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War Memorials

In Memory of
8th Battalion London Regiment (Post Office Rifles)
Who died on Friday, 22nd March 1918
Age 23

No Known Grave. Panel 87
Pozieres British Cemetery & Memorial to the "Missing", Ovillers-La-Boiselle, Somme, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Pozieres British Cemetery & Memorial

Pozieres British Cemetery & Memorial1

Ewart Reginald Lanes was born in Beeston, Notts in 18952, the eldest of two children and only son of Henry Joseph (b. 1871, Kirton, Lincolnshire) and Eliza - often known as 'Elizabeth' - (b. 1869, Willoughby, Lincolnshire née Harger). In 1901 the family was living on 3 Cromwell Road, Beeston, Notts with Henry employed as a commercial traveller for a flour company3. In 1911, the family was still living at the same address but Henry was then travelling for a jam manufacturer, a company with which, it seems, he continued to advance within and to stay with until retirement. By then, the 15-year-old Ewart was apprenticed in the furnishing trade4.

Unfortunately, Ewart's Army Service Record has not survived so we don't have precise details of his enlistment but it appears to have been initially with the Sherwood Foresters. What is known is that he was singled out for a Commission and, in September 1915, he joined 2/8th Battalion London Regiment (Post Office Rifles) in September 1915 as a 2nd Lieutenant5. This battalion had been formed in September 1914 and, as part of 174th Brigade in 58th (2/1st London) Division it was stationed at Stowmarket or Sudbury by the time Ewart joined it and was engaged in coastal defence duties. The division was then made up of men of the Territorial Force who had not volunteered for service overseas. However, when the 1916 Military Service Act - which introduced conscription - came into force, it was deemed that all such men were eligible for service abroad. In July 1916, the battalion moved to the camp in Sutton Veny in Wiltshire to train for a fighting role and, on January 25 1917, it landed at Le Havre to take part in action on the Western Front6.

That being the case, Ewart's battalion would have taken part in the pursuit of the German retreat to the Hindenburg line in March 1917 and, from September onwards, faced the horrors and atrocious conditions of the Third Battle of Ypres - usually known as Passchendaele. At some point during this period, Ewart was promoted to Acting Captain. At some point too, Captain Lane was recommended to be awarded the Military Cross for his actions, which are described in the subsequent citation:

"2nd Lt. (A/Capt.) Ewart Reginald Lanes, Lond. R. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in an attack. He killed an enemy machine gunner who had been passed over by the leading waves and was getting his gun into action in rear of the advancing infantry. Later, when the attack on a line of concrete shelters was held up, he went ahead of his company, killed two of the enemy, and with the help of a NCO, killed or captured the remainder of the garrison. His courage and resource were mainly responsible for the capture of the position and a large number of prisoners7."
On 6 February 1918, 2/8th Battalion was absorbed by 1/8th Battalion to become 8th Battalion.

On 21st March, the German Army launched its Spring Offensive from the Hindenburg Line with the objective of ending the war before American troops and resources could tilt the balance towards the Allies. Its objective was to smash through the Allied lines, push the British forces into the sea and to cut off their supply lines by seizing the ports. With the advantage of nearly 50 Divisions recently freed by the Russian surrender, it was seen by the German Command as its best chance of victory. Although a major attack by the enemy had been expected for some time, as enemy positions had been strangely quite, the weight of the attack and of the preliminary bombardment came as an unpleasant surprise. Early morning fog allowed German stormtroopers who lead the attack to penetrate deep into the British positions undetected. The British line, under very heavy shelling - including a large amount of gas shelling necessitating the use of respirators - fought resolutely but eventually, with heavy machine-gun fire on three sides, heavy losses and the enemy continuing to advance strongly, meant eventually that the position became impossible to sustain. Captain Lanes was amongst the horrendous losses sustained during the action, killed in action on the second day8.

Having no known grave, Captain Lanes is remembered on the Pozieres Memorial which commemorates over 14,000 casualties of the United Kingdom and 300 of the South African Forces who have no known grave and who died on the Somme from 21 March to 7 August 1918. The Corps and Regiments most largely represented are The Rifle Brigade with over 600 names, The Durham Light Infantry with approximately 600 names, the Machine Gun Corps with over 500, The Manchester Regiment with approximately 500 and The Royal Horse and Royal Field Artillery with over 400 names. The memorial encloses Pozieres British Cemetery Plot II of which contains original burials of 1916, 1917 and 1918, carried out by fighting units and field ambulances. The remaining plots were made after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the battlefields immediately surrounding the cemetery, the majority of them of soldiers who died in the Autumn of 1916 during the latter stages of the Battle of the Somme, but a few represent the fighting in August 1918. There are now 2,755 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in this cemetery. 1,375 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to 23 casualties known or believed to be buried among them8.

Captain Lanes was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal9. His Army financial effects of 167 12 7d, including his War Gratuity of 5 10s, were paid to his father, as the trustee of his estate on 21 February 192010.

By 1920, Ewart's parents and daughter (Ena Margery) had moved to live at 109 Hunters Rd, Handsworth, Birmingham11, probably as a result of Henry's promotion to Sales Manager within the jam manufacturing company which employed him. By 1926, as the result of a further move within the company, they were living at 128 Milton Road, Cambridge12. In 1928, Ena Margery Lanes married Cyril Alfred Page in Cambridge. In retirement, Henry and Eliza moved back to Nottinghamshire, to live out their lives at 110 Cow Lane, Bramcote. Eliza died in 1940, followed by Henry in 195113.

In addition to the war memorial in Beeston Parish Church, Ewart's name also appears on the war memorial in Chilwell Road Methodist Church, Beeston.

1The photograph of the Pozieres British Cemetery & Memorial is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was then part) in Q2/1895 (Ref 7b 229).
3Beeston, Notts, 1901 Census, Piece 3153 Folio 44.
4Beeston, Notts, 1911 Census, Piece 20428 RD429 SD3 ED3 Schedule 111.
Howard's sister was Ena Margery (b. 27 August 1898), then still at school
5Notice of his Commission appeared in the London Gazette on 15 September 1915.
6This account of 2nd/8th battalion's formation and early service is base on its entry on The Long Long Trail website at www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-british-infantry-regiments-of-1914-1918/london-regiment. Its deployment as part of 58th (2/1st London) Division is based on the Long Long Trail website at www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/order-of-battle-of-divisions/58th-21st-london-division.
7Notice of his Award of Military Cross appeared in the London Gazette on 18 March 1918. The date of the event for which it was awarded is not given.
8This description of the Pozieres British Cemetery & Memorial is based on that on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
9Details from Ewart's Medal Card - available on ancestry.com.
10Details from "Army Register of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929" - available on ancestry.com.
11This Birmingham address appears on Ewart's medal card and was the family address when his estate was settled in January 1920. Henry and Eliza are listed there on the 1920 Electoral Roll.
12Henry and Eliza are listed at the Cambridge on the 1922 Electoral Roll and Henry is described as of this address (and as a'Sales Manager') when acting as a executor of the estate of Robert Williams in September 1926.
13Henry & Eliza were recorded at 110 Cow Lane, Bramcote on the Registration in September 1939 with Henry described as a 'Retired Sales Manager'. Both were recorded as living there up to their respective deaths, Eliza on 6 September 1940 and Henry on 20 June 1951 (Probate Calendar)

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