Driver William Lewis

Royal Field ArtilleryDriver William Lewis

284166, “B” Bty. 5th Reserve Bde., Royal Field Artillery who died on 28th November 1918, aged 28

Remembered with Honour
Barrow Hill Memorial
Staveley Parish Memorial
Woodthorpe Memorial
Staveley Cemetery XX. 38.

David Lewis and Martha Davies were both born and raised in Wales; David in Alltami, Flintshire and Martha in Llandynog, Denbighshire. Their marriage was registered at Chester when David was 21 and Martha was 20. Their first child, Mary, was born in Alltami, followed a year later by their son, WILLIAM, who was born in Mynyddi. The family lived in Argoed, Mold, Flintshire in 1891 where David worked as a coal miner.

Like many coalminers, David moved his family to the coalfields of Derbyshire, to work for the Staveley Coal and Iron Company at the Seymour Colliery. In 1901, they were living in one of the four parallel rows of 3-roomed cottages at 24, Seymour Terrace – houses which were later denounced in 1914 by a school inspector as being “the most disreputable, squalid and filthy-looking piece of property he had ever seen during the whole of his inspectorial experiences. The over-laden ash middens, the exposed character of the earth closets and the foetid atmosphere being a revelation to him. He expressed surprise that the Chesterfield Rural District Council had allowed such a state of things to exist for so long.”

Coal miner, William, and his sister both married in 1910. 20 year old William married a Wrexham born girl, Elizabeth Jones, whilst his sister Mary married William Charles Fletcher. William and Elizabeth set up home a few doors away from his parents in three rooms at 27, Seymour Terrace and his sister and her husband were close by at number 57. They had three daughters, Lily in 1911, Mary in 1913 and Martha in 1917.

Very few records are available for Williams’ army service.  As a married man with children, it may be that he did not enlist in the armed forces during the early years of the war. As a coal miner, he would probably not have been called up until after June 1916.

The only information to date is that provided by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission which states that he was a Driver in “B” Battery, 5th Reserve Brigade., Royal Field Artillery with the service number 284166.  This was a Territorial home -unit based at Catterick, Yorkshire.

There were three roles for home-based units of the Royal Artillery: as depot or training units, for providing mobile artillery forces for use in the event of enemy attack and for providing static artillery forces to defend key ports and coastal installations.

5th RFA

“Driver” was a military rank used in the British Royal Artillery and artillery corps of other commonwealth armies throughout the First and Second World War, as well as in earlier conflicts. It was equal to the rank of private; however it consisted of driving a form of transportation which pulled artillery and equipment.

During the First World War, drivers were in charge of a team of up to six horses which pulled field artillery to areas of fighting. It is likely that they were also capable of performing the duties of a Gunner when required or a replacement was needed.

William Lewis died in the Military Hospital at Catterick Camp on 28th November 1918, aged 28. His death was caused by “Influenza and Lobar Pneumonia.” He was just one of the millions who succumbed to the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 which killed more people than the Great War.

Digital Camera

An article in the Derbyshire Times on the 1st Feb 1919 says that: We are asked to state that the body of Driver William Lewis R.F.A. of Seymour who died aged 28 in the Military Hospital, Catterick Camp, Yorkshire was brought home and buried in the Staveley Cemetery on December 4th. He left a widow and three children. His wife at the time was seriously ill with pneumonia and unable to attend the military funeral. “‘Bill’ as he was familiarly known was one of the best of comrades and his courtesy and cheery smile gained him many friends. He was much respected in Seymour.”

William Lewis is buried in Grave XX. 38. (C) at Staveley Cemetery.

*3 years after Williams death, in the Spring of 1922, his 33 year old widow, Elizabeth, married Wilfred Davey of 133, Devonshire Terrace, Barrow Hill. No evidence has been found to date to suggest that William himself lived in Barrow Hill. It may be that when the memorial was erected, his widow was already living in the village and that she put his name forward for inclusion.

© Ann Lucas