Padre East, MBE, MC

Rev H/Major Stewart Bland East, MBE, MC

Honorary Captain the Reverend Stewart East “Padre East” landed with the Highlanders at Pachino on 10 July 1943 and served with them throughout Sicily and Italy leaving in January 1945 as the unit was preparing to redeploy to Northwest Europe.  He and his stretcher bearers bandaged ministered and buried the dead,  How they felt about him is best expressed by Kim Beattie’s words taken from the Regimental History (Red Dileas) in how they greeted him at the 1951 Diamond Jubilee Reunion Dinner when he rose to toast the fallen.

“The huge number of veterans of 1939-45 were thwarted in prolonging their applause as a mark of their deep affection for H/Major Stewart East, M.C., M.B.E., because of the solemn nature of his assignment. He achieved the impossible; he stilled the throng with a toast to their Fallen Comrades, followed by the regimental buglers and the Last Post. While the sobbing, yet proud notes of the Flowers o’ the Forest filled the great booming hall, the Highlanders were silent, lost in the memories that only fighting men can know. Then the reunion roar broke out again.”

Excerpt From
Dileas: A History of the 48th Highlanders of Canada 1929–1956
Kim Beattie

After he returned to Toronto in 1945,  Padre East became  Minister of Islington United Church.  He also served as Alderman in Etobicoke and as Chaplain with the Royal Canadian Legion. He maintained contact with “his boys” and their families after the War and was greeted warmly whenever he entered the room.  He also continued to marry Highlanders and to Christen their children – and when required to bury them.

Military Cross (MC)
Military Cross (MC)

On May 22, 1944 the 48TH HIGHLANDERS OF CANADA were ordered to attack the Adolf Hitler Line at MR 731157.

HONORARY/CAPTAIN STEWART BLAND EAST moved into the Bridgehead made in the line with one of the Forward Companies. Here under heavy mortar and shellfire, he started organizing a forward collecting post for casualties.

This Chaplain was himself hit in the arm but undeterred, he continued to move among the men and encourage them. Later he was wounded in the leg but he dressed the injury himself and applied his own tourniquet.

Before he would allow himself to be evacuated he insisted on going out to all company positions with the aid of a stick to prove to the men that he was not seriously hit and to assure them that he would return soon.

HONORARY/CAPTAIN EAST is held in such high regard by all ranks of his unit that his presence in the Bridgehead combined with his gallant action exerted a tremendous influence on the men who were faced with a very serious situation.

Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)
Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)

Throughout the period from 1 Jan to I May 1944, Capt East has performed his duties as chaplain to the 48th Highlanders of Canada with unerring devotion to duty. After the capture of the towns of San Tomasso and San Ncola on 1 Jan 44 when the RMO was too built emptied to move forward Capt East set up a forward RAP in S Tomarsso and personally supervised the collection of casualties all the while being consistently exposed to heavy shellfire. On another occasion on the road north of Ortona he went with a patrol into No Man[s Land to recover for burial, bodies of men of another unit. Throughout the period he constantly the troops in the forward areas, often going out at night to areas under enemy observation. By his willingness to serve is he relieved officers and men of the unit of many onerous duties after digging graves himself and often making all preparations for burial rather than call on the overtired men to do so.

Throughout the period he was a constant inspiration to the men by his personal bravery and the solace he brought by his sympathy and understanding

48th First Bn (WW 2)
Service number


Data source(s)

*Reinforcement Draft 10 Jun 1940
Notify me of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments