Private Frederick Harold Lewis

This essay is about the single First World War casualty commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Wyoming.

The grave of Private Frederick Harold Lewis
The grave of Private Frederick Harold Lewis

Fred Lewis was a British immigrant who settled with his mother and two of his sisters in Wyoming. His father was a regular soldier in the Corps of Royal Engineers and Fred was born in Alexandria, Egypt, where his father was serving, on 3 August 1894.[1] He was the fifth of six children, and the eldest of two sons.[2] His father was a quartermaster sergeant when died at the Station Hospital in Gosport, Hampshire in 1896. After his death the children were sent in different directions, with the youngest four attending St David’s orphanage in Mumbles, Glamorganshire. Fred’s movements over the next decade are not known.

His elder sister, Alice, emigrated to the United States in 1907, destined for Big Horn, Wyoming, where she married. His mother followed in 1910; she remarried in 1916.[3] Fred Lewis arrived in Canada on 23 December 1911 and also travelled to Sheridan County, where he became a ranch hand. His sister, Ethel, joined them in October 1912.

By the time the United States entered the war in April 1917, Fred Lewis was working as a sheep herder on the ranch of W. D. McKeon, at Decker, just over the Wyoming-Montana state line.

Lewis enlisted in Chicago for service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force and on 8 February 1918 attested at Toronto, Ontario. He joined the 2nd Depot Battalion, 1st Central Ontario Regiment and was allocated the number 3231750. After a period of basic training he was dispatched to the United Kingdom (the 151st Draft), where he arrived on 25 September 1918. He was taken on strength of 8th Reserve Battalion but the war ended prior to the completion of his training.

In November 1918 he was admitted to hospital suffering from influenza, which was cured, but influenza struck him again the following February and he was again admitted to hospital. Tuberculosis was discovered and he was transferred to the Canadian Special Hospital at Lenham in Kent on 31 March. He remained there until he was sent home to Canada. He embarked on the hospital ship SS Araguaya on 19 April and arrived in Halifax a week later. Lewis was immediately admitted to Spadina Military Convalescent Hospital and finally discharged from the Army on 4 June 1919; responsibility for his care passed to the Invalided Soldiers’ Commission.[4]

Lewis was treated at Guelph Military Convalescence Hospital (also known as Speedwell Hospital) until he returned, via Detroit, to Big Horn, Wyoming in April 1920. He died there of tuberculosis on 29 November 1920 and is buried in Sheridan Municipal Cemetery, in a plot owned by his step-father.[5] His mother and step-father are buried nearby. The grave is in the triangular block immediately south of Masonic Circle, on its north-east edge.

The Canadian Book of Remembrance showing the entry for Private Frederick Harold Lewis
The Canadian Book of Remembrance showing the entry for Private Frederick Harold Lewis

Private Frederick Harold Lewis is commemorated on page 551 of the Canadian First World War Book of Remembrance; that page is displayed on 23 November. That record shows his unit as ‘8th Reserve Battalion’. He is commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission here. His service in England entitled him to the British War Medal 1914-20, which was sent to his sister. The memorial plaque and scroll and the Memorial Cross were sent to his mother.

His brother, 8537 Lance Corporal Wilfred John Lewis, was a regular soldier. He had enlisted into The Duke of Edinburgh’s (Wiltshire Regiment) in 1911, aged 15 upon leaving The Duke of York’s Royal Military School. Old enough to serve overseas, he was sent to France in June 1915 to join the 2nd Battalion in 21st Brigade, 7th Division. He was killed in action on 13 October 1915, aged 19, at the latter stages of the Battle of Loos. He is buried in Cambrin Churchyard Extension, France.

1. (Back) Some records indicate his birth as being in 1895. 1894 is correct. GRO Army Birth Indices (1881 to 1965). Army Returns. Births 1891-1895. p 18.
2. (Back) John Thomas Lewis (1859-20 October 1896) married Elizabeth Bowyer (1864-8 February 1936) on 21 January 1883 in London; Alice Maud (later Cover) (1885-1967); Ethel May (later Ambrose) (1887-1926); Gwendoline Constance (later Lambert) (1889-1932); Gertrude Marion (later Goode) (1891-1967); Wilfred John (1896-1915). The youngest children were sent to St David’s orphanage in Mumbles, Glamorganshire. Wilfred later attended The Duke of York’s Royal Military School, Dover.
3. (Back) Robert Fentley Stone (24 January 1861-12 January 1944).
4. (Back) The Invalided Soldiers’ Commission was part of the Department of Soldiers’ Civil Re-Establishment. Upon discharge all officers and soldiers passed to the control of the Commission if they required ‘medical treatment on account of their suffering from tuberculosis, epilepsy, paralysis or other diseases likely to be of long duration or incurable, or on account of their being mentally deficient or insane’. See: Department of Soldiers’ Civil Re-Establishment. (May 1918). Report of the Work of the Invalided Soldiers’ Commission. Ottawa: J De L Taché.
5. (Back) Block Q, Lot 9, Plot 2. This differs from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission designation (Section Q, Row 9), which is incorrect.

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