George Henry Hewlett was born on 11th July 1892, the oldest of four children to Henry and Louisa Hewlett. Henry was a painter from Hampshire, who travelled for work. George and his youngest sibling were born in Romsey, while his two brothers were born in Swindon, Wiltshire. By the time of the 1901 census, when George was eight years old, the family had settled in Hammersmith, London.
The next census, in 1911, recorded the family as living in Caterham, Surrey. By this time, George and his father were working as gardeners, while his brothers were working as grocers. Louisa, meanwhile, was employed as a live-in housekeeper for a spinster and her mother just around the corner.
War was coming and George was determined to do his bit. Full details are not available, but he enlisted in the Royal Marine Light Infantry, taking on the role of Gunner. In May 1918 he was on board HMS Iris, a Mersey ferry requisitioned by the Royal Navy for support in the planned raid on Zeebrugge.
On 23 April 1918, HMS Iris was towed across the English Channel to Zeebrugge by HMS Vindictive; she was carrying a couple of platoons of the 4th Battalion of the Royal Marines as a raiding party. When the Vindictive neared the Zeebrugge she cast the ferry aside. Iris tried to pull up to the breakwater under heavy fire in order to off-load the raiding parties which were on board. She sustained heavy fire and a shell burst through the deck into an area where the marines were preparing to land. Forty-nine men were killed, including Gunner Hewlett. George was 28 years of age.
George Henry Hewett’s body was brought back to England. He was laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in Gillingham, Kent, not far from the dockyard at which he was based.
George’s two brothers also fought in the First World War.
John William Hewlett, who was two years younger than George, joined the 1st Royal Marine Battalion of the Royal Naval Division as a Private. He fought on the Western Front, and was killed in fighting on 22nd October 1916. He was 21 years of age. John was laid to rest at the Mesnil-Matinsart Cemetery near the town of Albert in Northern France.
Joseph Herbert Hewlett was born three years after George. When war was declared, he enlisted in the Buffs (East Kent Regiment), joining the 4th Battalion as a Private. Dispatched to India, he was initially based in Bombay, but was injured in fighting. He was sent back to England, and treated at the Military Hospital at Netley, near Southampton. Sadly, his wounds proved too severe – he passed away on 4th April 1915, aged just 20 years old.
In the space of three years, Henry and Louisa Hewlett had lost all three of their sons to the war. After George’s death, a local newspaper reported this was their “sad and proud record”. [Dover Express: Friday 31st May 1918]