Thomas Edgar Stewart was born in Alloa, Clackmannanshire, Scotland in 1892, the son of William Smith Stewart and Mary Ann Stewart. The family home was at 182 Cathedral Street, Glasgow, Lanarkshire.
A professional steward in the British Mercantile Marine, he engaged on his usual ship, the Anchor Lines vessel SS Cameronia, at Glasgow on 15 April 1915. However at the end of April 1915 whilst the liner was in New York, the British Admiralty requisitioned her for war service as a troop ship. On 1 May nine crew members not needed for her new rôle (stewards, stewardesses and a matron) were transferred to the
Lusitania. These included Thomas Edgar Stewart who joined the Lusitania for her last ever transatlantic crossing. The vessel left New York after a delayed start at 12.27pm.
It proved to be a tragic move for Assistant Steward Stewart as he was killed six days later when the
Lusitania was sunk off the coast of southern Ireland by the German submarine
U-20. At that stage of her voyage the liner was only 12 to 14 hours steaming time away from the safety of her Liverpool home port. Thomas Stewart was aged 23 years.
His body was one of the first to be recovered from the sea, and after it was landed at Queenstown it was given the reference number 41 in one of the temporary mortuaries. This was probably the one set up in the yard of the Cunard office at Lunch’s Quay in the town.
His remains were identified by a fellow steward and Glaswegian who had transferred from the Cameronia with him, Jack McIver. Property recovered from his body included some small change, a corkscrew, two pocket knives, a bunch of keys, a comb, a pencil, a spoon and a handkerchief.
On 10 May 1915 Thomas Stewart was buried in Mass Grave C, Fourth Row, Lower Tier, in The Old Church Cemetery, Queenstown. Most of the victims of the sinking were buried that day, following a long funeral procession which began outside Cunard’s office in the town.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission was not aware that Thomas Stewart has an identifiable burial site, so after the First World War they commemorated him on the Mercantile Marine Memorial to the Missing at Tower Hill, London. However once the author had established beyond doubt that he was buried in The Old Church Cemetery, the Commission agreed to erect a permanent memorial to him where he is buried and this was done in November 1998.
It takes the form of a monument of Irish limestone, sited at the head of Mass Grave B, the centre one of the three. The names of crew members buried in the three mass graves are incised on two black granite panels on the memorial, with a legend in between them:
"1914 - 1918
IN HONOURED MEMORY
OF THOSE NAMED WHO,
SERVING ON THE
DIED WHEN THE SHIP WAS
SUNK BY ENEMY ACTION
ON 7 MAY 1915
AND ARE BURIED NEARBY"
The name of Assistant Steward Thomas Stewart is incised on the right hand panel.
The Commission has also stated that should it ever be necessary to renew the relevant panel on the Tower Hill Memorial, his name would be omitted from its replacement.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Cunard Records, UniLiv.D92/1/8-10, UniLiv D92/2/68, PRO BT 334.