Henry ( Harry) Lewis was born in 1888 and was the youngest child of Charles and Catherine Lewis. They were a Welsh speaking family and lived in Hand Cottage, Ochr y Foel, Dyserth. During his working life Harry’s father had been both a quarryman and a leadminer. Hand Cottage was conveniently placed for work as it nestled in the side of Moel Hiraddug, beneath the limestone quarry.
From the census returns it would seem that Charles and Catherine had 11 children in all, including Anne (1867), Thomas (1869), Mary (1870), Catherine (1876), Charles (1878), Margaret (1880), Susannah (1886) and Henry (1888). The 1891 census lists another member of their family – an adopted daughter called Catherine Anne who was eighteen months old. (She was in fact their granddaughter)
By 1901 Harry’s mother was widowed, his father having died five years previously. Now there were just two children at home: Harry and Susannah. Ten years later we see that Harry was employed as a postman, still living at home with his mother. Twenty year old Catherine Anne was living there too. I believe that Susannah was “in service”.
In October 1916 Harry enlisted in Wrexham and was recruited as a driver into the Second Reserve Brigade of the Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Field Artillery. Sadly his time in the Army was short as he died of pneumonia in West Linton, Scotland on the 2nd of April 1917. He was 29 years old. Following a search for military hospitals in the area, he may have been a patient in Lynehurst Auxiliary Hospital, West Linton.
With so many injured men returning from the front additional hospital facilities had to be set up all over the UK. Existing hospitals were expanded and many other buildings were requisitioned: schools, stately homes – even asylums. Auxiliary hospitals were attached to central military hospitals which looked after patients who remained under military control. There were over 3,000 auxiliary hospitals administered by the Red Cross. The Army had to cater for the men like Harry Lewis who suffered from general ill health as well as those who were injured.
Harry is buried in Dyserth. His is one of three family graves placed side by side in the churchyard. The one to the left of the parents is dedicated to three of Charles and Catherine’s children.
Harry’s older brother Charles also served in the Great War. His roll of honour card in the Flintshire County Archive reads: “Charles Lewis, Hand Cottage. Period of service: March 1916 to March 1919. Served in France: the Somme, Messines, Ypres, Aisne. Not wounded or invalided”. Charles died in 1949 and is buried with his 3 siblings.
Susannah was someone I knew when I was a child. Miss Sue Lewis, as she was known, was a member of our chapel – the Wesleyan Chapel on the hill in Dyserth. I used to visit her in Hand Cottage. I well remember its cosy interior and how kind and gentle Miss Lewis was. Little did I imagine the great sadness she had known in her life.
She too lies in Dyserth churchyard, with her parents and the siblings she had lost.