680012 GNR. A. DEWHURST.  R.F.A.

680109 GNR. S. DEWHURST.  R.F.A.

 

The Dewhurst family lived at 92 Byron Street, Preston.  Byron Street was off Adelphi Street, on the right hand side as you go north out of town.  The area was demolished in the 1960s and is now the site of part of UCLAN’s campus.  Albert and Stephen were brothers.  Their father was Stephen Dewhurst (b. 1861 in Bury), a cotton spinner.  Although Stephen snr was born in Bury his family came from Preston and they lived in Bury only for a short time in the late 1850s, after which they moved back to Preston.  In 1882, Stephen snr married Annie Whalley (b. 1865 in Blackburn), and the couple had seven children, though one died in infancy.  The survivors were: Charles (b. 1884), Albert (b. 1890), Stephen (b. 1893), Clementina (b. 1896), Ernest (b. 1898) and Elsie (b. 1905).  In 1911, the three older boys were cotton spinners like their father, Clementina and Ernest were weavers and Elsie was at school.

 

In 1908, Albert joined the 2nd West Lancashire Brigade RFA and he served four years in the Territorials, and took part each summer in the annual two week training camps.  In 1912, he was discharged but remained in the Reserve.  In 1913, Albert married Annie Butler (b. 1891, in Preston) and the couple had two boys: Thomas (b. 1913) and Albert (b. 1917).  As a reservist, Albert might have been expected to sign up as soon as War broke out, but given his family commitments, he deferred enlisting until May 1915, when he signed up alongside his brother Stephen.  That same month, their younger brother Ernest also tried to enlist, despite being only 16 years old.  Ernest attempted to enlist in the infantry, in the King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) and he was assigned service number 3426 and posted to 1/4 Battalion.  He was found to be under age, however, and discharged on 20 August 1915.  Ernest was born in November 1898 and would have turned 18 at the end of 1916.  I don’t know if he attempted to re-enlist, but if he did serve, he survived and he died in Preston in 1984.

 

Albert and Stephen joined up in May 1915 and were assigned service numbers 680012 and 680109 respectively and were both initially posted to “B” Battery of 286 Brigade.  They did not serve together all the time, though, as at some stage Stephen was transferred to “C” Battery, 121st Brigade; more about him later

 

680012 GNR. A. DEWHURST.  R.F.A.

 

So Albert landed in France with 286 Brigade in February 1917 and served in the defence of Armentières, and later that year in the Second Battle of Passchendaele.  In early 1918 286 Brigade returned to the area west of Armentières and in April they were engaged in the second phase of the German Spring Offensive, the Battle of the Lys.

 

From the War Diary:

9 April 1918

At 4.15am an intense bombardment of hostile gas shells commenced on the whole of the Corps front. Our batteries, which were standing to, to support a raid by the 121st Infantry, were immediately ordered to open counter-preparation fire.  The gas shell bombardment lasted until about 9.00am when the enemy placed an intense barrage on the front line system.  The enemy broke through the British line on the Right at the 40th Devonshires at front and turning to his Right outflanked our Batteries.  The guns of B and C Batteries and two howitzers of D/286 were captured.  A/286 were able to withdraw their six guns and D/286 four howitzers, after engaging the enemy up to within 300 yards of the position.  The Brigade withdrew and took up position on the north side of the river LYS near to POINT MORTIER where batteries engaged the enemy with harassing fire.  When a battalion of enemy infantry were reported in CROIX DU BAC a further withdrawal was made to positions near LE VERRIER.  7 Other Ranks killed.  2 Officers and 26 O.R.s wounded.  3 Officers and 22 O.R.s missing.

 

Albert was among the dead.  He was 27 years old.  His body was not recovered.

 

Rank:  Gunner

Service No:  680012

Date of Death:  09/04/1918

Age:  27

Regiment/Service:  Royal Field Artillery, “B” Bty, 286th Bde.

Cemetery/memorial reference: Bay 1.

Cemetery/Memorial:  ARRAS MEMORIAL

 

In 1921, Albert’s wife Annie remarried.  Her second husband was Joseph Jackson (b. 1898 in Preston), and the couple had two boys: Joseph (b. 1926) and Norman (b. 1933).

 

680109 GNR. S. DEWHURST.  R.F.A.

 

Stephen probably underwent training with B/286 but at some stage he was transferred to “C” Battery in 121st Brigade.  121Bde formed part of the Divisional artillery for 38th (Welsh) Division.  In 1918, 38th Division was engaged in the first phase of the German Spring Offensive, at the Battles of Albert and Bapaume.  I don’t know the precise circumstances but it appears Stephen was killed in action near Kemmel on 29 April 1918.  He was 23 years old.

 

The day Stephen died, 29 April 1918, the Germans abandoned their attempts to break through the Allied lines in Flanders.  They had made significant territorial gains in the preceding month but at enormous cost, and they had failed to make a decisive breakthrough.

 

Rank:  Gunner

Service No:  680109

Date of Death:  29/04/1918

Age:  23

Regiment/Service:  Royal Field Artillery, “C” Bty, 121st Bde.

Cemetery/memorial reference: V. D. 24.

Cemetery/Memorial:  KLEIN-VIERSTRAAT BRITISH CEMETERY

Additional Information:  Son of Stephen and Ann Dewhurst, of 92 Byron Street, Preston, Lancs.

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