Stewart’s return to action was shortly before April’s Battle of Vimy Ridge. In preparation, the Canadian artillery and infantry were integrated. Appointed the CO of the 4th artillery brigade in the 1st Division, he carefully followed the 35 pages of General Morrison’s instructions, and participated in the trial barrages (April 3) and trial bombardments (April 6) before the attack began at 5:30 a.m. on April 9. By then, 983 Canadian guns were facing 212 German guns.
The battle opened with one million rounds of shelling. Triangulation had pinpointed the German guns. Eighty-three percent of them were knocked out immediately. The infantry attack followed the artillery rolling barrage which advanced 100 yards every four minutes. So effective was the advance, some of the infantry reached their objectives by 8:45 a.m. and all did by noon.
Stewart’s leadership qualities had come to the attention of his superiors early in the war. They led to his double promotion from a lieutenant colonel to a brigadier general on July 7, 1917, initially as the temporary CO of the 4th Division Artillery. There were seven brigades under him. The promotion was made permanent in October, just before Passchendaele. In December, he was transferred permanently to the 3rd Division. His new position he found much less stressful.
Another acknowledgement came February 21, 1918, when Stewart was invited for dinner with Division Commander General Lypsett, who was entertaining Winston Churchill and the Duke of Westminster. Churchill quite impressed Stewart.
In July 1918, Stewart was sitting in a chair in his HQ compound when a shell hit 20 feet away. It bruised his back and was “like being hit by a baseball.” The bruising was extensive, but the skin remained intact. No leave was required.
The last 100 days began on August 7 with the Battle of Amiens. The Canadians were alongside the Australians. Backed by 400 tanks, they penetrated five miles the first day, securing 3,000 prisoners and 162 guns. Ludendorff called it the blackest day in the history of the German army. Stewart was awarded a Croix de Guerre from the French a week later.
Stewart’s last battle was at Mons, Belgium on the night of November 10/11th. Mons had been the site of the first major battle in WWI. It was also where my grandfather ended his WWI overseas tour of duty, and my father began his in WWII.
With Ludendorff’s resignation on October 29 and the Kaiser’s abdication on November 9, an armistice was signed effective 11 a.m. on November 11. The Mons victory parade that day was led by General Stewart, who ordered the “general salute” in front of General Officer Commanding Sir Arthur Currie and the King of Belgium.
General Stewart was awarded one of six Canadian artillery military honors by the king on January 3, 1919. He returned to Canada early, on January 19, in time for the legislative sitting. Despite his wishes for anonymity, many veterans turned out to greet him when he arrived on the 3 a.m. train from Medicine Hat.
Dr. Stewart ran federally as a Conservative in 1925 and was defeated, but was elected for one term as a Member of Parliament in 1930. He continued his dental practice for over 58 years until retiring in 1960 at age 83. The General Stewart School (kindergarten to Grade 6) was named after him in 1957 and in the same year, U of A Chancellor Dr. Earle Scarlett presented him with an honorary law degree.
On the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Mons in 1968, Dr. Stewart returned to Belgium and received the “Citoyen d’Honneur,” to go along with his WWI Victory Medal, King George and Queen Mary Medal, and Efficiency Decoration. Dr. Stewart died in 1970 at age 93.