Sunday, November 11, 2012

Edie Damsell, at the graveside of her father Cecil W Lewis at Ribemont Cemetery in Northern France. Edie spent her whole lifetime trying to track her father down, and promised her mother on her deathbed she would find him Eventually with the help of Devon paper "The Sunday Independent" she traced him and in 1984 the British Legion took her to his graveside where they played the Last Post and presented her with his medals.
He father died when she was a babe in arms, during the last months of the war in 1918. Despite having 8 children to look after, my great-grandmother was denied a war-widows pension by the local worthies who decided such things, and the family had to struggle through the depression years in great poverty. We remember the fallen, but's let's not forget the brave women who had to struggle on for the rest of their lives, holding families together despite all the odds.

It's hard to make out the inscription from this photo, but the details are:

C W Lewis 
Gloucestershire Regiment
13th Battalion

Judging by the date, Cecil died the night the Germans launched their 'Spring Offensive' on 21st of March 1918 - their last-ditch chance to settle the war before the Americans arrived.

He saw Edie once. When he returned from leave when she was just 18 months old. Same he never found out what a terrific woman his baby daughter would turn out to be.


Deano said...

More on my great-grandad's unit the The Gloucestershire Regiment, part of the 5th Army which was effectively destroyed:

13th (Service) Battalion (Forest of Dean)(Pioneers)
Formed at Malvern in December 1914 by Lieut-Col. H. Webb, MP. Adopted by War Office 12 July 1915.
August 1915 : attached as Divisional Pioneers to 39th Division.
Moved to Aldershot in September 1915 and landed in France 3 March 1916.
6 May 1918 : reduced to cadre strength.
16 June 1918 : transferred to 197th Brigade in 66th (2nd East Lancashire) Division.
20 September 1918 : Brigade transferred to Lines of Communication.

Deano said...

Some more info:

13th Battalion ('Forest of Dean' Service Battalion (Pioneers) 1914-19)
Served in France and Flanders in the 39th Division. Raised by Lieut-Colonel H. Webb, MP in December 1914. Landed in France 3 March 1916. Reduced to cadre on 6 May 1918. Awarded 9 battle honours.
Died: 10 officers and 292 men.

Deano said...

Some more stuff I found. Seems that my great grandfather came from a mining background, much like my grandfather Bill on the other side of the family:

Autumn 1916 - 13th Gloucestershire Regiment (General)
by slowhands , proud of his ancient Dean Forest roots, Sunday, July 02, 2006, 12:48 (2324 days ago)
On the 90th anniversary of the Somme offensive, perhaps its time to reflect on the Forest Pioneer's who gave their lives in the mud and gore of battle, and of course those who returned.

The 'Forest of Dean Pioneers', officially known as the 13th
(Service) Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment

They were raised by Sir Harry Webb in Cinderford Town Hall on Monday night,
14th December 1914, and consisted of coal miners and labourers. About 25% of
the battalion's strength came from the Forest itself, while the rest were
miners from South Wales and County Durham, along with labourers and artisans
from the rest of Gloucestershire, and a few from Birmingham.

They went to France in March 1916, and spent the war on the Western Front,
serving on the Somme in 1916 and the Passchendaele offensive in 1917. They
suffered heavy losses during the German offensives of March - April 1918.

Further reading in the New Regard

Deano said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Deano said...

Here's the official citation for great-grandad. He may have been 'Cyril' not 'Cecil' - will have to check. Looks like he died on the 24th March, not the 20th.,%20C%20W