C Battery, 231 Brigade, Royal Field Artillery
Killed in Action, 28th July 1917, aged 33.
Lieutenant Charles Lewthwaite was the second of the “Old Leek Battery” officers to die in France. The Battery had lost Lt Basil Nicholson earlier in the war in 1915.
He had previously been awarded the Military Cross for bravery, his citation reads “he showed great courage and promptness in putting out a fire which had broken out in his gun position caused by heavy hostile shell fire. He also went out into the open under heavy fire and rescued a wounded infantryman. His work at all times has been remarkably good”.
Charles had been with the Battery since the start of the war, mustering with the unit on the 14th August 1914 at Leek in his civilian clothes as his new uniform had not yet arrived.
He was well liked in the Battery, one occasion showing why he was loved by the men:-
In February 1916 the Battery were stationed in a Chateau near Long and whilst there many of the men and Batmen helped themselves to the silverware and some was put in the Officers Mess Skip. When the Battery moved on near Wailly the Officers were at Dinner, when Major Challinor received a bill for £150 for the missing silver from the caretaker at Long. Major Challinor was all for punishing those who had taken it. The men of the Battery that night were quickly buring the loot. Lieutenant Lewthwaite told the Major he would deal with it. Charles paid the bill out of his own pocket and nothing more was said.
Lieutenant “Teddy” Boucher (of Cheddleton) tells the story of Charles’ death, he was behind the Battery positions some distance away – “I was riding up to the Battery with Major Morris-Eyton. He took one of his typical deep breaths and said “By God Teddy, they’re shelling the Battery”. “A” Gun pit burst into flames and Charles removed his helmet to help put water on a fire which had broken out, and whilst without his helmet a German shell exploded nearby, decapitating Charles and killing him instantly.”
Charles was interred along with some other members of the Battery at Fosse Number 10 Cemetery. “Tiffy” Biddulph made a brass plaque from a shell casing for his makeshift coffin.
He was well liked by all the Leek men of the Battery, Bombardier Harry Marren noted in his diary for the 28th July “We have had Lieut Lewthwaite killed today” and for the 29th he notes “We buried him today, Sunday. His horse was also shot by his wish. We have lost our best friend.”
It was not uncommon for officers to request their horses be put down should the officer lose their lives.
Charles’ horse was called “Sammy” and it fell to Sgt Farrier Taylor of the Battery to carry out Charles’ wish.