Tuesday 15 March 2016

Killed in a Cellar

Wednesday 15th March 1916: Last night Corporal Lewis Hill, 2nd Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment, one of three soldier sons of Mrs Hill of 12 New Town-street, Luton and formerly of 17 Cobden-street has been killed in France, fragments of a shell entering a cellar in which he and other men were taking shelter and killing two while the others escaped unhurt(1). Corporal Hill, who was 24 years of age, joined the Bedfords four years ago and was with the 2nd Battalion in South Africa when war was declared. He had been in France since October 1914.

Private H Bacchus(2) broke the bad news to Mrs Hill: “We were in defence billets and were shelled out. One shell burst into the place where we were lying and killed poor Lewis straight out. He died very peacefully and never spoke. We buried him respectfully this afternoon in a little cemetery just behind the firing line”(3).

The chaplain of 30th Division has sent a photograph of the cemetery to the grieving mother explaining: “When the war is over the cemetery will become the property of the British Government, who will arrange for its preservation and erect a permanent memorial over those buried in it”(4).

Source: Luton News 30th March 1916

(1) The war diary of the Battalion says one man was wounded in addition to the two killed – the other being Sergeant Walter Smith of Sandon [Hertfordshire]. They are buried beside one another.

(2) Himself killed on 29th June 1916.

(3) Cérisy-Gailly Military Cemetery.

(4) The Graves Registration Commission, which became the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, was established by Sir Fabian Ware (1869-1949), later a Major-General, whilst commanding a Red Cross mobile ambulance unit  in 1915, becoming the Imperial War Graves Commission in 1917.

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