[Skip to content]

  • Photograph courtesy of Nottingham High School from an unpublished record: 'The Old Boys of Nottingham High School Killed in the First World War'
Person Details
Stanley Ewart was born in Nottingham in 1890 (reg. J/F/M) and was the second son of Rev. Robert and Annie Cairns and grandson of Alderman Robert Mellors of Langsdale, Mount Hooton Road, Nottingham. His parents, later lived in Washington, USA. Stanley married Gertrude Martha Mason (b. 10 May 1888) at All Saints' Church on 18th May 1918, four months before his death in France. The probate record gave his address as Lingdale, Mount Hooton Road, Nottingham, which was probably the home of his grandfather, Alderman Mellors. A report of Stanley's death in the local newspaper gave his widow's address as 132 Portland Road, Nottingham. His widow married Clifford Elborne in 1923 and they had a daughter, Alice Jean (b. 9 April 1924). The CWGC record gave Gertrude Elborne's address as 'The Gables', Woodthorpe Drive, Mapperley Plains, Nottingham. However, in 1939 when the England & Wales Register was compiled she and her husband ('retired/incapacitated') and their daughter were living in Cromer, Norfolk. Clifford died on 7 March 1956 and Gertrude on 4 December 1956. Their daughter married Roy Gilbert Cook in 1946 and died in 1990.
Educated at Nottingham High School and Huntingdon Grammar School. At Nottingham High School he twice played in goal for the First XI football team. On the first occasion his side secured a record 23-0 victory against Wyggeston High School from Leicester. In 1911, he was a London-based chartered accountant. He served his articles with Messrs Mellors, Barden & Co.
30 Sep 1918
2912078 - CWGC Website
  • MC MC Military Cross
7th Bn Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regiment)
Attached 7th Bn Sherwood Foresters formerly 1883 Private Honourable Artillery Company. Stanley enlisted on 5 September 1914. He served in France with the 1st Bn Honourable Artillery Company from 20 January 1915 and was wounded at Hooge on 16 June 1915. He was commissioned second lieutenant on 16 January 1916. Cairns was killed shortly after winning the MC during the successful British operation to breach the Hindenburg Line in September 1918, the action known as the battle of St Quentin Canal. On the day before Cairns died, a detachment of 46th North Midland Division led by men from the North Staffordshire Regiment, took the Riqueval Bridge over the St Quentin Canal which proved to be vital strategic breakthrough. Wilfred Owen won his MC on October 1st at nearby Joncourt. In the Regimental History of the Honourable Artillery Company, he was recorded as having been a soldier in the 1st Battalion. He enlisted on 5th September 1914, proceeding overseas with 1st battalion on 20th January 1915. He was wounded at Hooge on 16th June 1915 and eventually commissioned, presumably into 1/7th Sherwood Foresters, on 16th January 1916. Twice wounded, he was awarded the Military Cross before being killed at Bellenglise on 29th September 1918. There appears some discrepancy over the date of his death, but the family listed it as 30th September 1918. He is buried in La Baraque British Cemetery, Bellenglise, France (grave A. 23). The following describes in detail the action at Hooge where Cairns was wounded: 'The Honourable Artillery Company In The Great War 'On June 14th the C.O. was called to a Brigade conference, and the rumour that the 3rd Division was to deliver an attack was confirmed. The neighbourhood of the pocket at Hooge had become so unpleasant that it had been decided to endeavour to straighten the line between Hooge Château and Railway Wood, a front of about 1000 yards. The 9th Brigade were to deliver the assault, immediately supported by the 7th Brigade, the 8th Brigade being in reserve. 'The task allotted the H.A.C. was to follow the 1st Lincolns, as soon as it had been ascertained that the German front line and support line had been captured. The line of advance was through “Y” Wood. Three companies of the H.A.C. were to occupy and reconstruct the captured trenches in “Y” Wood, while one company H.A.C. was to make a communication trench from the captured trenches in “Y” Wood back to our original line. The Brigadier impressed upon the O.C. the necessity for the H.A.C. sticking to the task allotted to them, and insisted that they were not to be diverted from their task of going on with the advance or being deflected into some side show. The preliminary bombardment would start at 2.50 a.m. and lift at 4.15 a.m., at which time the assault was to take place. The attack was to be delivered on June 16th. 'At the Battalion conference on the morning of June 15th the orders were explained in detail to all the officers and N.C.O.’s, and when we moved out from bivouac everyone knew exactly what to do. “D” Company was to be on the right, “B” Company in the centre, and “C” Company on the left, and each Company had its sector of trench in “Y” Wood marked out on the map for reconstruction. “A” Company was to make the communication trench. This was a most thankless task, as it meant digging in the open under an appalling fire, so the Company Commanders drew lots and it fell to Capt. Lankester. Leaving our bivouac at 5.30 p.m. we marched to Kreustraat, south of Ypres. While resting near the Château, Capt. Walsh was hit in three places on the head. There was a dressing station quite handy, and Capt. Carnwath was able to get him attended to and dispatched in an ambulance before the Battalion moved on. This was the third occasion on which the Adjutant had been wounded. The O.C. immediately appointed Capt. C.F. Osmond Acting Adjutant. We reached Lille Gate at Ypres about 10.30 p.m., schedule time, and picked up our guides from the 4th Middlesex. On arrival at the cross roads known as Hell Fire Corner, as the shelling did not appear to be very bad, Col. Treffry decided that it would be better to use the road than to go wondering about in mucky trenches and across country. So he gave the order to “close up and step out.” Curious to relate the shelling ceased altogether, and the Battalion marched in fours straight down the Menin Road until we met our Battalion guides, who led the Companies to their positions in the assembly trenches. The rear Company, which happened to be “B,” was unfortunately held up by another battalion for a few minutes, and they had five casualties, Lieut. Ayscough and four men being hit. Major Ward had made excellent arrangements as regards guides; otherwise it would have been impossible for us to have got in so cheaply. 'No written orders had been issued relative to the attack. This was rather a feature of the early days of the war, and one that will be envied by those who suffered from the voluminous and detailed orders of later years. No artillery barrage was attempted, merely a preliminary bombardment which was supposed to lift at a stated time, and, owing to miscalculations of time or want of co-ordination, this arrangement resulted in chaos in the most forward line. Machine guns were moved forward with the main attack and no attempt was made to help the advance by fire from flanks, which could probably have been brought to bear successfully from Hooge Stables. 'The attack was carried out with magnificent spirit and dash. Perhaps the exuberance of the first line of advance was the cause of the misunderstanding about the lifting of the bombardment. The task of the H.A.C. seemed a simple one. It was to occupy the main line of defence and dig one of the communication trenches. This latter duty was most admirably and gallantly performed by No 1 Company, and it may be said that this was the only communication trench dug that day. 'The chief feature of the action was the counter bombardment previous to an attempted German counter attack. Many readers may have experienced bigger and bloodier battles, but few can ever have experienced anything much worse than this shelling. It must be remembered that the position occupied was the very apex of the triangle forming the Ypres Salient; consequently shells arrived from the front and from both flanks, to say nothing of some that appeared to come from the rear. It was an experience that few would envy, and it was at this time that most of our casualties occurred. 'The counter attack was quickly dealt with and never properly developed. Had it done so, very heavy casualties would have been inflicted on the enemy and the final position might have been improved. 'There is little doubt that far too many troops were pushed into the battle position, with the result that heavier losses were incurred than should have been necessary. The H.A.C., of course, stuck to their ground, and added to the reputation they had already gained by their previous behaviour in the face of the enemy. 'In order adequately to describe this engagement, the first attack in which the 1st H.A.C. took part, the operation will be described from two points of view. The following is an account of the action by Col. Treffry: “Punctually at 2.30 a.m. on June 16th, our bombardment of the German line started, and increased in violence until 4.15, when the assault was launched. The first line was carried straight away. Those of the enemy who were alive were much too dazed to offer resistance. The second line was also carried at once, and the assault pushed on to the German third line and carried that also, all three line within the space of half an hour. As soon as I heard that the first line was carried, that the assault had gone on, and that “D” Company H.A.C. had mustered in the fire trenches, I ordered Douglas with that Company to go forward. No sooner had I said the word “Go,” than they were over the parapet like steeplechasers. It really was splendid to see the eagerness with which they went over the top. “B” and “C” Companies went over next almost simultaneously. 'I had sent a note to the Brigadier informing him that all Companies H.A.C. had moved to their tasks, when I was hit in the head by a piece of shrapnel. This was a little after 5 a.m. Bowman, the orderly-room Sergeant, assisted me to the dressing station adjoining our front fire trench. After I had had my head dressed I returned to Battalion Headquarters and, after some little while, learned that the Companies were in position, and that they had got on with their job splendidly. I also learned that Major Ward, the Second-in-Command, had been hit early in the day, also Capt. Boyle and several other officers, but that so far the casualties among the men were not out of proportion. I was rather anxious about the communication trench, but I had an early report that it had been completed and that Capt. Lankester had moved forward with the remnant of his Company to assist in driving off the counter attack. 'It is very difficult in an account of this kind to single out any particular officer or man when all did so remarkably well, but probably the most thankless job of the lot was that of “A” Company, who could at first take no part in the fighting, but had to dig, under a concentrated bombardment and furious cross machine-gun fire, until their task was completed or they were knocked out. Capt. Lankester and C.S.M. Murray behaved with the utmost gallantry, and set a magnificent example. Lankester walked up and down most of the time, encouraging his men and smoking a big cigar, and it was astonishing that he had not been hit then (later in the day he was hit). C.S.M. Murray carried no less than seven wounded men who were lying in the open across 150 yards of this fire-swept zone to comparative safety. He was afterwards awarded the D.C.M. for these acts of gallantry. Capt. Douglas, to whom I had to hand over the command at about 1 p.m., also behaved with admirable judgement and cool-headedness. In fact, all the officers and men behaved splendidly, and it was the proudest moment of my life when a Staff Officer came into the shelter which I was sharing as Headquarters with other C.O.’s, and, as far as I remember, spoke as follows:- “The confusion up in front is appalling, Units seem to be inextricably mixed up, but there is one unit which is properly organised, is altogether, knows what it has to do and has done it dam’ well, and that is the H.A.C.” 'With regard to the confusion in the front line, mentioned by the Staff Officer just referred to, I ascertained in conversation with officers afterwards that this confusion was caused by a certain want of co-operation between our own artillery and infantry. Very shortly after that, another Staff Officer came in, and said:-“Well, if I have never seen ‘stickers’ in my life before, I have seen them today and they are the H.A.C. The Boche will never shift them.” I said to Sergt. Bowman, who had been endeavouring for several hours to get me to go back, “Nunc Dimittis. I can go now,” as in these few sentences I felt that I had been amply rewarded for effort or work that I had put in for the old regiment. 'Our machine-gun section, under Capt. Holliday, took its four guns into action and did most admirably. Capt. Holliday never showed to better advantage than in the front line. Capt. Osmond did admirably as Acting Adjutant, and to his efforts and contempt of danger in moving about from one Company to another, seeing that proper touch was kept, is due in great measure the fact that the Battalion remained an organised unit throughout the day. He had a marvellous escape. He was occupying a bay with fifteen Fusiliers when a salvo of 5.9’s landed in the bay, burying everyone. He alone got out alive. The Battalion was relieved on the night of June 16-17th by the 1st Gordon Highlanders. 'During this action no one behaved with more steadfast courage or showed a greater devotion to duty than our Medical Officer, Capt. Carnwath. He had his aid post in our original front line and from the time of the first assault when the wounded commenced to come in, in fact even before that time, he was at his post and remained there all through the 16th, all through the night of 16-17th, and all through the 17th, on the latter day searching about for any who might have been overlooked and wanted aid. His unit had been relieved and gone down but he still carried on until no further wounded could be found. This had been the spirit in which Carnwath had worked ever since the Battalion came out and I am sure all ranks of the H.A.C. will agree that no more sympathetic, human or devoted medical officer was ever attached to a unit. 'Of Capt. Mayhew, the Quartermaster, ‘Uncle George’ as we all delighted to call him, I may say that no C.O. was better served or unit more thoroughly looked after than by him. I personally own him an immense debt of gratitude. Never once did anything go wrong in his department, and his cheerfulness and tact when times were most trying were of inestimable value to us all. 'Of the officers and men, happy is the C.O. who can get such a type to command. Their loyalty to their C.O. and their devotion to duty were beyond any words of mine, and as regards their discipline I need only say that from August 28th, 1914, to June 16th, 1915 the Battalion had a clean sheet. Their cheerfulness was infectious, and with that splendid regimental spirit, which insists that whatever happens, whatever has to be put up with, whatever has to be gone through, the regiment must not be let down, is it any wonder that they went from success to success, or that a distinguished General should say to me:- “Colonel. Your men act on me as a tonic!” 'Of the fighting officers during the early part of the war one might write indefinitely; their loyalty and devotion to me I shall never forget, and if I mention two or three names it is not that I am picking them out because they are no longer with us. With officers of the type of Ernest Boyle, Ted Ellis, Schiff, Newton and Tatham, all of whom were absolutely fearless and cheerful under any circumstances, it is no surprise that the 1st H.A.C. has helped to add another glorious page to the history of the old Regiment. 'In September 1918 Cairns, after a great deal of action with 1/7th Sherwood Foresters, had been attached to 8th Sherwoods and was killed during the successful British operation to breach the Hindenburg Line between 29th September and 2nd October 1918. The 46th North Midland Division, of which the Sherwood Foresters were a part, was able to force a crossing of the St Quentin Canal, thereby breaching the formidable Hindenburg Line, despite the fact that the canal itself was 35 feet wide and 7-10 feet deep, defended by belts of barbed wire and also by gun emplacements. 'The crossing was stormed by the men of the Staffordshire Regiment and the Sherwood Foresters followed up their advance behind an accurate artillery barrage and using tanks. It was a brilliant success for the Division and the whole British Army, showing how much strategy and tactics had developed since the earlier battles of the war. The commanding officer of 8th Sherwoods, Lieutenant-Colonel Vann, won the Victoria Cross at Bellenglise on 29th September 1918, around the same time as Cairns won the Military Cross. Wlifred Owen, the war poet won his Military Cross at the St Quentin Canal with 2nd Manchesters on the same day. A memorial prize commemorating S E Cairns is still awarded each year at Prizegiving.'
CWGC headstone personal inscription: 'He died that we might live' Nottingham Evening Post, 'Marriages', 22nd May 1918: “CAIRNS – MASON. – On the 18th inst., at All Saints Church by the Rev. Lovell Clark, Stanley E. Cairns, lieut. Sherwood Foresters, son of Rev. Geo. Robert Cairns, of Seattle Wash., U.S.A., and grandson of Mr. Robert Mellors, of Lingedale, Mount Hooton-road, Nottingham, to Gertrude M., daughter of the late Mr. E. B. and Mrs. Mason, Portland-road, Nottingham.” All Saints Church News, November 1918: 'Stanley Ewart Cairns, Lieutenant in the Sherwood Foresters who was killed in action on September 30th. He was the second son of Reverend GR and Mrs Cairns of Washington, USA, and the husband of Gertrude M Cairns of 132 Portland Road. He was a grandson of Alderman Robert Mellors; was educated at the High School and Huntingdon Grammar School. A chartered accountant, he served his articles with Messrs Mellors, Basdon(?) and Co, London. He enlisted in September 1914 in the Honourable Artillery Company and proceeded to the Front in January 1915. He spent nearly 3½ years in France and Belgium and was three times wounded.' Nottingham Evening Post, 'Roll of Honour', 7 October 1918. 'Cairns. Killed in action September 30th 1918, Lieutenant Stanley Ewart Cairns, Sherwood Foresters, husband of Gertrude M Cairns, 132 Portland Road, and son of Rev GR and Mrs Cairns, Seattle, Washington USA, and grandson of Robert Mellors, Langsdale Mount Hooton Road, Nottingham, age 28.' Report published 6th July 1918 in the Nottingham Evening Post :- “SHELL SHOCK. “SECOND-LIEUT. S. E. CAIRNS. “Intimation was also received yesterday [5th July 1916] that Second-Lieutenant Stanley Ewart Cairns, another Sherwood Forester, is suffering from shell shock, and is in hospital near Dieppe. A grandson of Ald. Robert Mellors, the young officer was a chartered accountant, and volunteered at the beginning of the war, joining the Honourable Artillery Company as a private. Subsequently, however, he was granted a commission, being gazetted to the Sherwoods, whom he joined while in France. Although not previously wounded, he was for some time in hospital suffering from a strained ankle, which he sustained in dodging a shell, but the injury was not serious.” Report published in the Nottingham Journal and Express dated 7th October 1918 :- NOTTINGHAM OFFICER FALLS WITH SHERWOODS. “Lieutenant Stanley Ewart Cairns, Sherwood Foresters, was killed in action in France on 30 September. He was the second son of the Rev. G. R. and Mrs. Cairns, of Seattle, U.S.A., and his widow, Mrs. Gertrude M. Cairns, lives at 132 Portland-road, Nottingham. He was a grandson of Ald Mellors, of Lingedale, Mount Hooton-road, Nottingham. “The deceased officer was educated at the Nottingham High School and Huntingdon Grammar School. He was by profession a chartered accountant, passed the intermediate examination of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales fifth in honours, and seventh in honours in his final. He was subsequently with the firm of Messrs. Deloitte, Plender, Griffiths, and Co., London, and was one time secretary of the London Nottinghamshire Society. “He enlisted in September, 1914, in the Honourable Artillery Company, and obtained a commission in the Sherwood Foresters in November, 1915. He had been three times wounded and spent nearly 3½ years in France and Belgium.” Above reports courtesy of Jim Grundy and his facebook pages Small Town Great War Hucknall 10914-1918 Probate: Cairns Stanley Ewart of Lingdale Mount Hooton-road Nottingham lieutenant in HM Army died 29 September 1918 in France Probate Nottingham 6 December to Archibald Galland Mellors chartered accountant. Effects £1084 15s. 2d.
Remembered on


  • Photograph courtesy of Nottingham High School from an unpublished record: 'The Old Boys of Nottingham High School Killed in the First World War'
    Stanley Ewart Cairns - Photograph courtesy of Nottingham High School from an unpublished record: 'The Old Boys of Nottingham High School Killed in the First World War'