World War I: Ninian Crichton Stuart

11 November 2018

Lord Ninian Crichton Stuart (born 14th July 1883) was the second son of John, the 3rd Marquess of Bute, and his wife Gwendolen. Educated at Harrow and Christ Church, Oxford, he showed particular aptitude for maths and languages, originally pursuing a career in the diplomatic service which had to be abandoned due to illness and the death of his father in 1900. He married Ismay Mary Preston, the only daughter of Jenico Preston, 14th Viscount Gormanston, in 1906 and they had four children: Michael, Ninian Patrick, Ismay and Claudia.

Ninian entered military service in 1905 with the 3rd Battalion Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders and the Scots Guards as 2nd Lieutenant. He transferred to the reserves to pursue a career in politics first in Fife and later Cardiff. At the outbreak of war in 1914 he was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the 6th (Glamorgan) Battalion, The Welch Regiment.

Ninian was known for being especially dedicated to his men. During the first year of the war the battalion was kept behind the lines until July 1915 earning the nickname ‘the Lucky Six’ because of the low number of causalities they sustained. The men he commanded considered him an equal, he was always deeply affected by losses and made sure religious ceremonies were held respecting the beliefs of each man.

Ninian (far right) with his siblings John, Colum and Margaret.

The Battle of Loos began on 21st September 1915 with six British divisions attempting to attack fortified German positions in the hopefully named ‘Big Push’; this was to be the biggest British attack in 1915 and the first time the British used poison gas. The 6th Battalion were charged with capturing a set of German trenches at the Hohenzollern Redoubt, a defensive strong point for the German Army on the Western Front. The next morning the German troops attempted to retake their trenches and Crichton Stuart’s Battalion was split from the other Welsh battalion holding the trenches, during the effort to rejoin the other units Ninian was shot and killed by a German sniper, he was 32 years old. He was buried in Bethune Town Cemetery in Northern France.

After his death an officer said of Crichton Stuart: he was to be found wherever danger threatened and that his death had cast a gloom over the battalion. Of the 842 original members of the 6th Battalion only 30 survived to Armistice. After his death Ninian’s wife Ismay received many messages of condolence, including a letter from the wife of MP David Lloyd George. A statue was erected in his memory in the Goresedd Gardens in Cardiff in 1919.

The research for this piece was undertaken by Lewis Owen.