A Boy Soldier

William Stewart IRONSIDE took his father’s name and followed him into the military.  William senior, born in Aberdeen, moved about the country at the government’s behest with his wife Hannah ROBERTS. Their first child, Robert Stewart was baptized in 1883 at the church by Hillsborough Barracks in Sheffield. William Stewart arrived in Christchurch, Hampshire in 1886, and then, two years later and half a world away in the East Indies, Maria was born. By 1890 the family was back in the home country and Ada was welcomed into their midst in Trowbridge, Wiltshire.

The father’s death was registered in Tynemouth in 1898 and two years later his widow married William COON there. The following year they were living at the coastguard station in Berwick on Tweed, with William’s four children by his first marriage. Hannah’s step-daughter Maud was the same age as her boy soldier, but young William was enumerated that year as a patient at the Royal Artillery Hospital in Woolwich.

Whatever ailed him failed to halt his rise through the ranks and by the time he was killed in 1918, nine days before the Armistice, he was an acting Major and expected to be gazetted to Colonel in 24 Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. He was awarded the Military Cross in 1915, the Bar to the MC in February 1918, and the Distinguished Service Order the following September, a couple of weeks before he was killed.

Brigadier General DELAFORGE wrote kindly to William’s wife, Ellen Ironside, née RAWSON. He could not give her details of “the event” in which her husband had lost his life but wrote –

I know that just before his death a report had come to the effect that all objectives had been gained in the attack which he was covering with his guns and so he will have died happily.

The Battle of Valenciennes took place on the first two days of November and William’s unit may have been providing artillery support for the infantrymen of the Canadian Expeditionary Force that secured the victory against the retreating German army.

At the beginning of the war, William’s brother Robert Stewart had been killed on the Western Front. On the 11th November 1914, two days after his death, the War Office published a notification that His Majesty the King had approved the granting of Medals for Distinguished Conduct in the Field. Robert’s citation ran –

120th Battery, Royal Field Artillery: Although wounded at St. Ghislain, on 23rd August, he continued to act as No. 1 of his sub-section under heavy gun and rifle fire, and for subsequent valuable work.

Robert’s War Grave details alerted me to his mother’s re-marriage but William’s Index entry doesn’t record any family relationships, which seems odd for someone of high rank.

William was 31 years old and the father of three children, though as he breathed his last he would have thought only of two. Robert Edmund Stewart IRONSIDE was baptized at St Oswald’s, Filey, on 11 May 1919.

I wrote a Looking at Filey post about William and Ellen five years ago, illustrated with photographs of the couple and anecdotal information generously provided by one of the family. Ellen married again in 1924 and I speculated about her second husband – and got things quite wrong. I’m not beating myself up about this – Jesse BROOKSBANK is hardly a common name and neither is Florence WEALTHALL, who I took to be his first wife. In an attempt to make amends I have put both Jesses on FamilySearch Tree.

If you read my old post on Ellen & William you will see that their third child, Robert Edmund, took their grandchildren by daughter Rene/Irene to America “and nothing more was heard of them”. FamilySearch offered a hint that seemed an unlikely match but it proved to be an immigration record for Robert Edmund, aka ‘Pax Pavane Robert Eadmund Fenga Stewart Ironside de Bragança’. (There is just a chance he is approaching one hundred not out  in Brazil so you cannot access his details on the World Tree.)


Ellen & William: photographers unknown, no dates, courtesy June Gill

Jesse BROOKSBANK born 1881 Barnsley [LY4J-XL6]

Jesse Fenwick Ellis BROOKSBANK born Bramley 1889  [LY4V-RPT]

William Stewart IRONSIDE has a page on the Looking at Filey Wiki. Find him on FamilySearch Tree here.