- Name: William Henry HEWITT
- D.O.B: 19th Jun, 1884
- D.O.A: 20th Sep, 1917
- D.O.D: 7th Dec, 1966
- Award: Victoria Cross
- Occupation at time of action: Lance Corporal, 2nd Battalion South African Light Infantry, South African Infantry Brigade, 9th Division
- Book: The Complete History - Volume 2
The Menin Road Ridge, Belgium 20-22 September 1917
20-22 September 1917
The First World War 1917
On 20 September 1917, the second phase of the Third Battle of Ypres began. In what is known as the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, the British Second and Fifth Armies were able to capture the main ridge east of Ypres before the weather deteriorated. Fifth Army attacked along a line running south from the Ypres to Staden railway, east of Langemark, to a position west of Zonnebeke, south of the Ypres to Roulers railway. The 2/8th (City of London) Battalion The London Regiment (The Post Office Rifles, The Rifle Brigade), advanced near Kerselaere, south-east of Langemark and north-east of St Julien. Sergeant A J Knight distinguished himself in the fighting around Hubner Farm, a German stronghold to the east of Keerselare. Over two miles to the south 2nd Battalion The South African Light Infantry was north of the Ypres to Roulers road and 12th Battalion The Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) was south of it. In the heavy fighting between Frezenberg and Zonnebeke that resulted, Lance Corporal W H Hewitt, 2nd South African Light Infantry, gallantly captured a German pillbox, while Temporary Captain H Reynolds, 12th Battalion The Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment), led the assault on another in front of Potsdam Farm. South of the Ypres to Roulers railway the proposed advance across the Gheluvelt plateau devolved on Second Army. At the north of the Second Army line, 1st and 2nd Australian Divisions advanced due east of Ypres. During the fighting in Glencourse Wood, which lay north of the Ypres-Menin road and north-west of Gheluvelt, Second Lieutenant F Birks captured two German pillboxes, while Private R R Inwood distinguished himself in the action in Polygon Wood, which lay to the east of Glencourse Wood and about midway between Zonnebeke and Gheluvelt. Meanwhile, south of the Menin Road, after an earlier assault by other regiments had failed, at 6pm 15th Battalion The Hampshire Regiment was ordered to take Tower Trench, a German strongpoint on a ridge just west of Gheluvelt. (Because of the pillboxes surrounding it, the area was nicknamed Tower Hamlets.) Second Lieutenant M S S Moore led the assault and reached the position, where he held out for thirty-six hours, before withdrawing with his surviving men. About a mile to the south-west, 16th Battalion The Rifle Brigade and 16th and 17th Battalions The Sherwood Foresters were detailed to attack the German line near Bulgar Wood, east of Zillebeke. In the course of the fighting Sergeant W F Burman, 16th Battalion The Rifle Brigade, having already destroyed one German position, together with Sergeant Major H W Bean, attacked another position that was firing on 16th Battalion The Sherwood Foresters. Bean was awarded a DCM for his role in the action. Corporal E A Egerton of The Sherwood Foresters, whose elder brother William had been killed in action on 17 August, distinguished himself by single-handedly capturing a German stronghold known as Welbeck Grange. Further south still, 9th Battalion The Cheshire Regiment advanced south-east of Zillebeke. Second Lieutenant H Colvin captured one German dugout and then in Hessian Wood attacked another, which was impeding the progress of 9th Battalion The Welsh Regiment.
For most conspicuous bravery during operations. L./Cpl. Hewitt attacked a “pill-box” with his section, and tried to rush the doorway. The garrison, however, proved very stubborn, and in the attempt this non-commissioned officer received a severe wound. Nevertheless, he proceeded to the loophole of the “pill-box,” where, in his attempts to put a bomb into it, he was again wounded in the arm. Undeterred however, he eventually managed to get a bomb inside, which caused the occupants to dislodge, and they were successfully and speedily dealt with by the remainder of the section.