SECOND LIEUTENANT STUART STIRLING GEMMELL
21ST MARCH 1918 AGE 19
BURIED: FAUBOURG D'AMIENS CEMETERY, ARRAS, FRANCE
Sweet bird! thy bower is ever green,
Thy sky is ever clear;
Thou hast no sorrow in thy song,
No winter in thy year!
From 'To the Cuckoo'
This eight verse poem was either written by John Logan (1748-1788) or by his friend Michael Bruce (1746-1767). Logan edited and published Bruce's poems and added some of his own. 'To the Cuckoo', thought to be the best in the collection, was one Logan claimed for himself but Bruce's friends hotly disputed this. The poet sees the cuckoo as forever associated with spring and summer, making it a beautiful image for a young person who dies before their time, someone born to "know not winter, only spring" ['In Memoriam F.A.S.' by Robert Louis Stevenson].
Stuart Stirling Gemmell was 19 when he was killed on the afternoon of 21 March 1918 "during hostile bombardment" whilst his battalion were in the trenches at Les Fosses Farm off the Cambria Road. Gemmell served in the 3rd Battalion Cameron Highlanders but at the time of his death was attached to the 7th. All through February and March 1918 the British army had been expecting the German offensive. The 7th Battalion's regimental history notes that for many weeks beforehand neither officers nor men had taken their clothes off as they worked hard to prepare belts of wire and improve the trench systems in anticipation of the attack. Although the 21st was the day the Germans launched their offensive, it was not in the location of the 7th Battalion. They had to wait until 3 am on the morning of the 28th before the onslaught reached them.
Stuart Gemmell was the youngest of the three sons of John Edward Gemmell, a consultant gynaecologist and obstetrician, and his wife Margaret Ann of Beechlands, Mossley Hill, Liverpool. Educated at Uppingham School, Gemmell took up his place at Cambridge University until he was old enough to join up. He was gazetted second lieutenant in July 1917 and had been at the front since September. His older brother, Lieutenant Kenneth Alexander Gemmell of The King's Liverpool Regiment, was killed in action at Bellewaarde on 16 June 1915. He does not have a grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate.