I first came across Lewis Yelland ANDREWS while researching Capt Gerald MASSON (9th LH), who had married AANS Staff Nurse Jessie ANDREWS in Egypt in March 1919. Gerald & Jessie had stayed behind in Palestine after the war and in 1921 while working with the Palestine Civil Service, Gerald inquired after his medals, mentioning that co-worker L.E. Andrews [sic] had received his 1914-15 Star that morning. Being curious, I wondered whether Lewis and Jessie might be related. I failed to find a connection, but my interest in Lewis Andrews increased after I discovered that he had been assassinated on his 41st birthday in 1937.
Lewis Andrews had been born in Ashfield, NSW, and grew up in the Hornsby district, attending school at Gordon. He had then gone on to become a Stenographer in a Sydney counting house, before enlisting in the 1st Light Horse in November 1914, at the age of 18. In Egypt he was attached to the Camel Transport Corps (CTC) as a Company Quartermaster Sergeant, and received a Mention In General Maxwell’s Despatches in March 1916. Later that year when the Egyptian CTC were recruiting for Officers, Andrews and others in a similar situation, applied for discharge from the AIF to take up commissions in the Egyptian Army.
The Camel Transport Corps took over from the mechanical & horse-drawn wheeled transport, when more practical in the heavy sand and mud of the desert. The corps consisted of Australian & British companies. The companies were made up of between 500 and 2000 camels, which were loaded, driven & generally looked after by native Egyptians, but commanded by Imperial & Australian Officers & NCOs. These camel trains were crucial in supplying the Light Horse and other Allied units that were scattered throughout the deserts of the Sinai & Palestine. The Egyptian CTC, which followed a similar structure to the CTC, was initially to cater to the Egyptian and British armies who were garrisoning the far reaches of Egypt and the Sudan.
After joining the Egyptian CTC, Andrews served for a time as an adjutant to Major Norman Bentwich, who described him as showing “qualities of courage, brightness, and resourcefulness which were bound to carry him far.” And true to nature, Andrews eventually “commanded a company, and took his camels right through to Syria,” and by the end of the war had risen to the rank of Captain.
With the war over, Andrews & Gerald Masson joined the Occupied Enemy Territory Administration staff (OETA). The OETA had been formed with the British occupation of Palestine and Syria, and was to continue until the 1st of July 1920, when it was replaced by a civil administration. The new Civil Government was formed under Sir Herbert Samuel as the first High Commissioner of Palestine, and many of his immediate staff had served with high distinction through the war. One of these being Norman Bentwich, who had taken on the roll of Senior Judicial Officer in the military administration, and was to continue as Attorney General in the civil service.
Bentwich therefore continued his association with his former adjutant Andrews, and his praise for him was endless: “His advance in a small service was exceptionally rapid. Not only did he make himself fluent in both Arabic and Hebrew, but he won in remarkable degree the confidence of his superior officers and of Jews and Arabs equally in the happier days when that was still possible.” Andrews rose from a District Officer to an Assistant District Commissioner, to Deputy Director of the newly formed Department of Development in 1930, eventually taking over as Director. He was awarded an OBE in 1929.
Bentwich went on to say that Andrews “gained steadily in experience and authority, but never lost those qualities of courage, merriness, and resourcefulness which marked his youth. Everybody liked him and trusted him, knowing his Yea was Yea and his Nay was Nay. Whenever there was a hard task requiring both local knowledge and firmness Andrews was chosen.”
Another who knew Andrews well was Sir Stewart Symes, late Governor of the Northern District and Chief Secretary to the Government of Palestine. They had worked closely together in the early days, especially during the period 1920-25, and Symes also thought highly of the ‘young’ Andrews:
“An instinct led him unerringly to the centre of any disturbance, political or other. Once arrived, his personality quietly asserted itself until such time as his shrewd wits had discovered the practical measures to be taken. With him decision and action were nearly simultaneous processes, and he handled men with the same easy mastery as he rode his horses or drove a car across difficult country in all weathers.”
All seemed to agree that the outrageous murder of Andrews, who had recently been appointed the District Commissioner of Galilee, was not only a loss to family, friends & colleagues, but also a great loss to Palestine and its people. Andrews had been well aware that he was a ‘target’, having received various death threats after the active measures he’d taken to suppress disturbances the previous year. As a result he had employed a body guard. British Constable, Peter Robertson McEwan, had almost completed his term of service, and was soon to leave for New Zealand to marry. However, on the Sunday morning of Andrews’ 41st Birthday, the 26th September 1937, he was still very much on duty.
Along with the assistant District Commissioner, Pirie Gordon, the pair had just exited the doors of the English Church at Nazareth where Andrews was a church-warden, when the assassins struck. Andrews yelled for Pirie Gordon to run for it, and he managed to escape. However, the three Arab terrorists fired on Andrews and his protector, bringing them both down. Andrews was hit from point blank range in the head, chest and stomach, while McEwan received bullets to the head and shoulder.
Both men were buried the next day in the Protestant cemetery outside Jerusalem. The funeral was attended by Government officers and officials as well as representatives of both the Jewish and Arab communities. A detachment of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment was responsible for according them military honours, and many wreaths were received from the Jewish colonies in Galilee.
In 1922 Andrews had married Maude Elizabeth KIRKHAM and they had 3 children (2 daughters Georgina & Diana & a son). At the time of his death his family was safe in England where the children were at school. As the widow of a Government official, Maude was eligible for one year’s pay and 240 pounds pension. However, after complaints from official circles it was decided in the House of Commons that the family would receive special compensation. As a result Mrs Andrews was awarded 350 pounds per annum pension, with a further 60 pounds for each of the children until the age of 18. In addition, under the Palestine Pensions Ordinance, a gratuity of 1,400 pounds was payable to Andrews’ estate, along with small gratuities to his children.
Lewis Andrews had gone to war for his country, Australia, and never returned – but it was his adopted home, Palestine, that he gave his life for.
1. Lewis Yelland ANDREWS (1896-1937) was the son of Albert Edward ANDREWS & Georgina CLEMENTS. Brother, Herbert Harold (1898-1957), Pte 713, 2nd Div HQ 1916-19.
2. Gerald MASSON returned to Australia in 1944 after 24 years spent in the Palestinian Government. He died in Adelaide 30/9/1963.
3. Norman de Mattos BENTWICH, who himself had survived an assassination attempt in 1929, died in England in 1971. Charles Harry Clinton PIRIE GORDON died in 1969.
Heather (Frev) Ford, 2009