- Landed at Normandy right after D-Day and led a unit that destroyed 12 Panzer tanks. “They had a bad habit of sticking snipers up trees. But I had a bad habit of shooting at snipers up trees,” he said.
- When sent to Malaya as a district commander, with a tiny police force, he ambushed a troop of bandits at night and sentenced them, as magistrate, the following day.
- Was sent to North Vietnam as British consul general during the Vietnam War, as the U.S. bombed:
He arrived speaking no Vietnamese, and was at once held by Red Guards. His only accreditation was to the city’s municipal office. If the Foreign Office sent the government a message Stewart had to deliver it at the back gate of the drains department; and if secure communications with London were needed he had to set off by aero plane and return a week later.
His Malayan experience meant that he was unperturbed by the air raids, unlike most western diplomats, and he recognised that the Americans were not winning Vietnamese hearts and minds, though nobody believed him when he delivered a paper to this effect to a high powered American conference in Saigon.
- After a tumultuous stint working on Northern Irish issues, he returned to Asia where “he was widely admired for his skill in running the largest Secret Intelligence Service station as Far East Controller in Hong Kong.”
Stewart died at 93 in August, but I learned these facts from his fantastic obituary in The Daily Telegraph. (Stewart’s son Rory, an author, diplomat, soldier, and now a member of Parliament, has already accrued a set of his own remarkable adventures.) Stewart’s obituary is not the most amazing I’ve ever read in The Telegraph. That honor goes to Robert de La Rochefoucauld, which The New Yorker deemed “the world’s most interesting obituary.”