John (Jack) was born in Stockton on 18th March 1891 and was the second child of William and Jane Ann Stewart. His father was born in Elton and worked as a gardener and his mother was born in Wolviston. The family lived at 62 Hampton Road, Stockton.

Jack had an older sister Jane (Jinny) born in 1889 and later Kate (Kitty) born in 1893. Reginald, born in 1895, died at two months old when Jack was three.  Arthur, born in 1897, died at 14 months old when Jack was seven.

William was born in Stockton on 6th July 1899 and was the sixth child, followed by Helen (Nellie) born in 1900. By this time the family were living at Cemetery Lodge, Atterby Terrace (later changed to Durham Road), Stockton, as their father was Cemetery Superintendent at Durham Road Cemetery.

In February 1903 their mother, Jane Ann, gave birth to an eighth child, David, but she died twelve days later (Jack was 12 and William two). By 1911 the family were all broken up. Their father William was working in Gateshead as a gardener and he later lost contact with the family.

Jinny (21) was in service in Rochdale. Jack (20) was living with relatives at 14 Suffolk Street, Stockton, and working as a labourer in the Engine Works. Kitty (17) and Nellie (10) were living with their paternal grandparents, John Stewart (72) and his wife Jane (78) at Cemetery Cottages, Oxbridge Lane, Stockton. The Grandfather was Cemetery Superintendent at Oxbridge Lane Cemetery, a position that he had held for many years.

William (12) was in a Cottage Home in Hartington Road, Stockton. David (8) was in the Stockton Union Workhouse at 50 Portrack Lane, Stockton. The other children seem to have been unaware of this; they had been told he had died at the same time as their mother.

When the war started Jack (201547) joined the Royal Field Artillery (“B Bty., 123rd Bde.) and became a Gunner. William (49836) later joined the West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales Own) (10th Bn.) as a Private.

Although separated, the brothers and sisters kept in touch and the family still has a letter written by Jack to Kitty before he left for the front.

William was killed in action in France on 22nd April 1918 (aged 18) and is commemorated at the Pozieres Memorial.

Jack died of wounds 5 months later in France on 11th September 1918 (aged 27) and is buried at Ruyalcourt Military Cemetery. The family understands this was a field dressing station.

The whole family was devastated by the loss of both boys. The three sisters never forgot their brothers and the sacrifice they made for their country and have passed their stories down through the family. Before she died, Jinny’s daughter, Joan, contacted the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and was able to ascertain where they were buried/commemorated and make a visit to France to remember them.

Three of their great nieces, Jane, Kathryn and Margaret, are growing sunflowers to remember the brothers and will be coming to Stockton from Cornwall, Berkshire and Cheshire to remember Jack and William at the 1,245 Sunflowers commemorations.