Richard Percy Lewis was born on March 10, 1874 in Paddington, London to Richard and Eliza Mary (née Kinglake) Lewis. Richard Lewis was a successful barrister and his son Richard Percy Lewis had an older sister, Louisa Mary Kinglake Lewis, and a younger brother, John Alexander Kinglake Clayton Lewis. In 1881 the family was living in Gloucester Place, Paddington with four live-in domestic servants.
He was educated at Winchester College (1887-92) and then University College, Oxford (1894-96) and was said to be one of the finest wicket-keepers of his generation, playing for Oxford University, Surrey and Middlesex.
During the Boer War he was commissioned as Second-Lieutenant in the 14th Middlesex (Inns of Court) Rifle Volunteer Corps, on August 4, 1900. In October 24, 1900 he was awarded a commission in the Devonshire Regiment, a line regiment when another second-Lieutenant was killed in action, thus creating a vacancy. He was promoted to Lieutenant on April 4, 1903.
After the war, he was attached to the 1st Battalion King’s African Rifles January 12, 1904 to June 24, 1907, and took part in the Nandi Expedition of 1905-1906 where he was mentioned in despatches (of Edgar G. Harrison, Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding Nandi Field Force, February 28, 1906).
Lieutenant R. P. Lewis, (The Devonshire Regiment), 1st K.A.R., as Signalling Officer to the Field Force, by his keenness and hard work was able with slender means and in spite of many difficulties to obtain excellent results. Many of the signallers employed were recruits with but little training, but even with such material Lieutenant Lewis was able to keep numerous posts going and to link up the various units of the force by helio and lamp.
After his spell in Africa, he was seconded for service with the Egyptian Army, on 20th August 1908, and stationed as an intelligence officer in Cairo. Whilst serving in Egypt he suffered a succession of personal blows as his sister, brother and mother all died in 1911, 1912 and 1913 respectively, (his father having died many years before). Meanwhile his career progressed and he was promoted to Captain on December 16, 1911.
The 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment landed in Egypt on September 25, 1914 and spent the next six months training for war. They landed at Gallipoli on May 9, 1915 but were short of senior officers, two majors having died in Egypt.
Captain Lewis joined the 42nd Division in Gallipoli on May 31, 1915 and was initially posted to the 10th Battalion Manchester Regiment but four days later, on June 4th, he was made a temporary Major and attached to the 1/9th Battalion. He was wounded about a month later, on July 6th, and subsequently left the 9th at that time. But during his short spell with them he was involved in the bloodiest month of the Gallipoli campaign for the 9th Battalion when they were involved in two separate bayonet charges against the Turks.
On November 4, 1916 he was appointed Brigade-Major, leaving the position on April 24, 1917. And on May 8, 1917 was made acting Lieutenant-Colonel while commanding the 10th Battalion Manchester Regiment. He was not to hold this position long because he died of wounds at Ypres on September 9, 1917 during a heavy bombardment between the village of Frezenberg and Westhoek. He is buried in Grave I.A.57 of the Ypres Reservoir Cemetery.
“It was during one such bombardment that Lt-Colonel Lewis was killed. Battalion HQ was housed in a cellar of a ruined farm house known as Kit and Kat. The position lay on what in more peaceful times had been the minor road running between Frezenberg and Westhoek. Lewis was hit by a shell splinter when giving orders to a runner and died shortly afterwards. His body was taken back to Ypres and buried in the burgeoning cemetery near to the tumbled central square.”
Excerpted from “Amateur Soldiers” by K. W. Mitchinson. ISBN-13: 978-0951809891.
Perhaps because he no longer had any living immediate family members, he made a number of bequests to the Devonshire Regiment including £2,000 for the “benefit and comfort of the officers and men during the war, and thereafter for the widows of the men”. The rest he left to his cousin Evelyn, the daughter of his mother’s younger sister. Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Percy Lewis was 43 years old.