680625 BSM William Ewan D.C.M., R.F.A.
William Ewan was born in 1879 in Preston. His father was William Ewan (b. 1844 in Preston), a boiler maker and riveter in an iron works. His mother was Ellen (surname unknown), who was born in 1845 in Ormskirk. William Snr and Ellen had five children, though one died young. The surviving children were: Elizabeth (b. 1869), Robert (b. 1875), then William Jnr, and Margaret Ann (b. 1884). William Snr died in 1905.
William joined the Royal Field Artillery in 1897. I don’t have full records so don’t know the duration of his initial service or if, for example, he served in the Boer War, though this seems likely. In 1911, William was back in Preston and in the early part of the year he married Mary Sharples (b. 1886 in Preston) and in 1913 the couple had a son whom they named, yes you’ve guessed: William. The family lived at 14 Albyn Bank Street in Preston and William as a postman.
William was 35 when War was declared and he reenlisted to join 286 Brigade and was Battery Sergeant Major of “A” Battery. He landed in France with 286 Brigade in February 1917 and the battery was then engaged in the defence of Armentières. The notice that William had been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal appeared in the London Gazette in September 1917 and it’s likely that the action for which he was awarded the medal took place at Armentières in June that year. On 11 June 1917, the War Diary records: “1 Other Rank D/286 wounded. A/286 Bde position heavily shelled with 5.9s. C/286 Bde 2 O/R killed in action, 14 O/R wounded. Wire-cutting. S.O.S. – Enemy succeeded in entering our front-line trench but did not get out again”.
The citation reads: For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty under very heavy shell fire. He assisted in handling two of his guns to another position, and on the following night, after removing two more guns, he remained on the position till the last, superintending the loading and removal of the ammunition under an intense bombardment. He set a splendid example of fearlessness and devotion to duty.
William continued to serve through the rest of the War and returned to Preston where he died in 1922, aged only 43.