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Brice Bew

Private 15928 Brice Bew, D Company, 5th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment


Brice Bew

Brice Bew

(Berkshire At War)

Brice was born in Greenham in 1892, the second son and fifth child of Jesse Bew and his wife Elizabeth (née Read). The family moved to 19 Westbourne Terrace in Speenhamland and Brice attended the Speenhamland School.  Jesse worked as a coachman, but this was long after Speenhamland’s glory days as a centre of the coaching trade. He is shown in census returns as a coachman domestic, one of a number of such men living in the terraces off Speenhamland Backway (now Pelican Lane).


In 1907 the family moved to London Road to take over a small greengrocery. Jesse continued to work as a coachman, presumably leaving Elizabeth to run the shop.  In the 1911 census return Jesse shows himself as a coachman domestic, but did not show any occupation for Elizabeth; daughter Ada, aged 20, is shown as a greengrocer’s assistant.  Brice, by this time aged 19, is shown as a doctor’s messenger. He was working for Dr Wyllie, a local GP, running errands, delivering medicines etc.  He then went to work for Colonel Justice who lived at Speen Court.


When war broke out Brice was one of the many young men who came forward to serve their country, signing up in Newbury to serve with the local regiment – the Royal Berkshires. He underwent training at Aldershot and Shorncliffe. Shorncliffe was where the 5th (Service) Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment had been formed in August 1914. After a period at Folkestone they moved on to Aldershot where they spent their last few months in England before crossing to France on 30 May 1915. Brice was with D Company, commanded by Capt Arbuthnot. In September and October the battalion took significant losses in the Battle of Loos, though their only significant involvement was an attack at Hulloch Quarries in which bombing (grenade) parties from each of the four companies took part to much credit and considerable loss of life.


After Loos the battalion remained in this area, one particularly unpleasant task being the clearing of bodies, many from the 8th Battalion of the Royal Berks.  Conditions were dreadful; Captain Rickman wrote on 11th November: The weather was vile, the trenches knee deep in liquid mud, the trench constantly falling in and needing continuous work to make it safe. These conditions lasted six days when we came back into billets. We go straight back again the day after tomorrow, the weather is still vile, so we must expect a repetition of our last tour.


During those six days, on 5 November 1915 a shell burst over the ‘trenches’, shrapnel rained down on the unfortunate Brice Bew – the dramatic story appeared in the local paper a few weeks later:


Newbury Weekly News, 2 December 1915 – Local War Notes
Pte Brice Bew, 5th Royal Berks, son of Mr and Mrs J Bew, 17a, London-road, Newbury, is in hospital at Rouen, France, suffering from wounds received as the result of the bursting of a shell over the trenches on November 5th. He enlisted in December, 1914, and after training at Shorncliffe and Aldershot, left for France with his regiment on May 30th. On many occasions he had experienced life in the trenches without mishap until on November 5th, a shell bursting with violence over the trench they were occupying, scattered its rain of shrapnel amongst them. Pte Bew was partly buried, but on extrication was able to walk to the dressing station. Here he was found he had wounds on the right side of his face and neck and his right hand was badly burned. He was conveyed to Rouen Hospital, and is at present progressing satisfactorily. A younger brother of the above named, Pte Albert Bew, joined the 5th Royal Berks (Transport Section) on August 31st, 1914, and arrived at the front the same day as his brother. He has had the misfortune to sprain his ankle during the last week, which has necessitated a short spell in hospital.


His wounds cannot have been very severe for he was treated in France and returned to duty. However, it was not long before he was returned to hospital, this time through sickness rather than more wounds.  Brice had contracted tuberculosis and he was sent back to England for treatment. He died on 7 March 1916 at Tooting Military Hospital.


His body was returned to Newbury for burial, which took place at Shaw Cemetery on 11 March 1916:


Newbury Weekly News, 16 March 1916 – Military Funeral at Newbury
Another Victim of the War
The death took place at Tooting Military Hospital on Tuesday March 7th of Private Brice Bew, of the 5th Royal Berks Regiment, second son of Mr and Mrs J Bew, of 17, London-road, Newbury. The deceased, who was only 23 years of age, volunteered his services quite early in the war, and having spent his training at Shorncliffe and Aldershot, went out to France at the end of May last. He was wounded on 5th November, but not seriously, and after a spell in hospital at Rouen, rejoined his Regiment. Subsequent exposure in the trenches added to a constitution not robust, brought on an illness which developed into that dread disease consumption, and finally resulted in his death. His last hours where much cheered by the presence of many of his family; his father being in attendance when he passed away. During the time he was in Tooting Military Hospital, he received the utmost care and kindness from the sisters and nurses, and appeared a general favourite. A younger brother of the deceased, Albert, who joined the Army about the same time, serving in the same regiment, is still at the Front. Like his brother he has not been home since the time he left England. An older, married brother, is also waiting to be called up for service with his group under Lord Derby’s scheme. The deceased prior to leaving Newbury was successively in the employ of Dr Wyllie and Colonel Justice of Speen Court. A cousin of the deceased soldier, Arthur Bew, of Crookham, has also given his life for his country, having died whilst in training last year. The parents have received the message of sympathy from the King and Queen, signed by Lord Kitchener, while many other expressions of condolence have been received. The deceased soldier was a member of the  P.S.A. Brotherhood having acted as a marker, and this society was represented at the funeral by several members.


The Funeral
There was a large assemble of relatives and friends to pay a last tribute of respect to one who had given his all for his country, at the Municipal Cemetery on Saturday, while the route was lined with respectful sympathisers as the cortège slowly wended its way thitherward. The Depôt Band from Reading, under Band-Sergeant H Carter, was in attendance, heading the procession, the music played by them being “Hero’s Farewell” (composed by Bandmaster White of the 1st Batt Royal Berks Regiment), and Beethoven’s No 2 Funeral March. The bearers were supplied from the same source, five of whom had served in the trenches with deceased, and were home, some from wounds and other causes, while among the mourners were Private J Whitney, the deceased's chum, who has been wounded and came from Linfield Red Cross Hospital to attend the funeral. The first part of the service was held in St Mary’s Church, the Rev C L Jeayes officiating. The mourners present were Mr and Mrs Bew (father and mother), Mrs Wood and the Misses Ada and Lena Bew (sisters), Mr Wood (brother-in-law), Mrs Butler (aunt), Messers E Bew and J Bew (uncles), Mr Leonard Bew, Misses Edith, Elsie and Frances Bew, Miss Ethel Butler (cousins), Pte J Whitney, Miss J Payne , Miss Fitzgerald, Mr Cos (head gardener at Speen Court), and Mr Franklin. The service at the graveside was sympathetically read by the Rev C L Jeayes before a large number of persons, and at the conclusion the “Last Post” was sounded by a trumpeter of the Royal Berks Regiment.


A large number of tokens of sympathy and regret were placed on the coffin, which was covered with the Union Jack, including “In sweetest memory from Father, Mother, Brothers and Sisters; uncle, aunt and cousins at Greenham; uncle, aunt and cousins at Boxford; uncle and aunt (Stroud Green); Cyril and Jack (nephews); from his sincere chum, Pte J Whitney; sisters and nurses, Ward 33, Tooting Military Hospital; Colonel and Mrs Justice; Miss I Lilles; Mr and Mrs Cox, Mr and Mrs R Green and Thora, Mr and Miss Green, Mr and Mrs Smith and family, Mr and Mrs Rawlings, Mr and Mrs Baker and Mr Brown, Mr and Mrs Wood and family (Tonbridge, Kent), Mr and Mrs Cowley and Dorrie, Miss Tisbury, Mr and Mrs J Maiden and family, Mr and Mrs Payne and family, Mrs Bartholomew and family, etc.
The funeral arrangements were carried out by Mr E B Hitchman, who, at the last minute was instructed to do so by the military authorities. Mr John Humphries kindly loaned a carriage to convey the mourners.


At last Sunday afternoon’s meeting of the Newbury PSA Brotherhood, the Chairman, Mr Councillor T H Pratt, proposed a resolution of sympathy with the bereaved parents and relatives of Pte Brice Bew, 5th Royal Berks Regiment, which was passed by all upstanding. The Secretary (Mr H Dowling) announced that he had sent a letter of sympathy to the parents in the name of the Society.


The PSA (Pleasant Sunday Afternoon) Brotherhood was a nonconformist movement (mainly Congregational but locally Methodists and Baptists were also involved), dedicated to improving the experience of Sundays – it seems that some of the Newbury group may have spent their Sunday afternoons playing snooker for this was the most likely pastime to involve a marker (score keeper). 


Brice's name on Newbury War Memorial

Brice's name on Newbury War Memorial.

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Brice is remembered on the Newbury Town War Memorial and the Speenhamland Shrine. His name was also on the lost memorial at Speenhamland School.


His brother, Alfred, who served in the same battalion, was fortunate enough to survive the war, living until 1973.


Other members of the family were not so fortunate; three cousins, Arthur, Frederick and Leonard Bew, three of the five sons of Jesse Bew’s brother Edward, all died serving in the army.  Arthur served with the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and died in a training accident; he is buried in Greenham churchyard.  Frederick and Leonard served with the Coldstream Guards; Frederick died in December 1917 during the Battle of Cambrai, and Leonard in April 1918 during the Battle of the Lys. The three brothers, whose family lived on Greenham Common, are remembered on the Newbury Baptist Church Memorial, Thatcham War Memorial and the Greenham War Memorial in Greenham Church.

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 Died this day:
22 June 1919
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