THE COXWAIN –
The first son of Henry Charles Lewry and Mary Jane Lewry Charles joined the Royal Navy in 1909 at the age of 16 and was transferred to the Royal Naval Air Service in 1916 and then to the RAF in 1918. As well as being awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal Charles was a holder of the Air Force Medal. The AFM was instituted, with the AFC, in June 1918, and was awarded to NCOs and men for courage or devotion to duty whilst flying, though not in active operations against the enemy.
Records show that Charles was transferred to the RNAS as Leading Mechanic in 1916. He was coxwain on Coastal Class airship C14 from 27 December 1917 to at least 22 April 1918 on convoy escort duties and operations with the Grand Fleet. During his time with C14 he flew under the command of Flt. Lt R.E. Jelliffe, Flt. Lt. G.L. Nicholls, Flt. Sub-Lt. E.H.F Scott and Capt. A.J.H MacColl. Charles was a Petty Officer by March 1918 – a rank that would have been transferred to Sergeant on the RNAS being absorbed into the RAF on 1 April 1918. Beyond that not much is known about his airship career until July 1919. Charles died aged 26 as a result of the loss of the NS11 airship in the early hours of 15 July 1919. He had married Bertha Edith Bevis in Gosport just three months before on 21 April 1919.
The Hampshire Telegraph and Post of Friday 8 August 1919 reported the following…
WRECKED AIRSHIP, GOSPORT SERGEANT’S BODY
Evidence at the Inquest. Only one body so far has been washed ashore from the wrecked British airship NS11, that of Sergeant Charles H. Lewry, of Gosport. At the inquest at Cromer yesterday week no fresh evidence was forthcoming as to the cause of the accident. An officer of the RAF said all that was known officially was that the cause was fire, the origin of which was a mystery. Lewry was second coxswain. He was believed to be steering the airship when the fire occurred. If he were he would be in the forepart of the car, and it was possible that the latter was broken when it reached the water, and released his body, as well as two seats which would be near him for the use of the pilot, and were found among the wreckage washed up. It was probable that the body of the car broke down by the two heavy engines sinking with the remainder of the crew imprisoned inside. A witness from the Pulham Aerodrome said when the Airship NS3 was lost in the sea some time ago five of the crew were rescued [5 also drowned after being wrecked off Dunbar in high gale 21st June 1918]. They were able to escape from the car on to the floating envelope, but in that case there was no fire such as occurred in the wreck of the NS11. The Coroner recorded a verdict of ‘Found dead on the beach after being washed ashore from the wrecked airship.’
Large crowds gathered in the vicinity of Anns Hill Cemetery on Tuesday afternoon to witness the funeral of the late Sergt. C. H. Lewry, R.A.F., of Leesland-road, Forton, who lost his life in the N.S.11 Airship, which was lost with all hands off the East coast recently. Prior to the internment a short service was held in the Wesleyan Chapel, Lees-lane, where the deceased was a worshipper. His favourite hymns, ‘There is a land of pure delight’ and ‘Hark! What mean those holy voices,’ were sung with feeling by the large congregation.
The coffin was borne from the church on a R.A.F. trailer, escorted by a party of 25 men from Fort Grange under Lieut. Buckenham. Eight of the men acted as bearers. The Union Jack which covered the coffin was surmounted by a number of beautiful wreaths. Following the cortege were two coaches containing the mourners, chief of whom were Mrs. Lewry, Messrs. Fred, Harry, and William Lewry (brothers), and Nellie and Martha (sisters). In addition to the family floral tokens, there were wreaths from R.A.F. Station, Grange, W.R.A.F., Sergts. Mess, Pulham, and one from the officers and men of the Pulham Air Station, from which deceased set out on his fateful voyage. The internment took place in the old cemetery at Anns Hill, the Rev. W Handley Jones, of the Stoke-road Wesleyan, and chaplain of the R.A.F., Grange, officiating. The deceased Sergeant was well-known in the locality. He enlisted in the Navy as a boy of 16. During the second year of the war he transferred to the Royal Naval Air Service, and with that corps was amalgamated with the R.F.C. he became a member of the new branch of the Services, the R.A.F. He saw service with the Grand Fleet in the North Sea. It is sad to recall that he was out with the N.S. 11 on the night he lost his life for the purpose of qualifying for the post of warrant officer.”
He is commemorated on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.
RN service Ganges (Boy II/I 24/8/09 to 16/5/10) Leviathan (Boy I to 16/5/10) Albemarle (Boy I to 3/10/10) Invincible (Boy I/OS to 27/3/11) Victory I (OS to 12/4/11) Neptune (OS/AB to 27/1/13) Excellent (AB to 1/9/13) Hercules (AB/LS to 8/11/16) Victory (LS to 31/12/16) To ROYAL NAVAL AIR SERVICE (RNAS) Daedalus (Cranwell (LS/LM/POM to 31/3/18)) TRANSFERRED TO RAF 1/4/18
Service numbers: J5174/313806
Charles Henry Lewry’s medals
Shown with kind permission of Geoffrey Thursfield