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Lieutenant-Colonel Lewis Charles Howard

Lieutenant-Colonel Lewis Charles Howard was awarded the Distinguished Service Order ‘For conspicuous gallantry and ability on the night of 15-16 December 1915, near Armentieres. He organised with the greatest energy and skill a successful raid by his battalion on the German trenches.

He inspired all ranks with enthusiasm and confidence. He displayed complete indifference to personal danger during the withdrawal of the raiding force under heavy fire. Lieutenant-Colonel Howard had previously been brought to notice for gallant work near Loos on 26 September 1915.’

Lewis Charles Howard was born in Burnley Barracks, Lancashire, in March 1881. He was the son of a serving Quarter-Master Sergeant of the East Lancashire Regiment who was from Lytham. Having served for nearly eight years in the ranks - latterly as a Corporal in the Royal Field Artillery - Howard Jnr. was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Berkshire Regiment in late 1903; contemporary Army Lists credit him with service in the Transvaal, Orange River Colony and Cape Colony during the Boer War.

Lieutenant-Colonel Lewis Charles HowardIn May 1905, however, in circumstances not dissimilar to British actor David Niven, he was removed from the Army for being absent without leave and made his way to the U.S.A., where apparently he ‘adopted the stage as a profession with considerable success.’ Furthermore, on learning of the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914, like Niven a quarter of a century later, he immediately returned home to enlist.

Commissioned into the 10th Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment as a Lieutenant in late September 1914, he had attained the rank of Temporary Major by the time he transferred to the command of the 8th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry.

In addition to his D.S.O., the gallant Howard was mentioned in despatches for his part in the action in the “Chalk Pits” at Loos on the 25-26 September 1915 (London Gazette 1 January 1916). His own extensive account of the action is to be found in the regimental history, in which he describes being under heavy fire:

‘ ... However, we were all in good spirits and blazed away at the Germans who were coming into full view all the time now ... Things began to get warm now and we all took rifles and shot carefully along the wood wherever the enemy debouched, at ranges varying from 400 to 800 yards. Ammunition ran low so we stripped the dead of theirs and got enough to keep going, and at 11.40 a.m., to our great joy, we saw reinforcements coming over the brow of the slope behind us ...’

The same history also relates the gallant story of the 8th Battalion’s raid against enemy trenches opposite “The Mushroom” feature on the night of 15-16 December 1915, when Howard won his D.S.O., in addition to mention of his subsequent death:

‘The final tour of the 8th Somersets in the trenches before the year ended was marked by the loss of the Battalion’s gallant C.O. On the night of 23-24 December ‘D’ Company relieved a company of the 10th Y. & L. Regiment in “The Mushroom”, Lieutenant-Colonel Howard accompanying them. The latter then went out to reconnoitre between the two craters, and whilst there was unfortunately shot. His body was carried in that night ...’

Howard was interred in the Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery at Armentieres.

His medals were sold at auction by Dix Noonan Webb in 2004 for £1,700 and this text is mostly from their website.

Lytham Times, December 1915

Lieut-Col. L. C. Howard

Lytham's most illustrious soldier, whose honoured sire is constantly leading fresh men to the country's call, whilst still in the service of the King - the third monarch he has served - was killed in France on December 23rd, whilst carrying out intensely hazardous duties. 

Lieut. L C Howard of Lytham, 1915.He had recently achieved an astounding success, for which he had been recommended a second time for the Distinguished Service Order, the first being after the Loos battle. He was one of the most daring of soldiers.

At 2-45 a.m. on December 16th he took a number of the 8th (S) Batt. Somerset Light Infantry, of which he was commanding officer, on a voluntary expedition to the German trenches.

Every conceivable precaution had been taken to prevent the frustration of the scheme  the assaulting, party actually crossed the barbed wire and ditch without giving any alarm; although lights were  sent up over No Man's Land by Germans, during the advance; jumped into the enemy trenches, covering a distance of 200 yards, shot and bayoneted the men there, exploded a steel machine gun emplacement, cut all telephone wires; took everything moveable, exploded bombs in each dug-out, and returned to their own trenches by 3-50 a.m., without a single casualty.

Seven prisoners were taken and 20 men killed, the smallness of the number being due to the fact that the trenches were not strongly held in that part of the line. Lieut-Col. Howard had showers of congratulations on his

Brilliant Success.

The Divisional Commander wired his congratulations as follows: "The Divisional Commander Congratulates most heartily the 8th Somerset Light Infantry on the successful and satisfactory result of the night's enterprise. The Whole division is proud of them. Another wire read :

"The Army Commander is very pleased to hear of the success of the operations; and another: "Heartiest congratulations to you and your battalion from - Brigade."

A letter received from a Major in the R.A.M.C. says : "We are proud to have earned the praise of the Somersets in connection with your brilliant feat of the 16th, and hope that we may be fortunate enough to work with you on future occasions."

Another letter from a prominent officer reads : "One line to congratulate you and all, for the splendid work your battalion has done during this tour in the trenches. Please tell all officers and men alike, how grateful I am for what they have done. I know what hard work and responsibility you've had, and I appreciate them very fully."

It will be seen from the above how highly-esteemed Lieut.-Col. Howard was, and had he been spared, he would certainly have attained very distinguished rank. He

Studied every Phase of the Work

during his stay in Lytham, whilst waiting for his commission, and being a fluent French scholar was a great advantage to him.

When war broke out, he was stage manager to one of the foremast American theatrical companies, with whom he played important parts, and was earning a big salary. But he gave it all up. His blood was fired by the frightful outrages of the Huns, and he vowed he would help to wipe off the score.

"I'll either get the V.C. or a bullet,"

he said to the writer some months ago, without the least arrogance, for he meant it. He had an idea that he would never come through alive, and like the good business man he was, all his affairs were methodically arranged in case of death. After he had been given his former status in the army, he began to climb the ladder, and rapidly went to Captain, Major in Command, and Lieut.-Colonel. His experience in the South African War stood him in good stead, and his men; would have followed him anywhere.

They Idolised Him.


On one occasion, during manoeuvres in this country he got the order to attack a certain position at once. He disobeyed, sent out scouts to see that there were no traps, and then attacked, remarking to the Commanding Officer afterwards that he would never ask his men to do what he would not do himself.

It seems only a short time since we saw him going up Ballam road, fishing and golfing, for he was a boy at heart, and as proud of his family as any titled gentleman.

Although his duties kept him very busy, he snatched a moment here and there to write to his "Dear old Dad," and having told of the success of the expedition referred to above, he added : "I'm the happiest man alive." His last message was : "Gee ! God be praised. I have Done my Bit."

He sent his Xmas greetings in the, same cheery strain, apparently just before entering upon a similarly hazardous enterprise. This time the Germans had evidently profited by the previous experience, and laid their plans accordingly.

And so he died, at the early age of 34 - an officer and a gentleman whose friendship we were proud to share.

Naturally, the old father is grief-stricken, but he stems the tears, and a beatific light illumines his rugged face. For he knows his son has gone to his reward.

A telegram of sympathy has been received from Lord Kitchener, and the family have had hundreds of messages of sympathy, amongst them being one from Lytham's disabled soldier, now at home, one from Capt. Lowcock, commandant of the Lytham Volunteer Corps

An N.C.O.'s Tribute.

Sir,—The enclosed packet was given me by Col. Howard last evening, when he left billet for the trenches with the request that I should forward it, should he fall.

He was killed about midnight, whilst, engaged about reconnaissance work, and it is therefore my sad duty to forward the packet.


You will in all probability receive official news of our C.O.'s decease, long before you get this, so I need not give details. I may say though, that our C.O. was killed whilst on the very hazardous work of reconnoitring some enemy mine craters a few yards from the enemy's trenches.

If I am not taking a liberty, I beg to offer my most respectful sympathy. Colonel Howard did me the great honour of making a friend of me, and I feel his loss more than I can say. Perhaps I am selfish in saying this, though, for he was the friend of every officer and man in the regiment, and we have lost the gallantest man that ever breathed.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,

JOHN DAVENPORT MARRIOTT
Sergt. Orderly Room Clerk,

8th Somerset L.I..