Lewis, Lewis. Died 8th Aug 1918

Lewis Lewis was born in Rugby in 1899, and his birth was registered in Q3 1899.  He was the third son and fourth child of Frederick Lewis, who was born in about 1868 in Leamington, Warwickshire, and his wife Maggie, née Clarke, Lewis, who was born in about 1870, in Walsall, Staffordshire.    

Lewis Lewis was baptised on 26 November 1899 at St. Matthew’s Church, Rugby.  His father was a Police Constable and the family were then living at 14 Plowman Street, Rugby.

In both 1901 and 1911, the family were still living at 14 Plowman Street, and Lewis’s father, Frederick, was still a Police Constable.  By 1911, Lewis was eleven years old, and there were now seven children in the family.  Lewis attended St. Matthew’s School, Rugby, and later worked at Rugby Post Office.

Unfortunately no Service Record has survived for Lewis, but he joined up in Rugby[1] in October 1917.[2]  His Medal Card shows that he served initially as a Private, No:376041, in the 8th Battalion of the London Regiment, and then as a Private, No:368091, in the 7th (City of London) Battalion of the London Regiment.

His transfer to the 7th Battalion would have occurred when there was a ‘conjunction’ in early 1918 of the 1st/7th and 2nd/7th Battalions of the London Regiment.  After early training the 1/7th had joined the 4th London Brigade in the 2nd London Division.  After the 2nd London Division was brought up to strength, it entrained for Southampton, disembarking at Le Havre on 18 March 1915.  The Battalion fought in many of the major actions of WWI, well before Lewis would have been involved.

There is no date on his Medal Card for when Lewis went to France, indicating that this was after the end of 1915, but it would probably have been well after this date and some time after he joined up.  He was unlikely to have been sufficiently trained – or indeed old enough assuming he had declared his correct age – to serve overseas until at least mid 1917.  Indeed the note of his death stated that he was drafted to France in April 1918.[3]

During 1918, by which date Lewis was probably with the Battalion in France, they fought at Villers Bretonneux (24 to 25 April 1918).  This was during the period of consolidation after the turning point of the German advance of ‘Operation Michael’.  August saw the start of what developed into an Allied offensive and advance, which became known as the ‘Hundred Days Offensive’,[4] and pushed back the German Armies along an extended front until the Armistice was declared.

The combined 7th Battalion seems to have moved from the 2nd Division and its War Diary is within the records of the 174th Brigade in the 58th Division at The National Archives[5] – and on-line.  The events recorded in the Diary for August and for the last few days before Lewis was killed are summarised below.

1 August – ROUND WOOD – Kit & clothing inspection.

2 August – Move by bus to HALLOY-LES-PERNOIS.  Battn. in billets 2.30pm.

3 August – HALLOY – Squad and Company drill, Lewis gun, signalling and stretcher team class.

4 August – Battn. standing by, 1½ hours notice to move – moved by bus and march route to BONNAY – in position 4.30am, 5-8-18.

5 August – BONNAY – Proceeded to relieve the 11th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, 18th Division in reserve.

6 August – In Line – In reserve.

7 – 10 August – see Narrative attached.

11 August – BRAY-CORBIE ROAD – Battalion in reserve near CEMETERY COPSE.

12 August – Battalion moved back to ROUND WOOD.

The ‘Narrative’ for the period 7-10 August comprised four typed pages detailing the action and the advance of nearly two miles in two days.  Extracts (below) provide details of the action on 8 August when Lewis was killed, and some of the locations given are shown on the map[6] below.

‘At 10.20 p.m. on the 7th. The Bn. moved forward from Valley in J.22.c. … along COOTAMUNDRA street and CRUMP lane to their assembly position in K.25.a. … Bn. H.Q. was at LONE TREE CEMETERY J.24.6.2. … There was little counter preparation by the enemy … Shortly before 4 a.m. on the 8th. A heavy mist fell and by zero hour (4.20 a.m.) it was impossible to see more than 20 to 25 yards.

The ultimate objective of the Bn, was the line K.27.d.9.4. – K27.b.9.7.  ‘A’ and ‘B’ Coys, passing round to the N side of MALARD Wood supported by ‘C’ Coy, and ‘D’ Coy, containing the N.W. side of the Wood … 173rd Inf. Bde. were to pass through one hour later and take a further line beyond of the SOMME RIVER. …

The barrage opened punctually at 4.20 a.m. and was very good, … owing to the mist it was impossible to observe the progress of the operation but batches of wounded and prisoners soon began to arrive and … progress was satisfactory, at any rate as far as MALARD Wood.

I found two Coy. of the 2/2nd London Regt … arranged … to … advance through MALARD Wood.  I got them the assistance of a Tank … and they advanced to the East side of the wood.’

It was at some time during this advance that Lewis Lewis was ‘Killed in Action’.

‘On the afternoon of the 9th. the troops of the 8th London Regt. with me were withdrawn as further operations were contemplated. … I had no precise instructions as to the operation but I understood the American Troops were to attack GRESSAIRE WOOD from my left flank at 5.30 p.m. … At 6.30 p.m., I and my Adjt. with H.Q. Lewis Guns moved forward and from K.27.b.9.6. I was able to observe British and American troops establishing posts on the ridge S.E. but fighting still appeared to be going on to my right in the lower ground and also in GRESSAIRE Wood.

On the night of the 10th … the Bn. Was relieved by American Troops and moved back to MALARD WOOD.’

Various general points and recommendations were made in the report, which are of interest.

‘(a) In both assaults numerous T.M.s, Heavy and light machine guns were captured and many prisoners.  In each case the severest fighting and the most prisoners were in the enemy’s front line. In the second assault 4 field guns and 3 5.9 howitzers were captured the latter in GRESSAIRE WOOD, … A wagon of signaling stores was also captured … The heavy mist undoubtedly helped in assaulting the enemy forward defense on the 8th. inst, that was largely responsible for the failure of the second phase.

(b) Communication was lacking to start with … By 4 p.m. the line was run out … and was maintained throughout.  Two lines were laid into the ravine …  but it was found impossible to maintain them owing to shell fire.  The wire for these lines was collected by my signalers on the ground as their own supply was inadequate.

(c) Medical Arrangements.  On the 9th. inst. the supply of stretchers was wholly inadequate and supplies demanded were very slow in arriving.  Many wounded lying out in front at no great distance from the R.A.P. [Regimental Aid Post] could have been collected much earlier, were it possible to supply R.A.M.C. Bearers on this work.  At present M.O.s are forbidden to use them forward of the R.A.P, even when things are quiet.

(d) H.Q. Lewis Guns proved extremely useful in furnishing an intact and fresh reserve to be brought forward after the objective had been taken.  I recommend that each Bn. be supplied with a light German machine gun for instructional purposes as a knowledge of their use would be very useful to assaulting troops.

(e) Supply Tanks fulfilled their role well.  I recommend that a Q.M.Sgt. travel with them to remain in charge of the dump when formed, and to ensure the supplies reaching the troops for whom they are intended.  The Bn. received some S.A.A. [Small Arms Ammunition] from ‘plane.

(f) Casualties were unfortunately heavy on both days amounting to 12 officers and about 300 other Ranks.’

Lewis Lewis was only one of that great number (300 ‘O.R.s’) killed or injured during the two days of this advance.  He was among those ‘Killed in Action’ on 8 August 1918 and was 18 years old.

Lewis Lewis was originally buried, together with another soldier, W.C. Newton, also from the London Regiment, in a single grave, with their two names on the cross, in a small cemetery nearer to where they fell.  The ‘Concentration Record’[7] showed that they were both named on a single cross on a joint grave located at map reference: ‘62d.NE.K.25.b.1.4.’  This is just south of the trench, which was the route to the concentration point for the attack by the 7th Bn. London Regiment on 8 August 1918.  It is about a mile north of the village of Sailly-Laurette – in Map Square 25 and is shown on the map above.

The list of smaller cemeteries and burial grounds that were concentrated to Heath Cemetery, Harbonniers after the war, included the …
‘… Sailly-Laurette Military Cemetery, 800 metres due North of Sailly-Laurette village – in Map Square 31.  Here were buried 38 soldiers from the United Kingdom mainly of the 58th (London) Division and two from Australia, who fell in August 1918’. 

However, the map reference given in the ‘Concentration Report’ would seem to refer to a location another 1000 yards or so north of this cemetery location, so it seems that it was a smaller cemetery which is not listed in the CWGC list.

When smaller burial grounds and battlefield graves were later ‘concentrated’ – bodies were exhumed, moved and reburied in larger cemeteries, which could be better maintained.  The two soldiers from the London Regiment were both reburied in separate graves – Lewis Lewis was reburied in grave reference: VIII. G. 17.,[8] – and W. C. Newton in grave ref: 8. J. 11., at the Heath Cemetery, Harbonnieres, Somme [Map ref: ‘62d.SE.Q.29.d.5.4.’], some 5 miles south-east of  Sailly-Laurette.

Heath Cemetery is situated on the south side of road from Amiens to St Quentin.  Harbonnieres was … regained by the Australian Corps on 8 August 1918.  Heath Cemetery, so called from the wide expanse of open country on which it stands, was made after the Armistice.  Graves were brought into it from the battlefields between Bray and Harbonnieres and from many other burial grounds in the area.[9] … the list includes: ‘… Sailly-Laurette Military Cemetery, 800 metres due north of Sailly-Laurette village.  Here were buried 38 soldiers from the United Kingdom mainly of the 58th (London) Division and two from Australia, who fell in August 1918, …’.

His family had the inscription ‘All that he Hoped for, All he had he Gave’, added to his gravestone.

The Rugby Advertiser reported his death in September.
Pte Lewis Lewis, City of London Regiment, son of ex-P.C Lewis, 35 King Edward Road, was killed in France on August 8th.  He was nearly 19 years of age, an old St Matthew’s boy, and an employee at Rugby Post Office.  He joined the Army in October, 1917, and was drafted to France in April.[10]

The Coventry Evening Telegraph published a note on 9 October 1918,
THE ROLL OF HONOUR. Coventry and District Casualties. To-day’s list of casualties includes the following : Killed.  London Regiment. – Lewis, 368091, L., Rugby; .[11]

His Medal Card and the Medal Roll showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.  He is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate.

The Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects shows that Lewis’s outstanding pay of £6-16-11d, was paid to his father on 20 November 1918, and his War Gratuity of £3 on 28 November 1919.

The address for his parents given on the CWGC site suggests that by the early 1920s, Frederick and Maggie Lewis had moved to 35, King Edward Road, Rugby.




– – – – – –


This article on Lewis Lewis was researched and written for the Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the RFHG, May 2018.

[1]      Info from: UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919

[2]      Rugby Advertiser, 21 September 1918, and also, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2018/09/21/21st-sep-1918-suggested-memorial-to-rugby-men/.

[3]      Rugby Advertiser, 21 September 1918, and also, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2018/09/21/21st-sep-1918-suggested-memorial-to-rugby-men/.

[4]      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Battle_of_Bapaume.

[5]      The National Archives, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, London Regiment, 58th Division, Piece 3005/6, 1/7 Battalion London Regiment (1918 Feb – Nov).  See also on www.Ancestry.co.uk.

[6]      Adapted from https://maps.nls.uk/view/101465314.

[7]      Smaller burial grounds and battlefield graves were later ‘concentrated’ – the bodies were  exhumed, moved and reburied in larger cemeteries, which could be better maintained.

[8]      One of the Concentration Record Sheets states grave 18 not 17.

[9]      See list at https://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/62000/heath-cemetery,-harbonnieres/.

[10]     Rugby Advertiser, 21 September 1918, and also, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2018/09/21/21st-sep-1918-suggested-memorial-to-rugby-men/.

[11]     Coventry Evening Telegraph, Wednesday, 9 October 1918.

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