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Victoria Cross won by county man Allan Lewis 'must go on display'
Dawn Lewis holds a page from the Hereford Times, February 8, 1919, outlining her great uncle’s heroics.
THE last wish of Annie Lewis was to see the Victoria Cross won by her son Allan on permanent display – ideally in the county he called home.
A century on, Allan’s great niece Dawn Lewis says only conscience can make that wish come true.
The Hereford Times told the story of Lance Corporal Allan Lewis last week.
Ranked among Britain’s bravest he was the only county winner of the Victoria Cross during the First World War.
The bravery that earned Whitney-on-Wye-born Allan a VC is set for a lasting salute nearly 100 years after he lost his life in battle, aged 23, to be buried in an unknown grave weeks from the war’s end.
By this time next year Allan may have a commemorative stone to mark his home and courage.
He and his fellow WW1 VC winners are at the heart of national plans to mark the centenary of the 1914-18 conflict.
In an opinion column last week, the Hereford Times called for Allan’s VC to be a part of that commemoration.
Dawn believes the medal - caught up in the complexities of administering wills and estates over the years – could be in a bank within walking distance of her home in Hay-on-Wye.
Dawn can recall – as a young girl – seeing the replica VC proudly displayed proud display at the cottage in Brilley where her great uncle grew up.
The original, she says, was probably kept in a drawer having been personally presented to his parents, George and Annie Lewis, by King George V.
Annie’s last wish was that the medal should never be sold but instead go on display in a county or regimental museum, says Dawn.
Over the years Dawn fought battles of her own to keep Allan’s medal from being sold, and has been to France to see his name among the hundreds listed at the vast Great War cemetery at Visen- Artois (see Letters p32).
While she’s certain Allan’s VC is still around, she can’t be sure of its exact location.
Though there’s anecdotal evidence it is as close to home as a bank vault in Hay, she says.
Now, Dawn hopes that the upcoming commemoration can be what gets the VC on public display.
“Allan was a Herefordshire hero, his medal belongs to the county as his mother wanted,” she says.
Annie Lewis was the onetime lady’s maid who got to curtsey before a King who called her his guest.
Some 30 years earlier a young Annie Lewis had left her home in Lyme Regis to enter service at Cabalva House not far from where she was later to live at Brilley.
It was from Wyeside Cottage, Brilley, that mother- of-nine Annie and husband George travelled, all expenses paid, to Buckingham Palace as guests of King George V.
Sadly, it was the death of their son Allan that took them on that journey in April 1919. King George personally presented them with their son’s Victoria Cross.
The couple would never know where Alan was buried “somewhere to the east” of a village called Lempire in northern France.
His body lay nine days in no man’s land before being recovered by advancing Australian soldiers, one of whom posted the paybook by which Allan was identified back to Brilley.
Through the VC citation the couple did come to know of Allan’s last moments spent ensuring the men under his command made cover under intense machine gun fire having led them at a charge through a withering barrage during a brutal battle at Ronssoy on September 21, 1918.
While making cover himself he was struck in the head by shrapnel and died instantly.
Three days earlier, Allan had crawled alone into intense fire toward two machine gun posts, strafing he and his men, to take both out with his rifle and grenades allowing a vital advance.
The War Office announced Allan’s VC in the first week of February 1919, six months after his death and with the war over.
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