b. 01/05/1896 Milford Haven, Wales. d. 22/02/1977 Milford Haven, Wales
Hubert William “Stokey” Lewis (1896-1977), the second son of Adrian and Sarah Lewis (nee Broome), one of at least four children, was born at Robert Street, Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, Wales on 1st May 1896. His father was a brass moulder and fitter at Milford Haven Docks and the family later moved to Dartmouth Terrace. Hubert was educated at the National School, Milford Haven, and was known as “Stokey”. He left school at 13 when he began work at the local fish market as a packer. He also played football for the local Milford Stars team. In early September 1914 he attended a recruiting meeting, and on the 4th enlisted in the 11th (S) Battalion, the Welch Regiment (Cardiff Pals) Commercial who were formed in Cardiff the same month.
The following day, Lewis left his hometown with 75 volunteers in Kitchener’s New Army and was then part of a group of 46 men who were sent to the Depot of the Welch Regiment at Maindy Barracks in order to join the newly formed “Cardiff Pals”. They left on the 14th, as part of 67th Brigade, 22nd Division, to start training at Lewes, close to the South Downs, and later trained at Eastbourne, Seaford and Hastings, before completing their training in Aldershot. They sailed for France from Southampton on 5th September 1915, arriving in Boulogne. On the 10th, he was attached to the machine gun section of the 9th Border Regiment.
A few days later, Bulgaria entered the war, and it was decided to send 22nd Division to Greece. Lewis arrived in Salonika on 8th November and was to serve there until the end of the war, during which time he was wounded twice, including being gassed.
On 22th/23rd October 1916 at Macukovo (now called Efzóni, near Serres in Greece on the Salonika Front), while on duty during a raid, Private Lewis was twice wounded on reaching the enemy trenches, but refused to be attended to. He was wounded again while searching enemy dug-outs and again refused assistance. At this point three of the enemy approached and Private Lewis immediately attacked them single-handed, capturing all three. Later, during the retirement, he went to the assistance of a wounded man and, under heavy shell and rifle fire, brought him back safely, after which he collapsed.
In December, he went home to Wales on leave and given a great welcome in Cardiff station. He later corrected his entry in the London Gazette and said that he could only remember being wounded twice not three times! He was given a gold watch by the people of Milford Haven. He received his VC at Buckingham Palace on 5th February 1917 and by the middle of the month he was back on the Balkan Front. He later reached the rank of Lance Corporal on 16th April 1919, and returned to Milford Haven and worked as a fish merchant in the fish market with his cousin, Billy Brown. The business failed in the early 1920s, so he took a succession of occasional jobs. He later found a permanent position in a Milford Haven ice factory, where he worked unloading the ice from lorries. He became the company’s foreman at the Milford fish market, a position he held for 43 years. He was known as VC Lewis.
On 9th October 1920, he married Edith Eveline Etherington in Haverfordwest; the couple would later have three sons, Vernon, Edward and Arthur. On 3rd September 1921, he was invited to unveil the Pembrokeshire War Memorial at Haverfordwest, the Dale Village War Memorial on 19th June 1923 and the Milford Haven War Memorial on 24th April 1924. During World War II, he served in the Home Guard and was awarded a Certificate for Good Service. His eldest son, Vernon, was killed in action serving in the RAF on 24th August 1943. Hubert would receive his son’s posthumous DFM from King George VI on 14th May 1946.
Hubert would attend the 1946 VE Parade, and the 1956 VC Centenary Celebrations in Hyde Park. He also attended the second VC/GC Association reunion in 1960 and five other functions until his last in July 1968 when he was 72. He was a great friend of Ivor Rees VC and they attended the functions together. In 1964, he attended the premiere of “Zulu” and had tea with Michael Caine. He was accompanied by two other VC holders in Ivor Rees VC and Edward Chapman VC. Five years later, his wife, Edith, died on 4th July 1969 and was buried in St Katherine’s Cemetery in Milford Haven.
Hubert died at his home, 26 Prioryville, Milford Haven on 22nd February 1977, the last First World War VC holder from Wales to die. He was buried next to his wife in St Katherine’s Cemetery, Milford Haven. Lewis’s medals appeared in a Sotheby’s sale held at Billingshurst on 30th November/1st December 1993 and they were purchased for £26,450 by Mr A Abrahams from Cardiff. Apart from his VC and MM, his other medals included the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953. The medals were later acquired by Michael Ashcroft and are now displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM
BURIAL PLACE: ST KATHERINE'S CHURCHYARD, MILFORD HAVEN, WALES.
Hubert Lewis' medals including VC on display at the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London
Llandaff Cathedral, Cardiff
War Illustrated, 20th January 1917