Hewitt, Denis George Wyldbore

2nd Lieutenant / Hampshire Regiment

1897 - 1917

Denis George Wyldbore Hewitt was born 18 Dec 1897, the eldest son of the Hon. George Wyldbore Hewitt and Elizabeth Mary, nee Rampini, of Field House, Hursley, Winchester. His younger brother, Alan William Wingfield Hewitt (G 1914-1918), followed him to Winchester in 1914.

Denis came to Winchester College from The Old Malthouse, Swanage, in September 1911. He was in G House, Sergeant's. He rowed for his house and in various school competitions, and also played in goal for his house Soccer team.

He left Winchester in the summer of 1915 for RMC Sandhurst and then obtained a commission shortly after in the Hampshire Regiment. Denis went out to the front in September 1916, and took part in the later stages of the Battle of the Somme.

From 21 June 1917 the 14th Hampshires were billeted at Houlle, near St Omer, thirty miles behind Ypres. They were moved closer to the front and on 16 July 1917 the bombardment which preceded the Third Battle of Ypres (better known as Passchendaele) began. On 29 July the Battalion made their last move and crossed the Yser-Ypres Canal, making their way to their final position, ready for the attack. They crossed a farm track on No Man's Land, Admiral's Road, to the first objective of Caliban Trench, on the old German front line and continued on towards Juliet Farm and beyond that to the village of St Julien. Having managed to clear the barbed wire entanglements in front of them, with the help of a tank from the Tank Corps, the 14th Hampshires advanced again. At this point Hewitt rallied his men and led an attack on the trenches protecting St Julien.

An extract from the London Gazette of 14th September 1917 records that: 'While waiting for the barrage to lift he was hit by a piece of shell, which exploded the signal flares in his haversack and set fire to his equipment and clothes. Having extinguished the flames (by rolling in the mud) in spite of his wound and the severe pain he was suffering, he led forward the remains of the Company under very heavy machine gun fire, and captured and consolidated his objective'. The battalion cleared the trenches and set up machine guns to defend it.  At this point Hewitt was killed, shot through the head by a sniper. He died instantly.

He was awarded a posthumous V.C. for his gallantry that day. The citation read: 'For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty when in command of a company in attack... This gallant officer set a magnificent example of coolness and contempt of danger to the whole battalion, and it was due to his splendid leading that the final objective of his battalion was gained.'

Denis was buried 150 yards west of the St Julien-Poelcapelle road, although the grave was subsequently lost. The original battlefield cross from his grave is now in Hursley village church alongside his memorial, and his old prep school has a war memorial in Langton Maltravers Church. Hewitt is commemorated on Panel 35 on the Menin Gate in Ypres.

The Hampshire Regimental Journal Vol. XII 1917 published an obituary. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Memorial_to_Dennis_George_Wyldbore_Hewitt_V.C._-_geograph.org.uk_-_956742.jpg

The College Archives hold copies of documents relating to Denis's war service - letters sent home to his parents, photographs, letters of condolence and obituaries. Please contact the College Archivisit sf@wincoll.ac.uk for more details.

NOTE: Where possible graves were marked with wooden crosses, but the War Graves Commission did not begin their survey until 1921 when many wooden crosses had been dislodged or rotted.  Therefore many original burial sites were not recored. Hewitt's burial site is unknown. Two other OWs were killed at St Julien that day: Lt John Falconer (K 1911 - 1915) and Captain Alexander Milne (A 1919 - 1914) -  see individual entries. 

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