Battledress blouse: Lt Col LEWIS, Royal Engineers, 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division

Discussion in 'Searching for Someone & Military Genealogy' started by deejay, Sep 28, 2020.

  1. deejay

    deejay Junior Member



    I have been searching the Net for some time now, looking for information about a Lt Col LEWIS, Royal Engineers, 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division, but to no avail. The name of the bearer of this battledress (LEWIS) is written in capital letters on the inside of the BD blouse but, of course, there is no telling whether the whole thing is 100% original or not.

    The BD was made in Canada in April 1943, so it is highly probable that the insignia were sewn on at the very end of the war or even post-war.

    Judging by the medals he was awarded, Lt Col LEWIS participated in the operations in France, Belgium, Holland or Germany between 6 June 1944 and 8 May 1945 and he was mentioned in dispatches.

    I would be very grateful indeed if somebody on here could help me find out more about this officer.


  2. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    A Lt. Col. would have been CRE, Royal Engineers, 50th (Northumbrian) Division. The Path of the 50th (Clay) has a Lt. Col. Willott as CRE in NW Europe. Neither does it show a ‘Lewis‘ as CRE in the BEF, Western Desert or Sicily, nor is one mentioned in the index.

    I will look further.
  3. deejay

    deejay Junior Member

    Thank you very much indeed, Steve!
    This is what I had expected more or less. Maybe he was promoted post-war, so looking for a major or captain Lewis might be the solution to this enigma.
    Another possibility is that the BD blouse is a put-together and did belong to a Lewis who might then be anybody among the hundreds of soldiers who bore that name during WW2.
  4. jonheyworth

    jonheyworth Senior Member

    I can’t see why anyone would add such a configuration to a blouse . But it looks awfully fresh and the AOS stripes look a bit thin, plus by that date , most officers and certainly of that rank had the necks of blouses tailored to a shirt n tie collar wear configuration
    Giberville likes this.
  5. AB64

    AB64 Senior Member

    If someone has a copy of the book "Honour those mentioned" which lists MiD's they could check for an RE officer named Lewis in N W Europe (trawling the London Gazette for a common name could be hard going). There have been offers of lookups previously on the forum so worth a search.

    I would agree with Jon that it does look fresh, the insignia doesn't look bedded in, I would also agree it would be an odd one to badge up as the rank makes it researchable as its a very specific position, but then some people will badge up very random choices, not sure if it just depends what they have in the spares box or think looks pretty
    jonheyworth likes this.
  6. deejay

    deejay Junior Member

    Worth of notice is the fact that the pips look much older than the crowns on both shoulder straps, so the odds are that our Lewis was 'promoted' directly from second lieutenant, lieutenant or captain to lieutenant colonel by some collector in need of a CRE of 50(TT) Division for his D-Day exhibition.

    Yet another possibility, of course, is that the whole set is a mere put-together. My personal feeling is that the different elements, taken in isolation, are genuine.
  7. Mr Jinks

    Mr Jinks Bit of a Cad

    If you can find details of his unit this may fit?

    John Whitney Lewis, Royal Engineers

    War Office, 22nd March, 1945.
    The KING has been graciously pleased to approve
    that the following be Mentioned in recognition of
    gallant and distinguished services in North West

    Maj. (temp.) J. W. Lewis (72500).Mention in dispatches

    War Office, 4 th April, 1946.
    The KING has been graciously pleased to approve
    that the following be Mentioned in recognition of
    gallant and distinguished services in North-West
    Europe: —

    Lt.-Col. (temp.) J. W. LEWIS (72500) Mention in dispatches


    The undermentioned to be Lt.-Cols.:—
    Capt. (War Subs. Maj.) John Whitney LEWIS,
    A.M.Inst.C.E. (72500), from T.A., 6th Dec. 1948.

    The KING has been graciously pleased to confer
    "The Territorial Efficiency Decoration" upon the
    following officers.

    Lt.-Col.J. W. LEWIS (72500)

    deejay, High Wood, Steve Mac and 2 others like this.
  8. chrisgrove

    chrisgrove Senior Member

    Since he was only awarded his TD in 1950, this must be a post war uniform.
  9. deejay

    deejay Junior Member

    Thank you very much for the time you have spent researching. I can imagine just how tedious it must have been!

    This John Whitney LEWIS is indeed a possibility. The question that comes to my mind is the following one: was it usual for Royal Engineers to be attached to the same unit (e.g. the 50th Infantry Division) during the whole of the operations that took place between 6 June 1944 and May 1945 or is it to be expected that they were reassigned to other units in the course of the war?
  10. Mr Jinks

    Mr Jinks Bit of a Cad

    Nothing Tedious about it .honestly. Its what I have learnt you have to do if you want to find answers :)

  11. deejay

    deejay Junior Member

    I have spent hours trying to locate a Lewis that would fit in, but couldn't find anything conclusive.
    I have learnt a thing or two about the action of Royal Engineers on D-Day, though.
    What I would be interested to know is whether the RE of the 50th Division actually took part in the construction of Mulberry B in Arromanches before moving on inland.
  12. Mr Jinks

    Mr Jinks Bit of a Cad

    Arromanches where the artificial port, Mulberry Harbour, was constructed wasnt where 50 Div landed Gold Beach was further east . Once ashore 50th Infantry division moved swiftly inland I think they would need the engineer units with them?
    The War Diaries for the Divisional engineers will tell you where and what they were up to?

    deejay likes this.
  13. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    If Lt. Col. JW Lewis had served with 50 Div throughout WWII he would have an Italy Star in his medal ribbon array, albeit he may have missed Sicily if wounded or ill at that time.

    I also note that his Africa Star does not have either a 1st or 8th Army clasp.
  14. deejay

    deejay Junior Member

    To me, the medal ribbon you are mentioning is a Defense Medal. From your remarks, I gather that our Lewis cannot have served with the 50th Division before November 1943.
  15. deejay

    deejay Junior Member

    If I am not mistaken, J W Lewis was a lieutenant in 1944 and promoted to captain in that same year - his service number (72500) is of great help to track him down along the years.
  16. Swiper

    Swiper Resident Sospan

    No idea when you acquired this, but there have been serious problems with dealers rampantly restiching original insignia onto period uniforms and selling sets as original.
  17. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    There is no Africa Star on there.

    2020-09-29 11.04.36.jpg
  18. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    I’m colour blind. It does not look like the Defence Medal ribbon to me either.
    50 Div was in the Western Desert from late 1941 to July 1943, and then Sicily July to October 1943. As Lt. Col. Lewis has neither the Africa or Italy Star, he cannot have served with 50 Div during this time. 50 Div arrived back in the UK from Sicily on 5 November 1943.

    Have you considered ordering his service record from the MoD? This would provide you with his full service history!
  19. deejay

    deejay Junior Member

    It is a very recent acquisition, actually.
    I am well aware of the fact that many battledresses sold as 'original' were put together at a much later time and, until I have evidence to the contrary, I shall consider this one as non original.
    I am convinced, though, that the different elements it is composed of are original, but the only way I can be assured the whole battledress blouse was actually worn as it now is by a J W Lewis is by getting a coherent match between an 'historical' J W Lewis and this BD blouse.
    Steve Mac likes this.
  20. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Steve Mac , Medals are
    39-45 Star, France & Germany Star, Defence Medal , 39-45 War medal & Efficiency Decoration
    Steve Mac likes this.

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