LEWIS NELSON RENSHAW (1918-2015)
It was with great sadness that Newark Branch learnt of the loss of one of Newark's Gunner Veterans, Lewis Renshaw, who passed peacefully away in Nottingham Queens Medical Centre on January 12th where he was being treated following a car accident before Christmas.
Lewis was a very proud Gunner who, like many elderly Veterans, had just “never got around” to joining a Branch and attending Branch meetings. But of course, this didn’t matter - he was a “Gunner” Veteran and therefore a treasured and valued member of our Regimental Family. Our Lewis or “Lew” as he was known was a well known local character who would always be seen with a huge smile on his face and a cheeky twinkle in his eye. He loved to talk to people - not only about his own medals and life as a soldier during WW2 but also about his father's service during the Great War and he always proudly wore his medals too. Although in his 90s he still drove and always did sterling work during the RBL Poppy Appeal. In the run up to Remembrance Day he loved visiting the local Schools to talk to the children and to answer their questions - I'm not sure who enjoyed this exercise the most, Lewis or the children! In 2014, during the Great War Commemorations, he worked closely with the Royal British Legion and Newark Parish Church setting up an Exhibition depicting “Newark in the Great War” and, once again he was often on duty talking to the children because he felt it so important that they learnt of the sacrifices that were made.
In March 1934, as a 16 year old farmer’s boy, Lewis joined the Territorial Army (TA) Hussars in the Notts. Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry with the rank of “trumpeter”. He duly began his trade trading and later that year became a Farrier. His service with the Sherwood Rangers finished in March 1939 and he became a Gunner after transferring to 10th Field Training Regt RA. His trade on enlistment in December 1939 is recorded as “Light Van Driver”.
In April 1940 he was assigned to the BEF (NWEF) and joined 166 Bty of 56 (East Lancashire) Light AA Regt. RA. The Regiment was involved in the ill-fated Norway campaign and eventually reached Norway just as British forces were withdrawing after being defeated by the Germans. Lewis managed to escape in a rowing boat and was rescued by a British destroyer. During the Battle of Britain, he served as an ant-aircraft gunner based at Crawley (now the site of Gatwick Airport) before moving up and down the south coast from Worthing to Folkestone. In 1942-3 he fought in North Africa including the first battle of El Alamein. The Regiment then crossed the deserts to the Mediterranean and onwards to Italy as part of the invasion force, which landed at Salerno before moving onto Naples, the Garigliano River and Monte Cassino.
It was on February 4th 1944 during the battle of Monte Cassino that Lewis was badly injured by an exploding mine whilst teaching mine-sweeping to other soldiers. He sustained major injuries including severe burns to his hands and legs but somehow survived. He was medically discharged in 1945 and spent 2½ years in hospital undergoing treatment and many skin-grafts after being told that he would never walk again. Happily he proved everyone wrong and duly went on to become a school-caretaker here in Newark before becoming a Maintenance Inspector for Notts. CC Education Department where he worked for over 40 years.
In May 2014 at the age of 96, Lewis returned to Monte Cassino for the first time with his two sons to attend the 70th Anniversary Commemorations and to pay homage to his fallen comrades. It was, he said a trip, that had worn him out but one that he wouldn't have missed for the world! He was thrilled to have met and to be pictured with Prince Harry but later confessed to me "I must admit me duck, I shed a few tears while I was there and had to ask my lads if I could have a few minutes by myself!"
GOD BLESS LEWIS!
Written & submitted 22 Jan 2015 by Carol A. Bryan- Newark RAA Branch SecretaryRegional News, General, Branch News