Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Frederick Kewley

Frederick Kewley :

Frederick Kewley : (L to R) Distinguished Conduct Medal; Military Medal; British War Medal

(L to R) Distinguished Conduct Medal; Military Medal; British War Medal

Frederick, or Fred, was born in around 1890 in Barrow-in-Furness, Lancashire. His father was called John and his mother was Emily. He had 10 siblings. We know the names of an older sister called Ann and his younger siblings May, Violet, John Thomas and Joseph. By 1911 only 5 siblings were still alive: Fred, Violet, John, Joseph and one other.

Like many of Barrow's men, in 1891 John worked in the Barrow Steelworks. He was still there in 1901. By this time, though, Vickers' Shipyard was growing and soon employed more men than the steelworks. By 1911 both John and Fred worked as labourers in the Gunshop there. Vickers built hundreds of ships and submarines, and Fred is likely to have helped build ships that fought during the First and possibly also the Second World Wars.

Throughout this time the family lived with Emily's parents Joseph and Ann and her brother Thomas at 52 Exmouth Street. In 1911 only Ann still lived with them; Joseph had died and we don't know what had happened to Thomas. Also at Number 52 that year was John and Emily's 1 year old granddaughter, also called Emily. We don't know whose child she was.

The First World War broke out in August 1914 and Fred joined the Army in early December. He enlisted into the 7th City Battalion. This was being formed in Manchester to allow men who lived or worked in this area to serve together. We don't know whether Fred had moved to Manchester since 1911, or why he chose this unit. It became the 22nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment and Fred was given the service number 21042. He joined XVI Platoon in D Company.

By the middle of 1915 Fred had been promoted to Corporal. The Army was expanding rapidly during this time, so anyone with any experience of leadership, whether at work or in a social organisation, could find themselves promoted even if they had never been in the military.

The 22nd Battalion began its life at Heaton Park in Manchester, and then moved to Morecambe on the Lancashire coast in December 1914. They spent several months there before moving to Belton Park near Grantham in Lincolnshire during April 1915. In September they moved to Larkhill in Wiltshire. They were based here until the 11th November when they sailed to France.

We don't know much about Joseph's time in France, but we believe he stayed with the 22nd Battalion throughout the war. They served around Mametz near Fricourt during early 1916. By the end of May Fred had been promoted to Sergeant.

Fred was one of around 60 members of the 22nd Battalion who took part in a raid on the German trenches on the 2nd June. The group was supported by a large artillery bombardment. The raid was a success, but a number of men were killed or wounded.

Fred was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his part in the raid. This citation was published in the London Gazette on the 27th July:

For conspicuous gallantry during a raid on the enemy's trenches. He led a party which bombed several enemy shelters, and contributed much to the success of the raid.

Later that month the battalion began training for the 1st Day of the Somme Offensive. This battle would begin on the 1st July, and the 22nd Battalion was going to attack towards the village of Mametz. The attack was successful, but around 470 out of almost 800 members of the battalion were killed, wounded or went missing. The survivors were relieved on the 5th.

Frederick was awarded the Military Medal in the London Gazette of the 11th November 1916. The medals in this issue were awarded for acts of bravery carried out as far back as 1914. For this reason we don't know exactly what Frederick did to earn his medal, or when it happened.

The 22nd Battalion served on the Somme until the Offensive ended in November. It then fought in the Battle of Arras during April 1917.

In the autumn of 1917 the 22nd Battalion moved to Belgium and joined the Passchendaele Offensive that was fought around Ypres. They served in their third country from November 1917, when they were sent to Italy. The Italians had suffered a serious defeat in their fight against Austria Hungary, so the British and French sent several units to help them. The 22nd Battalion stayed in Italy until the end of the war and played a major role in the final defeat of the Austrians.

We have no record of Fred ever leaving the 22nd Battalion, so it is likely he was in Italy when the war ended on the 11th November 1918. He was still a Sergeant at the end of the war. We don't have any details about his jobs during the war.

After he left the Army Fred returned to Barrow and lived there for the rest of his life. He married Florence Beard between April and June 1938. They had 2 children, Barbara J. between July and September 1940 and David F. between April and June 1955.

By the late 1950s Fred lived at 9 Cragg Street. At some point in 1959 he was admitted to North Lonsdale Hospital in Barrow. He died there on the 16th August, aged 67.

Fred's medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in December 1954. As well as his gallantry medals and British War Medal, Fred was also awarded the 1914-15 Star and the Allied Victory Medal for his Army service.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council