Portrait of Captain Ivor Stewart-Liberty MC, 2/1st Bucks Battalion by William Strang, signed and dated 1917.
Born in Scotland, William Strang (1859-1921) studied at the Slade School of Art in London. He was known initially for his etchings, prints and illustrations – including for editions of the works of Bunyan, Coleridge and Kipling – before turning to painting. He was President of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers from 1919-21, and was elected a Royal Academician Engraver just a month before he died.
Ivor Stewart-Liberty (1887-1952) of The Lee was the nephew and heir of Sir Arthur Lasenby Liberty, founder of the London department store. Stewart-Liberty was educated at Winchester and Christ Church, Oxford. In 1913 he married Evelyn, daughter of Canon Constantine Phipps of the Prebendal, Aylesbury. Enlisting as a private in the Queen’s Westminster Rifles in October 1914, after just six weeks Ivor was commissioned into the 2/1st Bucks Battalion, as was his brother-in-law, Charles Phipps. His father-in-law, Canon Phipps was the battalion’s honorary chaplain. After training, the 2/1st Bucks went overseas as part of 184 Brigade in 61st (Second South Midland) Division in May 1916. On 18 July the battalion was committed to the disastrous attack on the ‘Sugar Loaf’ at Fromelles, Ivor commanding ‘D’ Company. Of 20 officers and 322 other ranks who participated, 322 became casualties. Only one man from ‘D’ Company reached the Sugar Loaf. Charles Phipps was killed and Ivor, who was awarded the MC, was severely wounded in his left leg. Ivor lay out in No Man’s Land until rescued after dark by one of Sergeant Joseph Petty, who dragged him back for some five hours before regaining the Bucks trenches, winning the MM as a result. Ivor’s wound became gangrenous and his leg was amputated on 27 July. In the portrait he carries a walking stick. Another of the sons of Canon Phipps died of pneumonia on active service in 1919 while the husband of Evelyn’s sister, Lionel Crouch of the 1/1st Bucks Battalion was killed on the Somme in July 1916. After the war, Ivor became Chairman of Liberty & Co, a Bucks county councillor, a deputy lieutenant, and High Sheriff in 1922.