Charles Walter LEWIS
Rank: Private
Number: 14309
Unit: 5th Battalion SOUTH WALES BORDERERS
Date of Death: 11 April 1918
Age: 33
Cemetery: Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium

Nothing is known of Charles' early life, except that he was born in Welch Hay, near the town of Brecon, in the late spring of 1884. Army records published after the War suggest he was living in Longsight when he enlisted into the army not long after War broke out. However, the local newspaper, reporting his death, stated that he lived at 69 Wellington Road South. Perhaps the family home had moved in the intervening years - he may be the Charles W Lewis who, in 1915, married Mary Oliver at St Paul's Church, Heaton Moor. Kelly's Directory for 1914 also records that 77 Wellington Road South were the premises of a local hairdresser, Thomas Lewis - perhaps a relative?

Charles must have retained strong connections with Wales as he travelled to Newport, presumably with the clear intent of the joining the Borderers which was the local Regiment. Charles' medal entitlement records, at the National Archives, show he went on active service to France on 17 July 1915. At this time, the 5th Battalion was fighting at Gallipoli, so he must have been transferred later. His original unit was probably the 9th Battalion, known to have arrived in France in the July.

On 9 April 1918, the Germans launched the second phase of their spring offensive. As the previous month, it was delivered with overwhelming strength and ferocity and, within hours, the British army was again in retreat. The Borderers were not in the front line at that time but received order to "Stand by". The next day, they moved forward to take up a defensive position on what had become the new British front line. The Battalion's War Diary documents the fighting that took place on the day Charles would lose his life.

"B" Company, in the front line, was involved in almost continuous desperate fighting all day. Their positions were heavily bombard in the morning and, again at about 2pm. The force of the German infantry attack pushed back the units on either side of them. This meant that the Germans started to work their round the flanks but they were counter-attacked and held about 3pm. This allowed the Company to withdraw to a new position on the Wytschaete - Messines road. Another German attack came at 6pm and there was no option but to retreat. "The men were sent back in parties of 5 and had to withdraw through a terrific barrage. They behaved splendidly and inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy in this fight".

Meanwhile "C" Company had a more fortunate morning as its position was hidden by a heavy mist but as this lifted about midday, they also came under artillery fire as did "D" Company nearby. Both companies were also forced to withdraw in the evening.

   
           
   
     
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