George Stewart died from wounds received during fighting on the Somme in France on 30 September 1916. He was aged 27. He is buried at Heilly Station Cemetery, Mericourt-l'Abbe, Somme, France.
George was born at Toowoomba in Queensland, Australia on 16 January 1889. His parents were Henrietta Ferguson and James Stewart. His father was a bank manager but died shortly after George's birth. His mother moved to Auckland to be near her brother, James Buchanan Macfarlane.
George attended Epsom School and won a scholarship to Auckland Grammar School where he excelled academically. He achieved a Junior University Scholarship at the end of 1906, with 17th best marks in the country. He proceeded to Auckland University College where he studied law. He played cricket, for the University club while studying at university, was a member of the Auckland Lacrosse Association and was also active in the Auckland Grammar School Old Boys' Association, being elected secretary in 1912.
On 8 May 1912 Stewart was admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court by Justice Sim. He graduated LLB on 6 June 1912. Stewart was employed by the law firm Bamford and Brown, which was located in Queen Street, Auckland. After his admission he appeared many times in the Auckland Magistrate's Court and also made appearances in the Supreme Court.
In one case he appeared in the Hamilton Supreme Court to represent a woman who was seeking to divorce her husband, serving a prison sentence for bigamy. Stewart attempted to convince Edwards J that his client had been beaten, abused and divorced by her husband. However, the judge refused to accept the petitioner's evidence as it was uncorroborated and he could do nothing without evidence of adultery. Stewart managed to bring evidence of likely bigamy and possible co-habitation, the Judge accepting that "slight evidence" was sufficient under the circumstances to prove adultery. The divorce was granted.
Another case in which Stewart appeared, in the Auckland Magistrate's Court, received national coverage. Stewart represented a rugby player charged with assaulting the referee after a fourth grade match. Stewart's client got off with a caution and an order to pay costs only after the Rugby Union said it was not seeking a heavy penalty but wanted the public to understand that misbehaviour would not be allowed at matches.
Stewart enlisted on 14 August 1914 on the outbreak of war. He embarked with the Main Body of the Auckland Infantry Battalion on 16 October, arriving at Suez in Egypt on 3 December. After a period of training his unit embarked for the Dardanelles on 14 April 1915. He was promoted to Lance Corporal on that day and participated in the Gallipoli landing on 25 April.
Stewart was promoted to Sergeant on 12 May 1915. He was admitted to the Australian Hospital in the Dardanelles with influenza on 12 July, rejoining his unit on 23 July. He was wounded in fighting on 19 August 1915 and evacuated to the Canadian Hospital in Taplow, England on 1 September 1915. After recovering he was based at Sling, until he left for France on 5 September 1916, moving to the front line on 26 September. He was wounded in the abdomen in fighting around the Goose Alley trench on 30 September and died the same day.
George Stewart is remembered on the Auckland Grammar School War Memorial, a memorial plaque at St Barnabas Anglican Church in Auckland, and on the Auckland District Law Society memorial plaque.
Sources: Auckland Star, 17 December 1902, page 2; Auckland Star, 14 December 1904, page 2; New Zealand Herald, 14 December 1905, page 3; New Zealand Herald, 20 December 1906, page 7; Auckland Star, 7 February 1907, page 3; New Zealand Herald, 30 October 1908, page 3; New Zealand Herald, 9 May 1912, page 8; Auckland Star, 6 June 1912, page 2; New Zealand Herald, 12 October 1912, page 4; Auckland Star, 27 August 1913, page 7; New Zealand Herald, 17 April 1914, page 10; Waikato Times, 24 June 1914, page 4; Hawera and Normanby Star, 30 June 1914, page 4; New Zealand Herald, 16 October 1916, page 9; OE Burton, The Auckland Regiment, pages 116-117, Whitcombe & Tombs Ltd, 1922.
This obituary has been prepared by the New Zealand Law Society to preserve the memory of members of the legal profession who died while serving in World War I.
By Geoff Adlam, New Zealand Law Society. Further information is welcomed: firstname.lastname@example.org.