Service number: 92987 | Rank: Gunner | Regiment: Tank Corps
Killed in action, November 14 1917, in Flanders.
Buried at PERONNE ROAD CEMETERY, MARICOURT, Somme, France.
Enlisted at Norwich.
WHAT I KNOW ABOUT LEWIS …
Most of the men on the Brandon War Memorial were killed while on active service or subsequently died of wounds received from the fighting. Lewis Halls was one of those unfortunates whose death resulted from an accident.
Lewis was born in the winter of 1899 and was brought up in Town Street by his mother Rosina. Rosina, or Rose as she was more often known, appears to have had three children out of wedlock, with Lewis being the youngest. His father was Brandon-born Lewis Royal who was a wood sawyer and in the 1891 Census Lewis Royal was boarding in Lincolnshire, probably travelling around finding work. At this time Rosina was bringing up the three children in Town Street at her parents’ home. At the turn of the century Rosina and Lewis Royal married and a year later, according to the 1901 census, he had settled into permanent employment in Brandon. In 1901 the couple lived in Town Street with their four children. The three born out of wedlock continued to carry Rosina’s maiden name of ‘Halls’, and a child born since they got married had the surname ‘Royal’. By the 1911 Census this had all changed and all the children were logged as having the surname ‘Royal’ and young Lewis now carried his father’s name – Lewis Royal. Whether this was for the benefit of the Census or if it was more permanent is not known, and is confused by the fact that War Office correspondence to his mother was addressed to Mrs Halls. Even Brandon’s war memorial along with a memorial in France that bears his name, bears the name of ‘Lewis Halls’. Anyway in 1911 Lewis Halls was a 12-year-old Brandon lad who was employed as an errand boy.
At the outbreak of war Lewis Halls went along to Norwich and enlisted into the army. He eventually went across the Channel to France in the spring of 1917 as part of the Tank Corps. More precisely he would operate the machine gun from within the tank. Eight months after landing in France he was destined to take part in the Battle of Cambrai. This battle would become famous for involving large numbers of tanks for the first time. The Battalion War Diary stated that on the 13th November 1917, a week before the battle, the men trekked from Auchy (-les-Hesdin) to Erin where they were to catch a train to take them to the front. The following day the men entrained at Erin and that night, at about 8pm, the train “met with an accident at the horse-shoe bend in the line between Bray-sur-Somme and Le Plateau Junction”. It appears that one of the wagons carrying the men became derailed and ran off the rails for some considerable distance before it overturned, throwing many of the men housed in that wagon under the wagons travelling behind them. Two men were killed instantly and it appears that 28-year-old Lewis, although not initially killed, was caught up in the mangled wreckage and could not be removed straight away. Eventually, and after much difficulty, Lewis and the other men were removed from the wreckage and given medical aid, and it looks like he may have still been clinging on to life at this point. However he had sustained severe injuries and he didn’t live long, probably dying soon afterwards.
His mother received a letter from Chaplain G.H. Francis about her son …
“Dear Mrs Halls.
You will already have had official information of the death of Gunner Lewis Halls, and I am writing as chaplain of the battalion to offer you our heartfelt sympathy and to give you a few more details.
He was killed last evening as the result of a railway accident, which was occasioned by a coach of the train in which he was travelling being derailed. He was killed, as far as I can tell, instantaneously. So it is some comfort to think he did not suffer. We laid his body to rest with a comrade this morning in a cemetery near here. His personal effects are being sent back to you through the usual channel.
With sincerest sympathy,
G.H. Francis, Chaplain.”