Lieutenant Ronald Stewart

Biography of Lieutenant Ronald Stewart

The SS Arcadian was a passenger ship built by Vickers in 1899 and requisitioned first as an armed merchant cruiser and then a troopship in the First World War. Lieutenant Ronald Stewart was a medical graduate serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps who was one of 1,335 men on board bound for Alexandria when it encountered German U-boat SM UC-74. The journey began a few days earlier when the ship left Salonika and ended on the 15th April north east of the Greek Island of Melos in the Aegean Sea. 279 lives were lost.

Ronald Stewart was born in Glasgow on the 22nd September 1890. His father, John, was a Sugar Merchant. Ronald attended Kelvinside Academy where he was School Dux and renowned as a splendid rugby full-back and team captain. In 1909 he began his medical studies at Glasgow. He was a very successful student and over the years collected an impressive number, ten in all, of mentions on the prize-list. These included first and second class certificates, a commendation in Surgery and a prize in Dermatology. In October 1913 he sat his Finals. After graduation he completed house jobs at the Western Infirmary and Belvedere and worked in surgery at Stobhill No 4 General Hospital, used during the war for the treatment of wounded servicemen.

In April 1917 Lieutenant Stewart was posted to Alexandria to join the British Expeditionary Force. Even before the Arcadian met its fate, it had been an eventful voyage and the ship had to take evasive action from a U-boat. On the 15th April, and just after completing a lifeboat drill, the Arcadian was hit by a torpedo. It took just six minutes to sink, and the fact that the majority survived may have been due to the fact that so many were on deck for the drill, and escaped on lifeboats or were picked up by an accompanying Japanese destroyer. Many of the dead were cooks and stokers from below deck. But not all. Glasgow doctor, Lieutenant Ronald Stewart was lost at sea, and so too was the distinguished bacteriologist Sir Marc Armand Ruffer. On the same day, Britain lost another troopship, the Cameronia, and lost another Glasgow man, Lieutenant David Lindsay. The German command had stepped up its commitment of submarines in the Mediterranean. Ronald’s name is engraved on the Mikra Memorial in Thessaloniki, Greece. It commemorates the 500 nurses, officers and men who died when troopships and hospital ships were lost at sea, and who have no known grave.

Summary

Lieutenant Ronald Stewart
Rank: Lieutenant
Regiment: Royal Army Medical Corps
Degree: MB ChB
Awards: N/A
Comments: Lost at sea, 15 April 1917.
Note/Press Clipping: Ch 4/4/2/3/864, 1225
Photo ID: N/A

Sources

University of Glasgow General Council and Registry records.

Obituary: Glasgow Medical Journal, Vol. 88, p.36 (1917).

Kelvinside Academy Roll of Honour.

Memorial Place: Commonwealth War Graves Commission - Find War Dead

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