Date of birth: 1896
Date of death: 03.05.1918
Area: Newton Hill, Wakefield
Regiment: King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Family information: Son of Frederick and Clarissa Hewlett
Rank: Lance Corporal
Service number: 201744
When Ernest Hewlett joined the army, he was drafted to the 1/4th King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. In the absence of his service record it is not known when he joined the battalion in France.
The 1/4th KOYLI had joined the British Expeditionary Force in France on 13th April 1915, attached to the 148th Brigade, 49th (West Riding) Division. In July 1915 the 49th Division was deployed to the sector between Ypres and Boesinghe, which was the left of the British Army line in Flanders. On 19th December the 1/4th KOYLI had suffered over 500 casualties during gas attacks on their positions and the battalion, in brigade, was withdrawn from this sector.
On the 1st July 1916, the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, the 49th (West Riding) Division was in Reserve. However, the 1/4th KOYLI was placed at the disposal of the 96th Infantry Brigade and used in a support capacity around Thiepval Wood, where they incurred many casualties before being withdrawn. The 1/4th KOYLI did not return to the trenches until 21st July, when they re-joined the 148th Brigade, deployed in the Leipzig Salient. During an attack on the 23rd July the battalion suffered heavy casualties crossing “No Man’s Land” and was forced to retire.
After a period in the trenches opposite Bailleuval, in March 1917, the 1/4th KOYLI, in Brigade, moved to the Neuve Chapelle sector. At this time the enemy was making its strategic withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line and the 148th Brigade became involved in a period of intense fighting.
In July 1917 the 49th Division took over the Nieuport sector on the Belgian coast. Just before midnight on 21st July there was a heavy enemy bombardment of shells of all calibres and large quantity of mustard gas. The town of Nieuport was drenched in gas. The 1/4th KOYLI, who were in support positions, incurred 441 casualties, most of whom were gassed. The enemy repeated the attack on the evening of the 23rd July, resulting in a further 76 casualties.
After the gas attack, the 1/4th KOYLI, in Brigade, spent time on the coast at Bray Dunes, before moving, in late September, towards the Ypres Salient. On 9th October the 1/4th KOYLI entered the Third Battle of Ypres, with an attack towards the Passchendaele Ridge.
On 9th April 1918 the 1/4th KOYLI had just been relieved in the Menin sector, when the German Army launched a major attack towards Hazebrouck. The 1/4th KOYLI was immediately sent south and by the 11th April the battalion was holding a line near Neuve Eglise. For the next four days the battalion came under almost constant bombardment and infantry attack, before being relieved and moving to Toronto Camp.
Early on 25th April the German infantry attacked Kemmel Hill and captured Kemmel village. At 08.00 hours enemy shells were falling on Toronto Camp forcing the occupants to move into the surrounding countryside. Placed with the 9th Division, the 148th Brigade was involved in a counter-attack on the 26th April but was forced to withdraw. The shelling continued the following day and on the 28th April the battalion moved to a position on their right, to prepare for the next German attack.
At 03.00 hours on 29th April 1918 the German artillery bombarded the whole of the allied line, from Locre Park in the south to Dickebusch Lake in the north, a distance of over 8 miles. This was followed at 05.00 hours by an infantry attack along the whole front. After some fierce fighting the attacks were beaten off and the Allied line held. The 1/4th KOYLI, when relieved the following day, had incurred 526 casualties between 11th and 29th April 1918.
Lance Corporal Hewlett was one of these casualties. He was taken to the Casualty Clearing Station at Esquelbecq, a small village midway between Hazebrouck and Dunkirk, where he died from his wounds. He is buried in the Esquelbecq Military Cemetery, which contains 578 Commonwealth burials from the First World War.
Ernest Hewlett was born in 1896, the son of Frederick and Clarissa Hewlett, nee Tagg, of Wakefield. His father was a Police Constable based at the West Riding Constabulary, Cliff Lane, Wakefield. The family lived at Alverthorpe Road, Wakefield before moving to Brooklyn Terrace, Leeds Road, Newton Hill. On leaving school Ernest obtained employment as an office boy.