his commanding officer:
It is with great regret that I have to inform you of your son Private H Stewart who was killed on 14th inst. His death has been a great blow to me and to the whole battalion and I cannot speak too highly of him. He was killed while gallantly carrying out his duty during our advance in the recent operations north of the Ancre. His courageous work will never be forgotten, and as his officer I can truly say that as one of my best men he is very hard to replace. Offering you my deepest sympathy, Yours faithfully, J A Charlier, 2nd Lt Lewis Gun Officer.
A year and a week later Joseph and Fanny would receive more sad news, Hedley's younger brother Gordon Audley was killed in action 21st November 1917.
He is named on the memorials at Bollington and St Oswald’s and on the Stewart grave at St John’s [plot 1905]. He is listed among the “fallen at the post of duty” on the 1917 Roll of Honour.
He was named as one of those “who have paid the Supreme Sacrifice during the War” at a Solemn Requiem Service held at St John’s at 10.30 am on 3 November 1918.
Cheshire Roll of Honour would like to thank Linda Stewart for this information.