Lieutenant Cecil Harold Sewell VC
from Diana Kennedy
This article was originally published in the December 2002 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
I recently heard from Paul Oldfield who is writing a book on Victoria Crosses (VC) won during the First World War on the Western Front.
He had come across Lieutenant Cecil Harold Sewell who was killed in action on 29th August 1918 at Fremicourt in France and awarded the VC. The courageous action of Cecil Harold Sewell was described by Mike Sewell, in an article he wrote for the December 2001 issue of Soul Search. Both Mike and Paul were wondering if there are any descendants of Cecil Harold’s family. With the help of information supplied by Paul and with a little more research I have found a few more details of a remarkable family.
Cecil Harold’s father was Harry Bolton Sewell who was born 7th January 1859 in Ramsgate, Kent, the son of George Robin Sewell and Susannah née Hersey. Harry Bolton married Mary Ann Kemp on the 19th March 1882 at Stockwell in South London. Harry Bolton’s occupation was given as Clerk on his marriage certificate and Railway Clerk in the 1881 census. The couple then moved to Greenwich, Kent, where their eldest son, Harry Kemp was born in 1884. The birth of Harry was followed by Frank Hersey, in 1886, and Herbert Victor, in 1889. Then came Leonard Ralph on 16th September 1891 and as far as I can tell, the last son was Cecil Harold who was born at Greenwich, Kent on 27th January 1895. I believe there were two and possibly four daughters born to Harry Bolton and Mary Ann. Mary Beatrice born 1883, Emily Kate 1888, Ethel Maud 1894 and Victoria Ruth 1897.
During this time or shortly after, Harry Bolton became a Barrister BA LL.B (Cantab) and Coroner for West Kent and was living at 26, Crooms Hill, Greenwich. He was able to send both Leonard and Cecil to school at Dulwich College. Alas a few short years later their lives were to change forever, Harry Bolton and Mary Ann were to lose three of their sons fighting in the First World War.
Their eldest son Harry Kemp Sewell, joined the West Kent Yeomanry 26th April 1915 as a sergeant, later he was Commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant, then Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery. He served in France and later Mesopotamia, from where he was invalided home. He died aged 32, on 20th August 1917 at Pinewood, Wokingham, Berkshire and is buried at Greenwich cemetery. In his Will he left £1,266 2s 3d to his father.
Second son Frank Hersey married Miss Collyer in 1915 and joined the army. He was Commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Royal Garrison Artillery, and survived the war. In 1920 a son, Cecil Harold, was born, named after the uncle he could never meet. This son died in 1946 age 26 years. The third son of Harry and Mary Ann was Herbert Victor Sewell who joined the army on 22nd September 1915 and was a 2nd Lieutenant in the 186th Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery. He was killed in action on 13th November 1916 aged 27 at Ancre in the Somme, and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing.
The fourth son of Harry Bolton and Mary Ann was Leonard Ralph. He left Dulwich College in July 1910 and became a Corporal in the Honourable Artillery Company and also managed to survive the war. According to Dulwich College records after the war he moved to Wallend Farm, Wadhurst, Sussex.
The youngest of the five brothers Cecil Harold left Dulwich College in July 1912. He studied Law at London University and was articled to his father. In November 1914 he enlisted into the 21st (4th Public Schools Battalion) Royal Fusiliers, Machine Gun Section, and left for France in November 1915. He applied for a Commission and was posted to No 1 Officer Cadet Battalion at Newton Ferrers, Devon in March 1916. Having been Commissioned in August he returned to France to join the 1st Royal West Kent in September 1916 and was transferred to C Battalion Heavy Branch Machine Gun Corps (forerunners of the Tank Corps) in December. He was killed in action at Fremicourt, France on 29th August 1918. In his Will he left £217 7s 8d to his father. The details of how Cecil Harold won his VC can be read in Mike’s article.
Cecil Harold’s VC is recorded in the London Gazette 30th October 1918. In 1920 his remains were removed from Bapaume where he was buried and moved to Vaulx Hill Cemetery at Vaulx-Vraucourt. His parents received his VC, which was presented at Buckingham Palace by King George V on 13th December 1918. Other decorations won were the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-1920 and the Victory Medal 1914-1919. Cecil Harold’s name is commemorated on the family memorial at Woolwich.
Their father Harry Bolton Sewell, aged 55, joined the Royal Army Medical Corp on 13th December 1915. He served in the Balkans and later in Mesopotamia. Harry survived the war and lived to the age of 82 years having retired to Worthing where he died in 1941. His wife Mary Ann having died at Greenwich age 69 in 1928.
The youngest daughter, Victoria, married a Mr Annis in 1927. Cecil Harold’s VC and medals were donated by his sisters Ethel Maud and Victoria Annis to the Royal Tank Regiment and are currently on display at the Royal Tank Regiment Museum at Bovington, Dorset. There may well be descendants of the surviving children of Harry Bolton Sewell and Mary Ann; Paul Oldfield would be interested to hear from anyone who is descended from them.
Thanks to Paul Oldfield for details of Army Records and the Photograph of Cecil Harold Sewell. Additional information supplied by Doug Arman of VC researchers group.
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