“Serve my country to the last stitch”: Honoring alumni lost in World War 1
December 5, 2016
2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of American involvement in World War I. Though “The Great War” has been romanticized as a conflict in which American involvement quickly pushed a years-long stalemate into an outright Allied victory, over 100,000 American servicemen lost their lives in the conflict.
While digging through his office, Assistant Headmaster Hal Mason recently found portraits of three graduates of the high school who gave their lives in the war. These are their stories:
Harmon Bushnell Craig, Class of 1914
Harmon “Ham” Bushnell Craig was born on July 1, 1895 in Boston. Craig was the eldest son of Broadway star John Craig and movie star Mary Marsden Young Craig. Mary Craig, who went by the stage name Mary Young and would go on time have roles in three Academy Award Best Picture winners.
Craig lived at 1614 Beacon St., adjacent to where the Driscoll School opened in 1910, his freshman year of high school. During his time at high school he was known for participating in drama and having a unique sense of humor. Craig went on to Harvard College, where he continued his involvement in drama, being elected by his peers to the Dramatic Club Executive Committee in 1917.
On Feb. 19, 1917, Craig joined the American Field Service, an ambulatory corps that served alongside the French military, and within three months was on the field of battle in France. In the middle of June, he spent six days with his mother in Paris before returning to the front.
On July 15, Craig’s leg was wounded by a shell, but he insisted on helping those injured around him before receiving medical attention. When he entered the hospital, Craig was informed that his leg would be amputated. Craig quipped back that he would only need to buy one shoe in the future.
On July 16, Craig died from his wounds. He was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French government, and in November 2011 he also received the Légion d’Honneur (Chevalier degree). He was 22.
Barron Brainerd, Class of 1912
Barron Brainerd was born on March 3, 1893 at 57 Monmouth St.; Brainerd attended the high school before graduating in 1912 and moving on to Williams College. He was known for being a strong student, winning a book prize from the Rice Fund and making the honor roll at Williams before graduating in 1917.
Brainerd continued his education at Harvard University, attending graduate school for history and international law, and teaching a year after he graduated.
Brainerd was a known lover of birds, serving as Director of the Brookline Bird Club and and the Secretary of Cambridge’s Nuttall Society. He also was a part of the American Auduban Society and the American Ornothologist Society.
Brainerd was a member of the United States Naval Reserves and after the end of the war, he went to the National Officers Material School, a training course for officers at Harvard, where he was promoted to Chief Boatswain’s Mate.
Brainerd died on May 15, 1919 while on leave due to sickness. He was 26.
Gordon Stewart, Expected to Graduate in 1917
Gordon Stewart was born on March 15, 1896 in Millis, MA. His family moved to Brookline some time later and he lived at 54 University Rd.
While at the high school, Stewart was the captain of the 1915 rowing team which won the interscholastic cup. He was also an award-winning gymnast, twice medaling in the Harvard Interscholastic Gymnasium Association and won the Greater Boston Diving Championship. Stewart was accepted into Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but before he graduated the high school Stewart chose to enlist in the military.
Along with his brother Theodore Felt Stewart, Gordon Stewart was on one of the first boats to France. Stewart fought at the Battle of Verdun, before breaking his arm. Stewart underwent several painful surgeries, but was still chosen to participate as a cadet in the newly formed United States Aviation Service.
While on the front, Stewart kept a 30,000 word diary over the course of six months of fighting and training, including writing not long before his death that, “I have made up my mind to serve my country to the last stitch.”
Stewart died on Jan. 9, 1918 of spinal meningitis. He was 21.