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Henry Hewitt was born in Preston in 1893, he was one of four children born to George and Catherine Hewitt (nee O`Reilly/Riley). Henry`s father George was a native of Preston but his mother Catherine was originally from Belfast and they were married in Preston in 1889. George and Catherine`s other children were Francis (1891), George (1896-1896) and Emily (1898).

Two years after George and Catherine married they were living in North Road, Preston. By the time of the 1901 Census the family had moved to a three roomed terraced property at 11 Brookhouse Street, Preston. George Hewitt was working as a painter and paper hanger.

In 1911 the family were resident at the same house in Brookhouse Street and Henry`s father George was still employed in the decorating business. Henry and his brother Francis had become apprentice painters while their mother Catherine and sister Emily were both working in a cotton mill.

On the 12 October, 1914 Henry enlisted at Preston Recruiting Office and was posted to the 4th (Reserve) Battalion and he was allocated the number 2863. According to his medical inspection report Henry stood five feet nine inches tall and had good physical development.

When he enlisted Henry was working for Mr. Thomas Bilsborough & Son a painter and decorator of 38 Lune Street, Preston.

On the 2nd May, 1915 an advance party consisting of 3 Officers and 104 other ranks of the 1/4th Battalion left Bedford by train for Southampton. It was here they boarded the SS Rossetti with the whole of the Battalion transport and sailed for Le Havre.

The following evening Henry left Bedford by train with the remainder of his Battalion bound for Folkestone. They boarded the SS Onward and sailed for Boulogne very early on the morning of the 4th May.

The total strength of the Battalion at this time was thirty one Officers and 1003 non-commissioned Officers and men. A week after landing the formation became the 154th Brigade in the 51st (Highland Division).

Just over a month later on the 15th June, 1915 Henry was reported as missing in action whilst attacking enemy positions between Rue d`Overt and Chapelle St. Roch during the Battle of Festubert. He was later presumed to have died on that date.

The Preston Guardian reported on his death a short while later;

hewitt1

 

Extracts from the Regimental History

At 6pm on the 15th June the attack was launched by the 4th Loyal North Lancashire and the 6th Scottish Rifles. The attack was at first successful; the west end of the German salient was carried, and the attack pushed on to the main German line near the Rue d`Overt, and for a time the third German trench was occupied and held. Unfortunately the attack by the Division on the right of the 51st made little or no progress, and when night fell the 154th Brigade had penetrated the German line on a narrow front, but had both its flanks in the air. The attack consequently failed, but as stated in the Divisional History, “great praise is due to the 154th Infantry Brigade for their advance in the face of heavy artillery and close range rifle and machine gun fire. There is little or no doubt that had the operations on the flanks been successful, they would have had every prospect of holding their gains”.

The Preston Guardian reported extensively on the brave efforts of the 1/4th on the 15th June, 1915, a typical headline of that time is shown below;

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The Preston Guardian also printed a few letters from men who had witnessed the events of that night; the following is an extract of one such letter written by Private C. Wright.

“You will have heard long ere this about the brilliant bayonet charge we made on the night of June 15th about 6 o`clock. Well we took what we were told to take – two lines of trenches. You should have seen the treacherous devils run when we charged, but God knows the losses we had. They were Prussians – six feet fellows – and they put up the white flag and cried for mercy, but our lads remembered the Lusitania and gave it to them. It was an awful sight, the cry of our wounded and dying haunts me yet and I never want to see any more” – Pte C Wright

When the Battalion were relieved and had reached Le Touret only 243 men answered the roll call. After their first general action a total of 431 men had either been killed, wounded or missing.

Private Henry Hewitt was awarded the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals and because his body was never recovered his name was recorded on the Le Touret Memorial. His name was also recorded on the St. Walburges RC Church War Memorial in Preston.

walburges2 walburges1

Additional family information

The newspaper article refers to Henry`s brother. This was 3093 Private Francis Hewitt 1/4th Battalion LNL. Francis also embarked with the 1/4th on 4th May, 1915 and took part in the actions on the 15th June. He transferred to the MGC at some point and his number became 22491. Francis survived the war and was also awarded the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals. Unfortunately his service papers do not appear to have survived so no further information is available.

Rank: Private
Service No: 2863
Date of Death: 15/06/1915
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.
Memorial: LE TOURET MEMORIAL

 

Janet Davis

Janet Davis

Janet Davis has been researching her family history for many years and through this she discovered many relatives who served in WW1. This interest then led Janet to do many walking the battlefield tours with her husband. In April 2013 she discovered this website and volunteered to help. Janet believes that there are lots of stories still to be told, most of them very sad but at the same time they are a fascinating insight into the men, their families, what they did and where they came from.
Janet Davis

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