b. 15/10/1892 Coniston, Cumbria. d. 02/03/1963 Ulverston, Cumbria.
James Hewitson (1892-1963) was born at Thwaite Farm, Coniston, on 5th October 1892. He was the second son of a farmer who also drove the Coniston coach. His first 22 years were spent, first as a pupil at Coniston Church of England School, then working for his father on the family farm at Waterhead, and later as a farm labourer near Kendal and, afterwards, near Preston.
On the outbreak of the Great War, he enlisted in the 8th (Service) Battalion King’s Own Regiment on 17th November 1914 and later transferred to the 1/4th Battalion (Territorial Force). He survived four years of trench warfare and was wounded four times but on recovery was sent back to the front on each occasion.
Lance-Corporal Hewitson earned his Victoria Cross near Givenchy on 26th April 1918 and was recommended on 8th May for the award, which was published in the London Gazette of 28th June 1918. On 26th April 1918 at Givenchy, France, in a daylight attack on a series of crater posts, Lance-Corporal Hewitson led his party to their objective, clearing the enemy from both trench and dug-outs, killing six who would not surrender. After capturing the final objective he saw a hostile machine-gun team coming into action against his men and working his way round the edge of the crater he attacked the team, killing four and capturing one. Shortly afterwards he routed a bombing party which was attacking a Lewis gun, killing six of them.
Promoted to Corporal, Hewitson received his VC from King George V in France on 8th August, 1918 and returned home to a civic welcome in Coniston. In 1926 Hewitson bought a Matchless 500 motorcycle. It cost £47 17/6 (£47.87) and like other motorcyclists of the time, as a concession to health and safety, wore his flat cap back-to-front when driving the machine. Ten years after returning home, and still carrying shrapnel embedded in his back, the mental suffering he had sustained during combat caused him to be frequently hospitalised over the following 18 years. It would now be described that he was suffering from PTSD.
Described as a lifelong teetotaller, an expert hedger and a passionate traveller, Hewitson died in Stanley Hospital, Ulverston, Cumbria on 2nd March 1963 aged 70. He was buried following a military funeral in the churchyard of St Andrew’s, Coniston, Cumbria. His medals are not publicly held.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NOT PUBLICLY HELD.
BURIAL PLACE: ST ANDREW’S CHURCHYARD, CONISTON, CUMBRIA.
Mark Sanders – Hewitson Medal Card.