WILLIAM HENRY HEWITT
This post was written by Victoria Doran.
William Henry Hewitt came from a very poor Liverpool Irish family, and died of his wounds in a German hospital.
Book of Remembrance entry
As can be seen William Henry Hewitt was known as Harry, so that is what he will be called in this post.
Harry was born on 12 November 1892 in Toxteth Park, Liverpool and baptised as a Roman Catholic on 20 November at St Patrick, Toxteth Park. He was the eldest child of Patrick Hewitt (1868-1935) and Elizabeth Smith (1874-???).
His father was born at Warrenpoint, Co. Down, Ireland the third of 4 children of William Hewitt (1838-1893) and Alice Sheeky (?). Probably all the children apart from Patrick died in infancy as no further trace of them has been found. No death has been found for Alice either but William was married again to Mary Ann Colligan on 18 February 1873 at St Patrick, Toxteth.
William Hewitt and Mary Ann Colligan marriage
They had 3 children, only one of whom survived infancy.
William was a dock labourer, and Patrick followed this occupation as well. This was dangerous, poorly paid and uncertain work, as men were hired by the day, and often there was no work available. The family lived in the courts one of the poorest parts of Liverpool.
On 18 July 1891 Patrick Hewitt married Elizabeth Smith at St Patrick, Toxteth Park.
Patrick Hewitt and Elizabeth Smith marriage
Elizabeth was born in Liverpool about 1874, but nothing further is known about her.
After Harry, Patrick and Elizabeth had another 5 children, but only 1 of them, Patrick junior (1899-???) survived infancy.
In 1911 Patrick Hewitt was living with a ‘wife’ Mary, claiming to have been married for 2 years. Elizabeth has not been found in 1911. Patrick junior was an inmate of West Derby Union workhouse, and Harry was in Hoylake working for and living with William Richard Eccles as a printers improver in a letter press business.
It seems likely that Patrick and Elizabeth split up, and Harry and Patrick junior were left to the ‘tender’ care of Liverpool Council. Several small employers in north west Wirral are known to have taken young boys from the workhouses and Industrial Schools of Liverpool and given them a chance in life, and it is likely that this is what happened to Harry Hewitt. It is very unlikely that the son and grandson of a Liverpool Irish dock labourers would have wound up in Hoylake in a promising job otherwise.
Harry apparently enlisted in 1914 at Liverpool, but he is not included in the Deeside Advertiser list of Hoylake men already ‘in the colours’ at 6 November 1914. He served in the 2nd Battalion, West Riding (Duke of Wellington) Regiment.
Duke of Wellington’s Regiment cap badge
According to his medal card he only ever served in this regiment, but it is unlikely that they were recruiting in Liverpool in 1914, so he may actually have transferred to it later.
He landed in France on 4 May 1915 and rose to the rank of corporal.
It is not known how he was wounded, but he died on 3 July 1917 in the German Military Hospital in the former Engineering School in Aachen close to the border between France and Germany. This was one of 9 military hospitals in Aachen. He had a shot wound in his foot. As he never reached a Prisoner of War camp, the Red Cross records do not show any details of where and when he was captured, or how long he had been a prisoner.
Harry was originally buried in the Aachen Military Cemetery. In 1923 the Commonwealth War Graves Commission decided to relocate all British graves in Germany to just 4 cemeteries and William Henry was reburied in Cologne Southern Cemetery.
Cologne Southern Cemetery
Harry had given his father as next of kin to the Army, and on 22 November 1919 Patrick Hewitt received £32 from his soldier’s effects. By then Patrick had married Mary Brown on 21 May 1919 in the Church of England at St Matthew, Toxteth Park (with Patrick junior as one of the witnesses). He may well not have known whether or not he actually was a widower. There is evidence indicating that Elizabeth may have survived until 1954 in Liverpool.
Harry is commemorated on Grange Hill War Memorial and in the Book of Remembrance. Note that Aix la Chapelle is the French name for the city the Germans call Aachen.
It is not known what his younger brother Patrick did in the war. There is evidence that he later moved to Ireland.
Birth: 12 Nov 1892 in Toxteth Park, Liverpool
Death: 3 Jul 1917 in Aachen, Germany; shot wound in the foot
Addresses: 7 Gore Street, Toxteth Park, Liverpool (01); 18 Wood Street, Liverpool (11)
Occupation: printer’s improver
Unit: ‘D’ Company, 2nd Battalion, West Riding (Duke of Wellington) Regiment
Number and Rank: 12395; Corporal
Medals: 15 Star, Victory and British War
Commemorated and Buried: Cologne Southern Cemetery, North Rhine Westphalia, Germany
Sources: GH, CWGC, MC,, Census: 01, 11, BR, RSE, SDGW