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Remembered Today:

Sec.Lt.Rex Sherwell, Lincolns and 25 Sqd.R.F.C.


Old Owl
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Hi All,

I wonder if anyone can clarify who shot-down Rex Sherwell in late June,1916, a few days prior to his death from a direct hit by enemy shell-fire on 3/7/16. To quote from his obituary:

" On June 21st he was sent to France at twenty-four hours notice, joined the 25th Squadron(a fighting one), and was twice over the German lines the following day. On July 3rd,1916, he was killed whilst returning from aerial reconnaissance. A few days previously he was brought down by a Fokker, but though the machine was smashed he escaped unhurt."

Thus it seems he lasted less than two weeks at the front.

If anyone can help I would be most grateful.

Robert

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Hello Robert - I guess you already have this information, as you have asked a specific question about who shot Rex Sherwell down, but there is quite a long obituary for him in Tonbridge School and the Great War 1914-1918. His brother, Lt Ferdinand Nigel Sherwell was KIA nearly a year later on 13th June, 1917 near Bullecourt. I can email this to you if you don't have it.

Regards ... Anne

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Robert

The incident took place on 26 June 1916 when 2nd Lt Sherwell was flying FE2b 6334 with 2/AM H L Chadwick as observer. There's a lengthy entry in RFC Communique number 40, but the gist of it is that five FE2s of No 25 Squadron had bombed Henin-Lietard and on returning home, Sherwell and Chadwick lagged behind and were attacked by several Fokkers. In the ensuing combat, two Fokkers were claimed as shot down, one by 2nd Lt G R McCubbin + Cpl J H Waller and another by Capt A W Grattan-Bellew + Lt W Harper; Lt L L Richardson + 2/AM L S Court claimed a third as "forced to land".

2nd Lt Sherwell landed near Cambrin, his machine very badly hit - the rudder controls were broken, most of the tail boom struts and booms hit and both tanks shot through. 2/AM Chadwick had been hit three times and died within a few minutes.

FE2b 5212, flown by Lt R C B Riley and Lt E H Bird, was also forced to land; coming down near Mazingarbe it ran into hidden barbed wire defences, turned over and was totally wrecked. Lt Riley was thrown from the machine and suffered concussion while Lt Bird, who had been hit in the back, broke his wrist and dislocated a shoulder; he died of his wounds the following day.

The only confirmed claim was made by Ltn Max Mulzer of KeK N and this has been matched with the loss of Riley and Bird; presumably another pilot from this unit fired at Sherwell and Chadwick but didn't see the result of the combat and made no claim.

Graeme

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Hello Robert - I guess you already have this information, as you have asked a specific question about who shot Rex Sherwell down, but there is quite a long obituary for him in Tonbridge School and the Great War 1914-1918. His brother, Lt Ferdinand Nigel Sherwell was KIA nearly a year later on 13th June, 1917 near Bullecourt. I can email this to you if you don't have it.

Regards ... Anne

Hi Anne,

Many thanks but I already have the information from the Tonbridge book, which as you say is quite long and also fairly detailed apart from the date he was shot down and also who actually did the deed. I suppose that these details were not readily available at the time the book was produced? Rex Sherwell it seems was a very talented all round sportsman and amongst other achievements won the South of England Junior Lawn Tennis championship in 1914. Another brother was Captain of the South African XI.

Interestingly his brother Ferdinand was wounded near Mametz on the 1st Day of the Battle of the Somme, 1/7/16, whilst serving with the 7th Bn.Bedfords.

Regards, Robert

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Robert

The incident took place on 26 June 1916 when 2nd Lt Sherwell was flying FE2b 6334 with 2/AM H L Chadwick as observer. There's a lengthy entry in RFC Communique number 40, but the gist of it is that five FE2s of No 25 Squadron had bombed Henin-Lietard and on returning home, Sherwell and Chadwick lagged behind and were attacked by several Fokkers. In the ensuing combat, two Fokkers were claimed as shot down, one by 2nd Lt G R McCubbin + Cpl J H Waller and another by Capt A W Grattan-Bellew + Lt W Harper; Lt L L Richardson + 2/AM L S Court claimed a third as "forced to land".

2nd Lt Sherwell landed near Cambrin, his machine very badly hit - the rudder controls were broken, most of the tail boom struts and booms hit and both tanks shot through. 2/AM Chadwick had been hit three times and died within a few minutes.

FE2b 5212, flown by Lt R C B Riley and Lt E H Bird, was also forced to land; coming down near Mazingarbe it ran into hidden barbed wire defences, turned over and was totally wrecked. Lt Riley was thrown from the machine and suffered concussion while Lt Bird, who had been hit in the back, broke his wrist and dislocated a shoulder; he died of his wounds the following day.

The only confirmed claim was made by Ltn Max Mulzer of KeK N and this has been matched with the loss of Riley and Bird; presumably another pilot from this unit fired at Sherwell and Chadwick but didn't see the result of the combat and made no claim.

Graeme

Hi Graeme,

That's excellent news--now I have the date and pretty well exactly what happened. It would seem that R.S.was extremely lucky to survive this encounter with the enemy, sadly his observer was not quite so fortunate. It seems strange that no-one claimed this--but possibly the German pilot was one of the two shot down and was possibly killed?

As a matter of interest do you have any details of his plane and exactly how he was killed (and also if his observer survived or was killed) on 3/7/16?

Many thanks again for these most useful details.

Robert

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Hi Robert

I'm glad you found your information on Rex Sherwell!

The Sherwell family seem very interesting - 10 sons! One brother served with the RFA in both wars - Olga Whatley Sherwell - an MC & MiD in WW1 and a DSO WW2 after Tobruk - the family seem to have orignated in South Africa. He ended WW2 as a Lt Col. Prior to WW1 he studied at University College, London.

Have you come across any of the other brothers?

Regards ... Anne

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Robert

Sherwell's observer on 3 July 1916 was 2nd Lt John Charles Miller Stewart; both were killed when their machine, FE2b 6339, was hit by anti-aircraft fire near Festubert.

As per the Leeds Pals website:

John Charles Miller Stewart was the eldest son of Dr Joseph Stewart of Lovell House, North Street, Leeds.

After his education, at the Leeds Grammar School, he trained as an engineer, first with Messrs J & J Mclaren in Leeds and afterwards as chief experimenter at Messrs. Wolseley’s works in Birmingham. He also invented a new four-speed gear system for motor cycles and at the commencement of the war was engaged in forming his own company for its development.

A director of Noel Paton Limited, engineers, of Dewsbury Road, when war broke out he immediately joined the rank and file of the Leeds Pals’ Battalion. He enlisted in September 1914. Shortly after, on the 30th of March 1915, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant into the 7th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (Leeds Rifles).

In February 1916, he was transferred to the Royal Flying Corps where he became a qualified Observer and was first on the list for Pilot.

On the 3rd July 1916, after being on a bombing expedition in enemy lines, he was “planning down“ on his way back when a shell, fired at long range, hit his aircraft and annihilated it.

In a letter to his parents, his Major wrote:

“It was just bad luck, the hardest luck any of our squadron ever had!"

He is buried a little behind the lines, where other gallant observers are buried.

John Charles Miller Stewart is buried in Lapugnoy military cemetery, Bethune.

Graeme

PS

I think the RFC claims on 26 June were a little optimistic, since there seem to be no matching German losses.

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Hi Robert

I'm glad you found your information on Rex Sherwell!

The Sherwell family seem very interesting - 10 sons! One brother served with the RFA in both wars - Olga Whatley Sherwell - an MC & MiD in WW1 and a DSO WW2 after Tobruk - the family seem to have orignated in South Africa. He ended WW2 as a Lt Col. Prior to WW1 he studied at University College, London.

Have you come across any of the other brothers?

Regards ... Anne

Hi Anne,

My interest is really only confined to Ferdinand N.Sherwell and Rex Sherwell, although I had already noted that they were part of a large and very talented family. It seems that Olga W. Sherwell(whom you have already mentioned) and also the 11th!! son Noel Benjamin Sherwell also attended Tonbridge School. He served WW2 only with the RAFVR,

OBE, MID, he was also a good cricketer!

I haven't come across any of the other seven though--perhaps they were educated in South Africa?

Regards, Robert

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Robert

Sherwell's observer on 3 July 1916 was 2nd Lt John Charles Miller Stewart; both were killed when their machine, FE2b 6339, was hit by anti-aircraft fire near Festubert.

As per the Leeds Pals website:

John Charles Miller Stewart was the eldest son of Dr Joseph Stewart of Lovell House, North Street, Leeds.

After his education, at the Leeds Grammar School, he trained as an engineer, first with Messrs J & J Mclaren in Leeds and afterwards as chief experimenter at Messrs. Wolseley’s works in Birmingham. He also invented a new four-speed gear system for motor cycles and at the commencement of the war was engaged in forming his own company for its development.

A director of Noel Paton Limited, engineers, of Dewsbury Road, when war broke out he immediately joined the rank and file of the Leeds Pals’ Battalion. He enlisted in September 1914. Shortly after, on the 30th of March 1915, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant into the 7th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (Leeds Rifles).

In February 1916, he was transferred to the Royal Flying Corps where he became a qualified Observer and was first on the list for Pilot.

On the 3rd July 1916, after being on a bombing expedition in enemy lines, he was “planning down“ on his way back when a shell, fired at long range, hit his aircraft and annihilated it.

In a letter to his parents, his Major wrote:

“It was just bad luck, the hardest luck any of our squadron ever had!"

He is buried a little behind the lines, where other gallant observers are buried.

John Charles Miller Stewart is buried in Lapugnoy military cemetery, Bethune.

Graeme

PS

I think the RFC claims on 26 June were a little optimistic, since there seem to be no matching German losses.

Many thanks Graeme--most useful again and fills several gaps in my information. Interesting to see his observer was ex Leeds Pals and ex Leeds Rifles to boot!!

It certainly appears that the squadron was more than a little ambitious with it's claims on 26/6/16---possibly in the confusion they mistook the downed Britsh planes as German

planes--although I believe that they were well marked at this time for identification purposes, so there should have been little doubt as to which planes had actually gone down.

Regards, Robert

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