James William HEWITT
Rank: Private
Number: 15297
Unit: 2nd Battalion LEINSTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 6 April 1918
Age: 30
Cemetery: Le Cateau Military Cemetery, Nord, France

William Hewitt had been born at Heyland, Cheshire. It's not known wjhen he moved to this area but, in 1914, he married Lilian Wood in a civil ceremony  registered at Altrincham. They lived at 78 Church Road, Gatley.

He enlisted at Stockport, originally into the Kings Shropshire Light Infantry (service number 24407). It is not known when William transferred to the Leinsters.

During March 1918, the 2nd Leinsters (part of the 16th Irish Division) were entrenched near the village of Epehy, north of the town of St Quentin. In the book "The Kaiser's Battle", by Martin Middlebrook, Captain E Hall describes that they had taken over part of the front line from another battalion. "The trenches were poor and shallow and the wiring in front consisted of a single strand of barbed wire held by screw-iron stakes and, in stretches, this was on the ground forming no defence at all. All we had in the company front line trench was a pair of sentries about every hundred yards on a long stretch of front. To impress the enemy of our great strength, we had orders that the officer on trench duty was to take a Lewis gunner with him and put the gun over the parapet and fire a few rounds every 25 yards or so. He would go one way and then travel back a few yards, fire again.......I do not think the enemy was very impressed. I openly complained and stated that Jerry would come over one morning and walk through us."

21 March was that morning. The Germans launched a massive and unstoppable assault along a 40 mile front around St Quentin. Many were killed, injured or taken prisoner and, over the following week, the British were driven back many miles, losing all of the gains made since 1916.  

It is not known exactly what happened to James in that time, but he is recorded as having died from wounds. He's buried at Le Cateau Military Cemetery. Le Cateau remained in German hands until 10 October 1918.  It is reasonable to presume, therefore, that James was seriously wounded, probably on 21 March. The British retreat in the face of the rapid German advance will have meant he could not be evacuated and was taken prisoner. He will have received treatment in a German military hospital well behind their front line at Le Cateau, but died a few days later. Originally buried in a German cemetery, he will have been re-buried in his final resting place, probably after the Armistice

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