LEWIS, John Thomas MM

Sergeant John Thomas Lewis MM
25623 Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regiment)
117734 Machine Gun Corps

LewisJTJohn Lewis was born on the 5th March 1885, at Golden Valley, Derbyshire. He was the son of Richard Lewis, a coal miner hewer from Wales and Ann Maria (nee Gittings) born Staffordshire.  He was one of twelve children: Edward, Mary, William, Richard, Louisa, Sarah, George, Harry, Ann Maria, Arthur and Percy.  In 1905 John married Ada nee Riley from Stoneyford at the Providence Road Chapel, Pye Hill and in 1911 they lived at Sedgwick Street, Jacksdale, next door to his parents Richard and Ann.  John and Ada had had 4 children by that time but only 3 had survived, Evelyn Mary, Richard Clarence and Louisa. John Thomas’s occupation is given as coal miner/hewer.

John Lewis was the holder of the Military Medal, which was awarded ‘for bravery in battle on land against the enemy’. He was involved in the war at a very early stage, as he also held the 1914/15 Star as well as the British War and Victory Medals. He started his service with the Sherwood Foresters and later transferred to the Machine Gun Corps. His brother, Harry Lewis, was also a Sherwood Forester and was sadly killed in action on the 23rd March 1918. Family members say that they met together just before the start of a battle. They exchanged a few brief words and shook hands. As Harry walked away a shell burst killed him, blowing him to pieces right in front of John. Harry has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial. John’s youngest brother, Percy served with the Seaforth Highlanders and survived the war. Sylvia Leivers, one of John’s daughters, recalls her father once telling her that he was captured at one time, but managed to escape along with another soldier. Her sister Irene also tells us that he was awarded his Military Medal after ‘going over the top with another soldier who was shot and severely wounded. John carried him back, went back over the top and attacked and killed the enemy who had shot his comrade’. His friend sadly died of his wounds. His award appeared in the London Gazette on 29th August 1918 in supplement No. 10127.  His Medal Rolls Index Card indicates that he served in Gallipoli, the Dardanelles and embarked there on 2nd October 1915. His daughters also think he spent some time in North Africa, possibly Tripoli, but cannot be sure.

LewisJTCertJohn Lewis was a keen cricketer and played cricket on the Jacksdale Miner’s Welfare Cricket Ground. His daughter Irene was a keen supporter, particularly if the ‘Funny Band’ were there with their mad capers. The Funny Band wore fancy dress and grass skirts and danced around the perimeter of the pitch beating a drum. They were very popular with the children and spectators. John Lewis also won a gold medal and chain at a National Cribbage Match. He pitted his card playing skills against competitors from all over the country and was outright champion. The medal was his ‘ pride and joy’ and he never missed an opportunity to wear it. He was also a champion pigeon fancier.

John and Ada had 13 children in all, of whom 9 survived. His wife Ada died on 17th April 1930, aged 43. John never remarried.

LewisJTFPhoto: – Wife Ada (nee Riley). Little girl standing is Irene Lewis who was to take on the role of mother when her mother later died in childbirth. The ‘Babe in Arms’ is Thomas Harry Lewis. The other Lewis children, Margaret and Richard are at the window. Taken at the family home on Sedgwick Street, Jacksdale.

John’s daughter Irene, says all of his children were born in Sedgwick St, Jacksdale. There were no house numbers then and they lived in the next to last house on the left, going up the hill. Her mother never went into hospital to have any of the children and was never visited, whilst in confinement, by a qualified midwife. Instead a lady who lived in the street, Poppy Turner was called for, who used to ‘run down and lend a hand’. Irene remembers that during her childhood, there were several shops in Sedgwick St. There was a Mr Turner (the children called him ‘Fatty Turner’ because of his large bulk) who ran a vegetable shop (Kelly’s Directory 1932 shows a Frederick Turner). She says he was not related to Poppy. Mrs Miller ran a Toffee Shop half way down Sedgwick St (Kelly’s Directory 1936 shows a Phoebe Miller). Irene remembers the first buses that ran on a regular basis from Jacksdale to Nottingham. It was called the SMA Bus. If you knew the ‘SMA’ song you were entitled to a free ride. She thinks the standard fare was 2/6. The SMA Song- “ Travel this way on the SMA It’s a boon and a blessing And it’s come to stay….”

Irene remembers the unveiling of the Jacksdale War Memorial and the festive days held on Monument Hill. She attended the Chapel at Pye Hill. As a child Irene wore leg irons, but fortunately her mother let her have a much-needed operation that was successful in straightening her legs. John Lewis died on the 8th April 1963. He is buried at Westwood St Mary’s Church Cemetery. His coffin was decked with a Union Jack and Ron Morehen (Ex-WW2 Naval veteran) took a poppy wreath as a further tribute.