Albert Victor Lewis

Private Albert Victor Lewis of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, 2/8th Battalion (Formerly 2179 Hampshire Rgt) was killed in action on the 27th July 1916 aged 28.

Early Life

Albert was born 14th March 1887, he was the youngest son of William H, who was a dealer in toys and games and came from Falmouth in Cornwall and Sophia A Lewis who was born in Middlesex.  Albert had an older brother and sister, William and Antonia and according to the 1891 Census his grandmother Antonia was living with them at the ripe old age of 86.

Albert began his education at St. Mark’s School, Reigate, before moving on to Reigate Grammar School from 1902–1903, aged 13/14 years. Albert then spent some time as a pupil teacher, either at St Mark’s or at the Grammar School; it is difficult to discern which of those two schools from his College record. After a period spent learning his craft as a pupil teacher, Albert then spent 4 years as an assistant teacher at St. John’s School, Caterham, Surrey. Albert took courses and exams prior to his entry to Winchester Training College. These included Botany and Hygiene, and Model and Freehand Drawing. He also gained the Surrey Education Committee’s Physical Training Certificate. He took the Oxford Senior Entrance Exam in 1907 but did not begin his course at Winchester until 1913.  Apart from the years he would have spent as an assistant teacher we have no other information to explain the gap of 6 years between gaining a place at College and finally taking up that place. For some young men the reasons were financial: it was hard to give up the salary of an assistant teacher even though the financial rewards as a fully certificated teacher would be greater. There were costs involved in attending college and no salary during the period they were training. We have no way of knowing if this was a consideration for Albert.

By the 1911 Census though  both William and his mother in law, Antonia senior, had passed away. Antonia and Albert were School Teachers, but no reference to where the former was trained whilst  older brother William was a Post Office clerk.

From evidence gathered post 1913 it is known that Albert had entered Winchester Training College for the two year course.

From The Wintonian 1910-1914

Indoor Sports: In the Open Bridge Competition Albert Lewis and his partner Paice, were defeated in the final by Hart and H W Rose.

Both Hart and Rose were also to die in the Great War.

The courses at the training college were designed to prepare the student for all manner of subjects and this was reflected in the timetable that they followed. According to Rose, the weekly student routine appears to divided into three main areas, the Volunteers, timetabled subjects and thirdly sporting activities. Each was valued for creating the whole person that then went out into the community to teach.

In Albert’s case he straddled what was to become the peace and war years, which would in the first instance have placed a great deal of pressure on him as war was declared. We know that he didnt leave the training college until 1915, which places the research time in an incongruous position because in 1914 , the students were farmed out to different colleges, as Winchester Training College changed its role and its very survival brought into question.

The Great War

What wasn’t known was the eventual placement of Albert within this emerging system, as in 1914-15 ten students were sent on to Bede College in Durham. What we do know is that he left in 1915, and immediately joined up in Winchester. Firstly as Private 2179 Hampshire Regt, and then transferred to the 2/8th Battalion Royal Warwickshires.

On the morning of Sunday, May 22nd 1916, the Battalion left their camp at Perham Down in Wiltshire, marching the short distance to entrain at Ludgershall station, en route to Southampton. As Albert began his journey to the Western Front, it is comforting to know that he would be with friends: fellow WTC students Merton Rose and Joseph Sharp were also making the same journey. All three had overlapped at college in the 1913-1914 academic year. At 7pm, 23 Officers, 855 Other Ranks boarded the paddle steamer Princess Clementine at Southampton Dock, bound for Le Havre, landing there the next morning at 3am. They had landed in France as part of the 182nd (2nd Warwickshire) Brigade in the 61st (2nd South Midland) Division, heading into the conflict.

Their first major action was at Fromelles. The Division was paired with the 5th Australians, both of whom were untried in battle yet were required to provide a major diversionary attack on well fortified German positions, who had been in residence for some considerable time. The end result was as expected, with high casualties. As a diversionary attack it succeeded in its concept and drew attention away from the Somme, but it was a calculated risk.

Albert and the 2/8th Warwickshires were holding the line at Fauquissart section of trenches quite  near the Navy Trench where no man’s land was fairly wide at approx 300 yards. However the land itself was boggy and inspection of the trench map of the time shows there were many drainage ditches covering the ground, which would have made traversing the ground difficult in its own right. However the Germans had placed enfilade machine guns to cover the sally ports from the British trench system, making it virtually impossible to perform an offensive without a high rate of casualties.

The actual day of Albert’s death is not reported as the War Diary for the 19th and 20th July fails to note the names of Other Ranks as was the custom with many regiments. However from the research from the Commonwealth War Graves, it seems that Albert’s body was recovered from a known regimental burial that lay beyond the German lines according to the map reference and brought back to Aubers Ridge British Cemetery which lay in the British sector.

 

Researcher and Author: John Westwood

Aubers Ridge British Cemetery photos taken by Pat Naylor and Peter Lidgitt

Sources

Ancestry (2018). Home page. [online] Available at: www.ancestry.co.uk [Accessed 2018].

Commonwealth War Graves Commission, (2018). Home page. [online] Available at www.cwgc.org/ [Accessed 2018].

Great War Forum, (2018). Home page. [online] Available at: www.greatwarforum.org [Accessed 2018].

The Long Long Trail, (2018). Welcome to the long long trail. [online] Available at: http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/ [Accessed 2018].

The National Library of Scotland (2018). British Forst World War Trench Maps, 1915-1918. [online] Available at: https://maps.nls.uk/ww1/trenches/index.html [Accessed 2018].

Rose, M. (1981). A history of King Alfred’s College, Winchester 1840-1980. London: Phillimore.

Vickers, J. University of Winchester Chapel Memorial Rail image.

 

University of Winchester Archive – Hampshire Record Office
Reference code Record
47M91W/ P2/4 The Wintonian 1899-1900
47M91W/ P2/5 The Wintonian 1901-1902
47M91W/ P2/6 The Wintonian 1903-1904
47M91W/ P2/7 The Wintonian 1904-1906
47M91W/ P2/8 The Wintonian 1905-1907
47M91W/ P2/10 The Wintonian 1908-1910
47M91W/ P2/11 The Wintonian 1910-1914
47M91W/ P2/12 The Wintonian 1920-1925
47M91W/ D1/2 The Student Register
47M91W/ S5//5/10 Photograph of 5 alumni in Mesopotamia
47M91W/ Q3/6 A Khaki Diary
47M91W/ B1/2 Reports of Training College 1913-1914
47M91W/ Q1/5 Report and Balance Sheets 1904- 1949
47M91W/ R2/5 History of the Volunteers Company 1910
47M91W/ L1/2 College Rules 1920
Hampshire Record Office archive
71M88W/6 List of Prisoners at Kut
55M81W/PJ1 Managers’ Minute Book 1876-1903
All material referenced as 47M91W/ is the copyright of The University of Winchester. Permission to reproduce photographs and other material for this narrative has been agreed by the University and Hampshire Record Office.