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War Memorials



In Memory of
WALTER LEWIS
Private 201871
2/5th Battn/Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby) Regiment
Who was Killed in Action on Monday, 5th May 1917
Age 21

No Known Grave Pier & Face 10C 10D & 11A
Thiepval "Memorial to the Missing", Arras, Somme, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
&
Remembered with Honour
Thiepval Memorial

Thiepval "Memorial to the Missing", France1

Walter Lewis was born in Beeston, Notts in 18962, the fifth child, fourth son of Edward and Emma (née Pepper) Lewis. By 1901, Edward was living with his family of six and with a boarder, at Humber Grove, Beeston and was working aa a general labourer, probably at the nearby Humber cycle works3. By 1901, the family had moved to 4 Moore Gate, Beeston with Edward still working as a general labourer while several of the now adult children had found work at Ericssons Telephone Works. Walter was working as bottler of herb beer, in all probability for Dakin Brothers who had a bottling works in Moore Gate4. In 1915, he married Edith Spray and their only child, Edith M Lewis, was born early in 19175.

Although his Army Service Record has not survived, it appears that Walter enlisted in February 19167 with the Sherwood Foresters and, after initial training, become part of 2/5th (Service) Battalion after it had returned from Ireland in January 1917. After final training at Fovant camp near Salisbury, the battalion embarked for France, landing at Le Havre on 26 February 1917 as part of 178 Brigade, 59th Division8. In the circumstabces, it is unclear whether Walter every saw his daughter.

The battalion soon saw action around Flechin and in the Hervilly area of the Somme. This pattern continued during the pursuit of the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line until, in early May, the battalion was at Hesbecourt and Hervilly, tasked with attacking Malakoff and Cologne Farms. 'B' Company, of which Private Lewis was part, together with 'D' Company, attacked Malakoff Farm on 3rd May while 'A' and 'C' attacked Cologne Farm. Both actions went well with relatively light casualties. However, attempts to consolidate the Malakoff Farm position on the following day ran into difficulties and there were similar setbacks at Cologne Farm. Private Lewis was amongst the large number of casualties - 150 on the first day alone9.

As Private Lewis's body was never identified he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, which now stands adjacent to the Leipzig Redoubt. The Thiepval War Memorial to the Missing was unveiled on the 1st August 1932 by the then Prince of Wales and is the largest British War Memorial in the world. Standing 150 feet high, it dominates the surrounding area. The memorial stands on a concrete raft 10ft thick, built 19ft below the ground, the solution to the problems of building over the warren of tunnels that formed the German second line. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens the memorial has sixteen masonry piers, where can be found, on the panel faces, the names of some 72,000 British and 830 South African soldiers who died and have no known grave, during the period starting in July 1915, when the British Third Army took over from the French, through the Somme battles of 1916, until 20th March 1918, the eve of the last great German offensive on the Somme. The focal point of the memorial is the Stone of Remembrance, which lies under the great arch and centrally between the piers, for which Rudyard Kipling chose a quotation from Ecclesiasticus, "There name liveth forevermore"10. He was posthumously awarded the Victory Medal and the British Medal11.

Walter's Army financial effects of 3 6s 1d were paid to his widow on 6 September 1917 and she received his War Gratuity of 5 on 18 December 191912. While in the immediate post-war period, his widow was known to be living at 45 Nether Street, Beeston13, her subsequent history and that of their child is unclear.


Footnotes
1The photograph of the Thiepval 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 part) in Q1/1896 (Ref 7b 221).
31901 Census, Piece 3153 Folio 172. Walter's siblings were Edward (b. 1888, Thomas (b. 1890), Edith (b. 1893), John (b. c1894), Esie (b. 1898) and George (b. c1902).
41911 Census, Piece 20432 RD429 SD3 ED7 Sched 34.
5They married in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q4 1915 (Ref 7b 614). Edith was probably born in Beeston in 1896, the dau of Fredrick & Mary Spray.
The birth Edith M Lewis was recorded in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q1/1917 (Ref 7b 463).
7Calculated based on the amount of his War Gratuity
8Details of 2/5th Battalion's deployment is from the Forces War Records website : www.forces-war-records.co.uk/units/319/sherwood-foresters-nottinghamshire-and-derbyshire-regiment .
9This account of the battalion's actions in February-May 1917 is based on its war diary.
10This description of the Thiepval Memorial is based on that included in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.
11Walter's medal awards are recorded on his Medal Card, available on ancestry.com. Unfortunately, no embarkation date is recorded on the card
12Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929, available on ancestry.com.
13This address is included in Walter's memorial page on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.

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