Ranger Stuart McMaster

1st Battalion | 15.06.2002 | Canada

Ranger Stuart McMaster

Stuart James McMaster was born to Jimmy and Saran McMaster on 27th July 1982. He attended the local County Primary School and after passing the ’11 plus’ went to Cambridge House Boys’ Grammar School where he was well known by both Staff and pupils, and well-liked.

Stuart had a vast range of hobbies. He was a Corporal in the Boys’ Brigade and also in the Air Training Corps where he won his ‘Wings Blue’ for playing rugby for the Northern Ireland Wing Select. Whilst on one of his glider courses with the ATC, Stuart convinced his instructor that he was capable of piloting the aircraft under ‘Goliath’, one of the shipyard cranes, and he proved it. Although this was not the normal procedure, he knew his capabilities, and it certainly put a smile on his face. He had a passion for scuba-diving and by the age of 17 had achieved the British Sub Aqua Club Dive Leader qualification. At school he played rugby, and cricket for 1st X1. Stuart took a keen interest in the Regimental Museum and he also did voluntary work for ‘Radio Cracker’, a local Christmas Radio Station that annually raises money for the ‘Third World’. It was hardly surprising that when he decided to do a sponsored parachute jump at the age of 16 that he chose them as the beneficiaries.

Although very intelligent, he decided that the academic life was not for him. He knew he wanted to pursue a career in the Services, which would afford him the opportunity to satisfy his adventurous spirit. Having attained his GCSE’s, Stuart left Cambridge House and did a Sports and Leisure course for a year at the North East Institute for Higher Education.

Ranger Stuart McMaster

Stuart enlisted into the Royal Irish Regiment on 1st September 2000. He was trained at the Regimental Depot St. Patrick’s Barracks, in his home town of Ballymena, before moving to the Infantry Training Centre, Catterick, in order to complete the Combat Infantryman’s Course. Whilst at the Infantry Training Centre, he was a member of the team that won the much-coveted Commandant’s Medal for the March and Shoot Competition. Stuart arrived in the 1st Battalion on 3rd May 2001 and was posted to C Company.

On arrival, Stuart successfully completed the Northern Ireland Training prior to serving with C Company in Dungannon and South Armagh between June and December2001.On return from the Northern Ireland Tour, Stuart’s request to join the Bugles, Pipes & Drums was approved and he became a Drummer. He participated in the 16th Air Assault Day Parade and also the St. Patrick’s Day Parade with the 1st Battalion in Howe Barracks, Canterbury.

In June 2002, the 1st Battalion deployed to Canada to take part in Exercise POND JUMP WEST. Stuart participated with the Bugles, Pipes & Drums in public relations events and also on exercises. Sadly, during the adventurous training, Stuart died as a result of a tragic accident whilst pursuing one of his great loves in life, parachuting. Stuart died on Saturday 15th June 2002.

Stuart’s death is a sad loss to the 1st Battalion, in particular the Bugles, Pipes & Drums.

L/Cpl Trevor Bradley, a Piper from the Bugles, Pipes & Drums, composed ‘Wee Mac’s Lament – In Memory of a Friend’. They were flown back from Canada to perform at Stuart’s funeral service in the packed to capacity High Kirk Presbyterian Church, Ballymena, on Monday 24th June 2002. Amongst the tributes read were two from his close friends Rangers Alan Bruce and Colin Masters. Also paying tribute was Stuart’s Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Tim Collins and Lt. Col. Leo Callow, who was the Commanding Officer at St. Patrick’s Barracks when Stuart was in training and a friend of the family. The Battalion held their own Memorial Service on return from Canada and Stuart’s family were flown over from Northern Ireland to attend the service, which provided the opportunity for Stuart’s family and the 1st Battalion to share their sadness.

Stuart came from a very loving and close family and kept in regular contact with them. His warm smile, charm and sense of humour are sadly missed by his family and many friends. We extend our deepest sympathy to his parents Jimmy and Saran, his sister Gillian and brother Richard.

Stuart's Epitaph

Stuart took his “Oath of Allegiance” and joined the British Army on 1st September 2000 He commenced his Basic Training at St. Patrick’s Barracks in his home-town of Ballymena, joining the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment. After successfully completing a rigorous Phase 1, he moved to the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick to complete his Phase II Training. While at Catterick, Stuart was one of the few to win the much-coveted Commandant’s Medal. On completion of his Phase II Training, Stuart joined his Battalion who were then based at Howe Barracks in Canterbury, Kent. He immediately moved to join his unit who were already preparing for a six-month tour of Northern Ireland. His tour of Northern Ireland was from June – December 2001 and was a very successful Tour for the Battalion. On returning to Canterbury after a well-earned Christmas leave, Stuart joined the Battalion’s Bugles, Pipes and Drums where he was to become a valued member.

Life with 1st Battalion Royal Irish Regiment was, as always, hectic and in May 2002 they departed for Canada for extensive training in the knowledge that they, as part of the 16th Air Assault Brigade, would, inevitably, be going to Iraq. Having parachuted prior to joining the Army, Stuart chose parachuting as his Adventure Training package. After successfully completing the Parachute Training Course and with a few days left before having to return to base, Stuart decided to stay and pay for as many jumps as he could fit into the time he had left. Unfortunately, one of these jumps went terribly wrong and Stuart was killed on Saturday 15th June 2002 while “jumping” at the Skydive Ranch in Beiseker, Alberta. He was 19 years old.

At the roadside of Highway 72, as you pass through the village of Beiseker (about 12 Km North East of Calgary) a Brass Plaque has been erected to Stuart’s memory and is fixed to a post beside the field where he died. The Band was to have performed at the Calgary Stampede and other “high profile” events while in Canada. However, as a mark of respect for Stuart, the Band withdrew from these events as they felt that they would not be able to go on.

Ranger Stuart McMaster

Stuart was “repatriated” back to Britain and his funeral was carried out with Full Military Honours. It is most commendable and says a lot about the esteem with which Stuart was held in that every single member of the Battalion’s Bugles, Pipes & Drums asked permission to return to Britain in order to attend Stuart’s funeral, offering to do so at their own expense. As it happened, the Band, Bugles, Pipes and Drums returned home to take part in Stuart’s funeral, accompanied by their RSM and their Commanding Officer, Colonel Tim Collins, who spoke highly of Stuart and his abilities both as an individual and as a soldier. Before arriving in Ballymena to participate in Stuart’s funeral, one of Stuart’s colleagues (Piper L / Cpl Trevor Bradley) penned a Lament in honour of Stuart. The Lament is entitled “Wee Mac’s Lament” – in memory of a friend. A framed copy of this, along with a picture of the Band in Canada, was presented to Stuart’s parents at the family home, where L/Cpl Bradley played it for them as they sat in their living room surrounded by friends and family. Piper Bradley played “Wee Mac’s Lament” as Stuart’s funeral cortege entered the cemetery.

Upon the Battalion’s return from Canada, Stuart’s family was invited to Canterbury to attend a Memorial Service for Stuart. This was held in Howe Barracks, Canterbury, and was attended by the entire Battalion. Before leaving Canterbury to go to Fort George in Inverness, the Battalion again invited Stuart’s family to attend a Beating of Retreat, something they accepted with much pride. While in Canada, the Band played at many engagements. Among these was a Passing Out Parade for recruits of the Canadian Army. Upon hearing that a member of the Band had been killed, a mother of one of the Canadian recruits sent a video of her son’s Passing Out Parade to Stuart’s parents in the hope that they might be able to see him. Before reaching the family, this tape had made its way to Canterbury, then on to the desert of Iraq where Stuart’s Battalion now found itself, before finding its way to Ballymena. This was a truly precious gift, as Stuart’s parents, brother and sister had never seen him in his Band uniform before. This Canadian family and Stuart’s parents remain in close contact with each other and have become firm friends. Stuart came from a close and loving family, and they remain close and stay in constant contact with his friends from the Regiment.

Stuart lived life to the full and, while at Grammar School, excelled at rugby, cricket, and gymnastics. Even before joining the Army as a Professional Soldier, Stuart had achieved much for a boy his age. He had attained the rank of Corporal with his local Air Training Corp, 2349 Squadron, where he was a much valued and loved member. By the age of 16, Stuart had attained his Glider Wings, which he wore with great pride and, apart from Scuba Diving, he loved nothing more than to escape to the “freedom of the sky”. He was also one of the few to have won his “Wings Blue”. These are the equivalent to being capped for your country and were awarded to him for being selected to represent Northern Ireland Air Cadets in the National Rugby Tournament. Stuart was also a member of his local Sub-Aqua Club and, by the age of 15, was a qualified Dive Leader – one of the youngest in Britain. His love for sport was legendary and his sense of adventure unfathomable. His energy was endless and his realms knew no bounds.

What Stuart's Parents Say

Stuart was such a loving boy, so kind and caring. His sense of fun knew no end and his smile could light up the darkest of rooms. He had a wonderful (mostly wicked) sense of humour and his laugh was so infectious. He was a real-life hero to his young brother, whom Stuart referred to as “Mini Me”. He was very close to his older sister, just as he was to us all. We weren’t just family, we were friends too. He was so very special to so many people, both young and old alike. He was so very handsome and there was never a shortage of female company, even from an early age. We just can’t get used to the fact that he is not coming home again, or that we will never hear his voice again. Our family is broken and can never be the same again because something is always missing, but his memory lives on. We can only take some comfort from the fact that he was doing something he really loved. He could have chosen many other adventurous sports, but he chose skydiving – something he really loved. Indeed, on two days before his death, Stuart called home, as he did regularly, to say how much he was enjoying the scenery and beauty of Canada.

It would be remiss of us if we didn’t say that, even in the darkest of days, we have come to realise just how good people can be. We have come to realise that, sometimes, it’s the little things in life that mean so much – like a hug, or a hand on your shoulder, or a smile across a room. There are so many people we would like to thank for what they have done. Firstly, our friends and family for their support by just being there for us. His Regiment, the Royal Irish Regiment, for their ever-open door, love, comfort and support to us as members of the “Regimental Family”. To his mates who, even yet, continue to visit us whenever they can. Lastly, but not least, our heartfelt thanks must go to the Memorial Custodian who, by his kind permission, has permitted us to erect this Memorial Stone in Stuart’s memory. We are very much aware that there are many parents who have struggled with, and continue to struggle with the loss of a child and who haven’t had the opportunity to “Remember” as we do. For that privilege, we will always be so very grateful.

We would also like to pay a very personal tribute to the "Website Manager", for his help and professionalism.

To all who have helped and assisted us in any way whatsoever, especially our ever present friends, we would take this opportunity to personally thank them for simply being there during the most darkest of days. We know that they are only but a telephone call away and we would like them all to know just how precious they are to us. Just as we will never forget our precious son, Stuart, so too will we never forget the kindness of so many.

May God bless you all

Jimmy, Saran, Gillian & Richard McMaster

Ranger Stuart McMaster Ranger Stuart McMaster