Skip to content
Recruiting now.Explore navy careers

Memorial to VC hero who lured U-boat to its death honoured in Liverpool

15 June 2017
A Liverpool sailor who helped lure a U-boat to its doom a century ago has been honoured a stone's throw from the RN's HQ in northern England.

Reservist sailors and Royal Marines joined descendants of Lt Ronald Stuart, veterans, historians and civic dignitaries as a memorial to the Victoria Cross winner was unveiled 100 years to the day of his deed.

The reservist officer was one of two crew of HMS Pargust - a specially-converted steamer designed to trap German submarines in the darkest days of WW1 - to receive the VC for his bravery in the sinking of UC29 in June 1917.

Now the Liverpudlian has become the latest Great War hero to be recognised with a memorial paving stone - in Stuart's case, laid in Princes Park, Sefton, not half an hour's walk from HMS Eaglet.

Stuart and AB William Williams received their VCs following a ballot by their shipmates following the famous action.

Their ordinary-looking tramp steamer had been converted into a secret U-boat killer or 'Q ship', bristling with guns to blow any submarine out of the water.

Ronald Stuart displayed undeniable courage whilst also instilling confidence in his crew.

Liverpool Lord Mayor Cllr Malcolm Kennedy

When Pargust was torpedoed off the west coast of Ireland, her crew pretended to abandon ship.

As most of the crew took to a lifeboat, a few remained aboard the 'stricken' Pargust attempting to conceal her hidden guns, waiting for the right moment when they could open fire.

When the U-boat surfaced to take the lifeboat crew prisoner, they were just 50 yards from the Pargust - and a sitting duck for her gunners. After four minutes' shooting at point-blank range, UC29 sank; just two crew were plucked from the water.

Pargust's skipper, Gordon Campbell, had already won the VC and felt his crew should decide who, if any, of their shipmates should be honoured for the action. They put forward the names of Lt Stuart, Campbell's XO, and Williams, whose brute strength had ensured the ship's guns had remained hidden when the mechanism to lower the covers was wrecked.

Ronald Stuart would continue to serve in Q ships until the war's end, when he returned to his pre-war career as a merchant seafarer, rising to skipper some of the great liners of the day including the Empress of Britain.

He eventually retired to Kent where he died in 1954, but in keeping with the commemorative VC stones being dedicated around the country as part of WW1 100 events, it is his home town where his memorial slab can be found.

"Ronald Stuart displayed undeniable courage whilst also instilling confidence in his crew," Liverpool Lord Mayor Cllr Malcolm Kennedy told those attending the unveiling.

"It is important that his contribution to World War 1 is remembered and his stone will be a permanent reminder of the incredible contribution that he made to the war effort and his role in making sure that more lives weren't lost."

Related articles

Navy News Magazine

We bring you the latest news, features and award-winning photographs from the front-line. Navy News has been reporting on all that happens in the Royal Navy and its wider community since 1954.