Gerald Stanley Lewis’s is another soldier whose life story is virtually unknown. [He was born in New Zealand – see Comments. There is a picture of him here.] He was probably one of the many who migrated to Rugby to work in the engineering businesses, before the First War, and thus are not recorded in the town for the 1911 census. He is recorded on the Willans and Robinson Drawing Office Memorial Plaque and was no doubt working there before the war.
Whilst known as ‘Gerald Stanley’ on the Willans Memorial, he was ‘Gerald S’ on his Medal Card, and as ‘Gerald Sydney’ on the CWGC records. However, with matching army numbers, it appears that they are the one individual.
Gerald Lewis joined up and served as a Private, No.16365, in the 9th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. The activities of the Battalion are recorded below:
… 9th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) was raised at Hounslow on 21 August 1914 as part of Kitchener’s First New Army and joined 36th Brigade, 12th (Eastern) Division. 36th Brigade underwent training at Colchester then final training was undertaken near Aldershot from 20 February 1915, with the cavalry, motor machine gun battery, sanitary and veterinary sections joining. The Division proceeded to France between 29 May and 1 June 1915 landing at Boulogne, they concentrated near St Omer and by 6 June were in the Meteren-Steenwerck area with Divisional HQ being established at Nieppe.
Gerald S Lewis’s Medal Card shows that he was in France from 20 July 1915, so he crossed over to France some six weeks after his Battalion, possibly he was still under training, but could have arrived in time to take part in the Battle of Loos.
They [the Division] underwent instruction from the more experienced 49th (South Midland) Division and took over a section of the front line at Ploegsteert Wood on 23 June 1915. They were in action in the Battle of Loos from 30 September, taking over the sector from Gun Trench to Hulluch Quarries consolidating the position, under heavy artillery fire. On 9 October they repelled a heavy German infantry attack and on the 13 October took part in the Action of the Hohenzollern Redoubt, capturing Gun Trench and the south western face of the Hulluch Quarries. During this period at Loos, 117 officers and 3237 men of the Division were killed or wounded. By 21 October they moved to Fouquieres-les-Bethune for a short rest then returned to the front line at the Hohenzollern Redoubt until 15 November, when they went into reserve at Lillers. On 9 December, 9th Royal Fusiliers assisted in a round-up of spies and other suspicious characters in the streets of Bethune. On 10 December, the Division took over the front line north of La Bassee canal at Givenchy. On 19 January they began a period of training in Open Warfare at Busnes, then moved back into the front line at Loos on 12 February 1916. In June they moved to Flesselles and carried out a training exercise.
The Battalion was then involved in the Battle of the Somme.
They moved to Baizieux on 30 June and went into the reserve at Hencourt and Millencourt by mid morning on 1 July. They relieved the 9th Division at Ovillers-la-Boisselle that night and attacked at 3.15 the following morning with mixed success. On 7 July they attacked again and despite suffering heavy casualties in the area of Mash Valley, they succeeded in capturing and holding the first and second lines close to Ovillers. They were withdrawn to Contay on 9 July.
It was presumably during the action in Mash Valley that Gerald was ‘Killed in Action’ on 7 July 1916 as recorded on his Medal Card. He is listed as ‘Gerald Sydney Lewis’ by the CWGC, as one of those killed or missing on 7 July 1916 and whose body was not found or identified. He is remembered on Pier and Face 8C, 9A and 16A, of the Thiepval Memorial.
The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. The memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, was built between 1928 and 1932 and unveiled by the Prince of Wales, in the presence of the President of France, on 1 August 1932.
He is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates, and on the Willans Drawing Office Metal Memorial Plaque.
Gerald Stanley Lewis was awarded the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM
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This article on Gerald Stanley Lewis was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the Rugby Family History Group, June 2016.