For Valour: A First-Day Battle of the Somme VC

For Valour: A First-Day Battle of the Somme VC

Major Stewart Walter Loudoun-Shand VC
Major Stewart Walter Loudoun-Shand VC

Temporary-Major Stewart Walter Loudoun-Shand of the Yorkshire Regiment was one of nine men to receive the Victoria Cross – Britain’s highest award for valour ‘in the face of the enemy’ – on the first-day of the Battle of the Somme, fought from 1 July to 18 November 1916. Of those nine, only three would survive that fateful day; Loudoun-Shand, however, was not to be one of the lucky ones.

Born in Ceylon on 8 October 1879, Loudoun-Shand was the son of a plantation owner and one of ten children. When old enough to attend school, he travelled back to England where he received an education in South London before continuing his studies at Dulwich College, graduating in 1897.

When the Anglo-Boer broke out in 1899, Loudoun-Shand volunteered for the Pembroke Yeomanry, rising to the rank of lance-corporal. Later, he would be granted a commission and joined the Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own (Yorkshire Regiment), serving with the 10th (Service) Battalion of the regiment during the First World War.

The battalion was one of Kitchener’s New Armies formations, having been raised on 30 September 1914 in Richmond as part of K3. It was attached to 62nd Brigade of the 21st Division, and landed in Boulogne, France on 10 September 1915. It would serve on the Western Front throughout the remainder of the war.

It would be with the 10th Battalion that Major Loudoun-Shand ‘went over the top’ on the first-day of the Battle of the Somme. The following citation for his Victoria Cross was published in the London Gazette of 9 September 1916, and explains the circumstances of the award and his subsequent death:

‘For most conspicuous bravery. When his company attempted to climb over the parapet to attack the enemy’s trenches, they were met by very fierce machine gun fire, which temporarily stopped their progress. Maj. Loudoun-Shand immediately leapt on the parapet, helped the men over it and encouraged them in every way until he fell mortally wounded. Even then he insisted on being propped up in the trench, and went on encouraging the non-commissioned officers and men until he died.’

He was thirty-six years of age when he was killed-in-action, and today his name can be found commemorated at the West Norwood Cemetery, although he is buried at the Norfolk Cemetery in Becordel-Becourt near the Somme. His Victoria Cross is part of the Lord Ashcroft Collection, currently on display at the Imperial War Museum in London.

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