Private Laurence Percival Lewis

Regiment:  12th Battalion Royal Sussex
Service No:  G/19547
Date and place of birth:  3rd qtr 1890 in Midhurst, Sussex
Date and place of death:  3 February 1917

Family background

Laurence Percival Lewis was a son of Walter William and Juliana Lewis and baptised at Midhurst Parish Church 12 October 1890.  Walter Lewis, a carpenter, was born in Midhurst in 1845 and had married Juliana Hoad from Easebourne in 1868.

In 1911, Walter (65), now a builder, and Julia Anna (64) had three of their eight surviving children living with them at Petersfield Road, Midhurst: Walter Arthur (35), a carpenter, Grace (24) and Laurence Percival (20), also a carpenter.

Military service

Laurence Percival Lewis enlisted in Chichester, Sussex.

The 12th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment came into being between September and November 1914. These battalions (including the 11th and 12th) were formed by C.Lieut. Colonel Claude Lowther MP in Bexhill-on-Sea and were later known as ‘Lowther’s Lambs’. The three battalions formed ‘The South Downs’. They were mobilised for war in March 1915 as part the 116th Brigade of the 39th Division having been based in both Aldershot and then Witley. By July they were on their way to the front after landing in Le Havre.

The ‘Pals’ battalions of the Royal Sussex – South Downs, suffered terrible casualties on 30 June 1916. They formed part of the diversionary attack prior to the ‘First day of the Somme’, carried out by the 39th Division at the Boars Head near Richebourg l’Avoue.

Just under 1,100 casualties, the majority of which were from Sussex, were logged as either dead, wounded or taken prisoner. After regrouping, the battalions were part of the Battle of Thiepval and the push to take The Ridge on 26 to 28 September.

The Brigade is not recorded as being involved in any battles in early 1917, possibly due to the heavy losses during the autumn of 1916, their last battle of that year being the Battle of the Ancre on 13 and 14 November. The 116th Brigade were posted to the Western Front for the entire war until the spring of 1918. The 12th Battalion was disbanded on 8 February and personnel were transferred to the 11th and 13th Battalions, which by then were, reduced to training cadres.

Laurence Lewis was awarded Victory and British medals.

Death and commemoration

He died of wounds on 3 February 1917.  He is buried in Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery, grave V.G.14. He is commemorated on Midhurst War Memorial and Memorial Panels in Midhurst Parish Church.

Subsequent family history

His father Walter Lewis died in 1924 and his mother Juliana in 1926, both in Midhurst.

Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project