Cecil was born in Croydon, the twin son of Mr and Mrs W Hewitt. A few years later, the family moved to Malvern, and ran the Moodkee House Hotel in North Malvern (which has only in recent years ceased to be a bed and breakfast).
With his twin, Albert, Cecil attended Cowleigh Mixed School and became keen members of the Church Lads Brigade. The family were active members of the church, Albert and Cecil sang in St Peter’s Choir, and later their sister taught at the Sunday School. They also joined the Cowleigh Rifle Club and became fine marksmen. It was probably this training that caused them to be sent to the front so soon after enlisting together in the Worcestershire Regiment; they joined up on 1st September 1914 and went out to France with a draft to the 3rd Battalion in December.
The twins served together with the 3rd Worcesters until the winter conditions took their toll and Albert was admitted to No 11 Stationary Hospital, Rouen with frostbite in the feet. However, he was not long away from the line, and by April was serving again. In November 1915, Cecil was granted a short period of leave.
During this time the brothers sent many postcards and letters to their sister Win, many of which are still in the possession of the family. Though brief they give the reader an idea of how Albert and Cecil spent their time. However, after their second winter, the strain was beginning to show. On the 22nd April 1916, Albert wrote:
Tis Easter Eve, I cannot let it pass without a line to you. I can just picture you going to church in the morning, no doubt you will be thinking of us and wondering where we are; as we are in billets we also shall be at Communion and our thoughts will be with you all at home: oh may you have a Happy Easter. Our service will be in a large wooden hut, with just a bench for the Altar, but how sacred it will be.
We have received you letter and the [Malvern] gazettes, Cis will write again in a day or so. The part of the line we have co to is rather ward, chiefly bombing and mining. There are rumours of our batt[alion] doing something in the near future, if its true there will be a chance of getting a ‘Blightie’ one, or the usual soldiers rest…
We are both very well, and trust you all are. The weather is wretched again now, very cold and wet…
I wish you all goodnight, with all our fondest love.
Your own loving lad,
Au-revoir. Who’d have thought that we should be out here for another Easter.”
This was to be the last letter sent before Cecil was killed. On the 26th April the 3rd Worcesters moved forward from Divisional reserve and relived the 10th Cheshire just north of Neuville St Vaast, half way up the slope of Vimy Ridge. The Regimental History records: “The front line ran across a wilderness of mine craters and both sides were working feverishly on the construction of frest mines. Shell fire was incessant.” The chalky ground around Vimy Ridge was ideal for mining – the tunnelling under the enemy line and detonating huge explosive charges.
At about 7.30 pm on the 28th April a terrific explosion ripped through the parapet near the left flank of the Battalion’s line. This was followed quickly by a German attack. Albert, Cecil and their friend ‘Curly’ Jones were caught up in this explosion. Cecil was buried by the earth and debris. Albert and Curly, who both been wounded by the explosion did their utmost to get him out, but despite their best efforts was discovered to be dead when they uncovered him. In addition Albert suffered a gun shot wound to the right forearm. Five days later Albert wrote from the Red Cross Hospital, Christchurch to his father:
“My dear Dad
No doubt you will be surprised to get this from here but I am wounded, got a bullet through my right fore-arm, and a slight cut on the back of the head with bruises on the thighs please do not worry about me, not of its serious.
I am very sorry to tell you that I believe poor old Cis has been killed, the enemy blew up a mine underneath us and he was buried; I done my utmost to get him out but the brutes potted me, I had him partly uncovered and his limbs were quite stiff, he must have died instantly.
I suppose it is Gods will, but it is very hard to bear, and frightfully down-hearted. Take care of Mam and Win and cheer them up…
Your loving son
A newspaper reported that: “The deceased was well-known in Malvern, being a young man of promise and his death is deeply regretted by all who knew him. Much sympathy has been extended to his parents in their bereavement, and thy desire to thank their friends fro the expressions of condolence tendered to them personally and by letter.” Cecil Hewitt was buried where he was killed, but his grave was destroyed in later fighting, and his body was never recovered. He is commemorated on the Arras Memorial.
Albert was killed the following January, and that June the Hewitts, (presumably who relied on their sons to help with the business), moved to St Johns, Worcester. However, when the St Peter’s War Memorial was dedicated in July 1917, Mrs Hewitt was invited back to perform the unveiling.
Both brothers’ medals are held at the Worcester Regimental Museum.
Postcards and Letters Mrs S Smith (1996)
Malvern News 20/2/15, 15/5/16
Cowleigh Parish Magazine May 1916, June 1917, July 1923 (Worcester County Record Office)