It was a memorable and moving experience to lay a wreath at the Menin Gate on August 7th 2015 in memory of Jack Reynolds, my great uncle, who was killed near Ypres on August 7th 1915. He was 28 years old.
A few days later, with the First World War still very much in my mind, Anne and I visited the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Boyton, seven miles from Warminster. We knew that Canon Edward Steward, Principal of Salisbury Training College from 1891 until 1909, had subsequently become rector of the parish of Boyton with Sherrington. We also knew that his son Arthur had been killed on active service in the First World War. On entering the church, we noticed Arthur’s name (Revd A Steward) on the Roll of Honour in the porch. I felt drawn to investigate further.
Arthur Steward initially envisaged his career as being that of a soldier and on leaving school he joined the Norfolk Militia, rather than going to university. He served in the Boer War and was discharged in 1902. He then attended Magdalen College Oxford and whilst studying for his degree was a member of the Officer Training Corps. Following that, he entered Wells Theological College to train for ordination.
Arthur married Miriam Carver, whose family lived at The Moot, Downton in 1912. Their wedding was at St Andrew’s Church, Laverstock, where the Revd Stanley Baker (college chaplain at this time) later became the vicar. After working as a missionary in Johannesburg, taking his wife with him, Arthur returned to this country in 1915 and became one of the few combatant priests in the British Army. He was initially a 2nd Lieutenant in the Special Reserve of Officers of the Royal Field Artillery, but later transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and trained to become a Balloon Officer. Arthur was killed in 1917, the day before his daughter’s first birthday. He was 35 years old. He is, like my great uncle, buried in a cemetery near Ypres. Had I known this, I would have gone there a few weeks ago.
The Church of St Mary the Virgin, Boyton is beautiful and in a glorious rural location. The former rectory, where the Stewards lived, is next to the church. Students loved going out to visit them there, receiving a warm welcome and a taste of home. Much of the glass in the east window of the church comes from Salisbury Cathedral and is part of that collected by the Revd. Stanley Baker, who was a friend of Canon Steward.
The tragedy that hit my family one hundred years ago was similar to those that shocked and saddened countless other families across the world. The story of Arthur Steward, son of the much loved and respected Principal of Salisbury Training College, helps to bring that home.