I had no idea who this dashing young airman was until Auntie told me “that’s your Granny’s brother, James. He was in the Air Force and went missing in World War II around the time Great Grandpa Stewart died”. I didn’t know that Granny had a third brother, and I wanted to find out more about James so I did a bit of digging. Great Grandpa (James Cameron Stewart) died on 5 February 1941, so James must have been reported missing around then. If I hadn’t asked about this photo, he could have been lost without trace a second time :-(
I searched the casualties on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website and found:
“In Memory of Sergeant JAMES STEWART 945565, 149 Sqdn., Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve who died on 21 February 1941. Remembered with honour. Runnymede Memorial” along with a photo of the memorial.
I then posted an appeal for help at the Scottish War Memorials Project and a very helpful member was able to tell me that there is mention of a James Stewart, Sgt Royal Air Force, on Blairgowrie War Memorial. He also gave me the following information:
“Shows as born Blairgowrie, served in Bomber Command. Airborne at 18.25 from Mildenhall that night in Welllington R-1045 on operation to Wilhelmshaven. Aircraft lost without trace, all crew commemorated at Runnymede.”
The Scottish War Memorials Project have photos and information on many of the war memorials in Scotland, posted by volunteers, many of whom are extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic.
While googling for a photo of a Wellington R-1045, I came across the Aircrew Remembrance Society which mentions the Wilhelmshaven Raid:
“Took off from R.A.F. Feltwell, Norfolk at around 19.00 hrs to take part on a raid on Wilhelmshaven. A total of 54 Wellingtons took part with 19 actually bombing the target area. No details were available of damage to the town. This was one of two aircraft lost on this raid – the other a Wellington IC R1045 OJM from 149 squadron flown by F/O. Ian Henderson was also lost without trace, together with all six crew. Another Wellington IC T2547 crashed on landing, colliding with a fence near the airfield perimeter – all this crew survived.”
My great uncle James was presumably part of the crew on F/O Henderson’s plane. I will contact the Aircrew Remembrance Society to see if they have any further information, or if they would like a copy of James’s photo. They are doing a great job of helping relatives of fallen and missing airmen from the 1939-45 air war and preserving memories, documents and photographs – their website is well worth a visit.
So, this week I will check for a birth record for James in Blairgowrie, Perthshire, which should confirm his parents as James Cameron Stewart and Janet Christian (Chris) Hardie. Then I’ll see what else I can find out about James’s short life – he would have been around 26 or 27 when he died. I can’t imagine what Chris went through, losing her husband and a son in less than 3 weeks.
*** UPDATE ***
I found James’s birth record (doc ref 372/4) registered in the Parish of Lethendy, County of Perth. He was born on 1 June 1915 at 7am, and his parents were James Stewart, farmer, and Janet Christian Stewart, maiden surname Hardie, who were noted as having married on 23 March 1904 in Dunfermline, Fife.
Read other Sentimental Sunday posts from Geneabloggers – or why not post your own?