Thursday, 4 December 2014

The first of three brothers to fall: Ralph Hewett 18 December 1914


Image credit: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

“To lose one child is bad enough. It’s hard to imagine the suffering experienced by families who lost two sons. The news that all the sons from one family had perished would have been, horrifying...  unbearable.” That was a typical comment from a visitor to Fairlynch’s Great War exhibition, shocked by the discoveries brought to light by museum researchers.

Lance Corporal Ralph Hewett, aged only 19, was killed in action on 18 December 1914 while serving with the Second Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment. His grave is unknown, although he is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial, pictured above, in the Pas de Calais region of France.

Ralph Hewett’s name is listed locally as ‘R.Hewitt’ only on the Exmouth Memorial, even though he was born in Budleigh Salterton in 1895. His parents Alfred and Ada Hewett, originally from Cornwall, were living in Fore Street, Budleigh Salterton, according to the 1901 census. By 1911 they had moved to Manchester Street in the parish of Littleham, actually in Exmouth.


The war grave of Ernest Roye Hewett RN J/27300
Boy 1st Class of HMS Viknor.  Photo credit: Eric Jones 

One month later, on 13 January 1915, Alfred and Ada Hewett lost their youngest son, Ernest Roye. Aged 17, he was serving on board HMS Viknor when the ship, a former vessel of the Blue Star Line passenger and cargo shipping company, sank with the loss of all hands off the Donegal Coast. The cause was unknown but the area had been recently mined by the Germans.  The bodies were washed ashore on the North Irish and Scottish coasts. Ernest Hewett’s grave, pictured above, can be found in the tiny and ancient cemetery of Tarbert on the Isle of Jura.

A third son, Leslie Dunstan Hewett, had also joined the Royal Navy and was serving on HMS M20 when he died of disease, aged 20, on 21 July 1916, in Salonika, Greece. He was buried in Mikra British cemetery, in the city of Thessaloniki. The cemetery contains 1,810 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, as well as 147 war graves of other nationalities. Leslie Hewett is listed as L.D. Hewitt on Exmouth’s war memorial. 

‘The Great War at Fairlynch’ 2015 exhibition at Budleigh Salterton’s very special museum! Reviews included: “Wonderful display on WW1, informative, bright and relevant. Well done!! 


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