Saturday, 7 February 2015

Dorothy Perch Lewis (1888 - 1918)

I received a very interesting e-mail the other day via this weblog from a lady whose husband collects WW1 medals.  She told me that her husband  "bought a collection which came with some papers and amongst these were letters from the soldier's family (sadly he died) to the Lewis' and a note the soldier wrote telling his parents the Lewis' had visited him in hospital, there was also this book of poem's Dorothy's mother had had 'a few' printed (I think after Dorothy's death in 1918) one of the Poems was dedicated to the solider who died, Bernard Pigg.  Dorothy's mother Mary wrote to Bernard Pigg's mother saying how much she missed Dorothy and wanted Mrs Pigg's thoughts on the book, this letter and the book had been kept with the medals so must have been important to the family. 
Whilst I find the medals interesting what I really love is the human story behind them, Dorothy obviously came from a wealthy family."

Dorothy is already on my List of Female poets of the First World War as she is mentioned on page 200 of Catherine W. Reilly's Bibliography of First World War English Poetry.  This is what I have been able to find so far about Dorothy.  If anyone has any further information, copies of poems and a photograph please get in touch.

Dorothy Perch Lewis (1888 - 1918) 

Dorothy was born in Cardiff in 1888.  Her father was William Morgan Lewis (b. 1856), a colliery and ship owner and coal merchant and her mother was Mary H. Lewis (b. 1861), nee Higson.   Dorothy was their youngest child and her siblings were Winifred, born in 1886 and William born in 1887.  

Dorothy was the niece of Isaac H. Parsons (b. 1869), an electrical engineer from Leicester, through his marriage to her mother's sister Jane Birch Higson (b.1870).  Dorothy's cousins were Henry Kelvin Parsons (b. 1903), son of Isaac Hardy Parsons and Jane Birch Parsons, who lived in Market Harborough and Hardy Falconer Parsons (b. 1898) and Ewart Moulton Parsons (b. 1899) and Lyull Ash Parsons (1903), sons of Isaac's brother, the Reverend James Ash Parsons (b. 1867), a Wesleyan Church Minister, and his wife Henrietta Sophia, who lived in  London.

Dorothy died on 31st October 1918 and her mother had Dorothy's poems printed privately in Cardiff in 1919 under the title "Poems" by Dorothy Perch Lewis.

When Dorothy's father died, he left £1,250 to King Edward Hospital Cardiff for a 'Dorothy Lewis' bed to be endowed.  To find today's equivalent of the donation you multiply by 200.  There is a Dorothy Lewis Care Home still in Cardiff.

With many thanks to the ever-vigilant Phil Dawes who confirmed what I have found and added this:

Hardy Parsons: VC winner died in WWI aged 20 killed by flamethrowers.  Hardy Falconer Parsons and Hardy Kelvin Parsons were cousins. Their fathers were (Rev). James Ash Parsons born Rye 1867 and his brother Isaac Hardy Parsons born Rye 1868.  Their Grandfather was Isaac Parsons, a bookseller from Rye.

Hardy Falconer Parsons  - born Blackburn 1897

Second Lieutenant
Date of Death:
Gloucestershire Regiment
 1st/2nd Bn. attd. 14th Bn.
Grave Reference:
A. 16.


Additional Information:

Son of the Rev. and Mrs. J. Ash Parsons, of Leysian Mission, City Rd., London. Educated at Kingswood School, Bath. Medical Student at Bristol University, preparing for Medical Missionary Work.


An extract from "The London Gazette," dated 17th October 1917, records the following:
"For most conspicuous bravery during a night attack by a strong party of the enemy on a bombing post held by his command. The bombers holding the block were forced back, but Second Lieutenant Parsons remained at his post, and, single-handed, and although severely scorched and burnt by liquid fire, he continued to hold up the enemy with bombs until severely wounded. This very gallant act of self-sacrifice and devotion to duty undoubtedly delayed the enemy long enough to allow of the organisation of a bombing party, which succeeded in driving back the enemy before they could enter any portion of the trenches. The gallant officer succumbed to his wounds."

Sources:  Catherine W. Reilly "English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography" (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978); and
Additional information about Hardy Falconer Parsons war record supplied by Phil Dawes.