This biography was written by Victoria Doran.
Despite a health problem as a teenager, John Lewin was a member of a Pioneer Battalion doing heavy manual work near the Front Line when he died in an unusual accident. He was brought up in Huyton, where his father still lived, so is also commemorated on the Huyton with Roby War Memorial.
John Lewin was born on 25 June 1887 in Liverpool. He was the youngest of the 5 children of John Lewin (1850-1932) and Mary Mathews (1855-1890), his older siblings all being sisters. They were a Roman Catholic family and John was baptized on 10 July 1887 at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Liverpool. His godparents were also members of the Lewin family. His father was a journeyman baker, also born in Liverpool, and his paternal grandfather, yet another John Lewin (1792-1866), was a cooper (barrel maker) from the Isle of Man. John Lewin senior’s wife, Alice Hamill (1826-???) was Irish. Not untypical Liverpool working class Catholic family origins.
Mary Mathews was the daughter of James Matthews (1834-???) a shipwright and Mary Phillips (1837-???), both of them from Liverpool as well. Sadly John’s mother died before he was 3 years old. The family had spent time in Mold, Flintshire, Wales before John was born, and at the time of his mother’s death they were living in Widnes, Lancashire. In early 1893, John’s father was remarried to Georgina Oldcorn (1864-1950) who was an older sister of the wife of John’s uncle, Thomas Lewin. The Oldcorn family came from Mold, Flintshire and doubtless John’s father had met them whilst he lived there. John had at least 8 step-siblings as a result of his father’s second marriage.
By 1901 the Lewin family was living in Huyton, John amongst them. On 7 Jun 1904 he enlisted in the Royal Navy for a term of 12 years as Boy 2nd Class 230993. Unfortunately on 11 Aug 19o5 he was admitted to the Royal Naval Hospital in Portsmouth and on 2 October 1906 he was discharged from the Royal Navy as medically unfit due to a form of hernia.
John’s Royal Navy record
We next find him in 1911 when he was living in Everton with his sister Clara (1878-???), and her family. He was a brewer’s labourer. Clara was married to a police constable and the family have not been traced after 1911. In the meantime John’s eldest sister, Mary Jane (1875-1959) had married William George Ainslie (1875-1916), a railway employee, and they had settled in West Kirby. His sister Alice Gertrude (1884-???) was also in West Kirby, working as a kitchen maid at Wilton Grange where she was one of 7 servants. His other sister, Georgina (1881-1896) had died at Huyton at the age of only 15.
At some stage during the war, probably in 1915, John joined the King’s Liverpool Regiment as Private 12665. His military record has not survived, so we know few details, however as he did not receive the 14-15 Star medal he cannot have served overseas until 1916.
Deeside Advertiser 25 August 1916
From this article we know that John had made his home in West Kirby with his sister Mary Jane and family. It is not known whether the operation was as a result of a wound, or related to his hernia, but he must have returned to England to recuperate. Once fit again, he was transferred to the Lancashire Fusiliers as Private 48109.
Lancashire Fusiliers cap badge
At the time of his death, on 25 January 1918, he was serving in the 19th (3rd Salford) Pioneer Battalion of the regiment. This was a Divisional Pioneer battalion serving near Ypres, Belgium. Their task was to carry out any building and engineering work required near the front line. Many members of the battalion will have been skilled men, but John was a labourer in civilian life, and thus also in military life. He was carrying a bag of cement during repairs to a German pillbox when he slipped and fractured his skull. He was 30 years old.
Although he lived with his sister, his next of kin was his father in Huyton, and he was the person to whom the Army paid John’s soldier’s effects of around £20 and who, no doubt, arranged for him to be commemorated on Huyton with Roby War Memorial
John was buried at Menin Road South Cemetery, near Ypres, Belgium and also commemorated on Grange Hill War Memorial.
Menin Road cemetery, Ypres, Belgium.
His sister Mary Jane had a very difficult war. Her husband died in the late summer of 1916, and the older of her 2 daughters, Gertrude May Ainslie (1898-1918) died on 21 March 1918, and was buried at St Bridget, West Kirby. Possibly Mary Jane and her daughters were no longer practising Roman Catholics. The rest of the family were usually buried in Yew Tree Cemetery, Litherland.
Three of his half-brothers were old enough to serve in the war and all survived to retirement age. Military information has only been found for Arthur John Lewin (1895-1976) who served in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers as Private 52998 from 27 Nov 1916. However he was allowed to return to his civilian job with Liverpool Corporation Tramways on 22 March 1918 as he suffered from shell shock and synovitis of the knee. He was not formally demobbed though until February 1919.
Birth: 25 Jun 1887, Liverpool
Death: 25 Jan 1918 at Ypres, Belgium; fractured skull
Addresses: 15 Muspratt Street, Widnes, Lancashire (91); Birch Road, Huyton (01); 19 Rupert Hill, Everton, Liverpool (11); 19 North Road, West Kirby (16)
Occupation: brewer’s labourer
Units: Royal Navy; King’s Liverpool Regiment; 19th (3rd Salford Pioneers) Battalion,
Numbers and Ranks: 230993; Boy 2nd Class, Royal Navy; 12665, Private, King;s Liverpool Regiment; 48109, Private, 19th (3rd Salford Pioneers) Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers
Medals : Victory & British War
Commemorated: Menin Road, Military Cemetery, Ypres, Belgium; Grange Hill War Memorial, West Kirby; Huyton & Roby War Memorial, Huyton, Merseyside
Sources: CWGC, MC, Census: 91, 01, 11, DA, PR, BR, Royal Navy SR