HANBURY LEWIS KEKEWICH

Captain, 16th (Sussex Yeomanry) Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment
Killed in Action, Beersheba, Palestine, 6 November 1917
Buried in Beersheba Military Cemetery, Plot M, Grave 38
 

Captain Hanbury Kekewich

Hanbury Lewis Kekewich was the eldest of the three Kekewich brothers killed in the First World War, but the last of them to die. He was the first child of Lewis Pendarves and Lilian Emily Kekewich, was born on 30 July 1885 at the family's London home in Ebury Street, Belgravia, SW1, and was given his mother's maiden name as his first Christian name. As the daughter of Sampson Hanbury, Lilian was part of the brewing family of Truman, Hanbury and Buxton's. Their brewery, based in Spitalfields, was the oldest in London and may even have predated the Great Fire of 1666. No wonder Lilian wanted the name perpetuated.

By 1891 the family was living at Twisdens in Foots Cray, Kent. Presumably, a few years later, like his brothers, he would have been sent away to Prep School, but where has not come to light. He is also absent from the 1901 census, when he would have been 16. In all probability he was still at Eton, where he was in Broadbent House, but he may have been abroad. Certainly once he joined the family business as a metal merchant, he travelled; he appears on an incoming passenger list in 1907 on a ship travelling from New York to Liverpool and made another return journey from New York in 1912.

Hanbury joined the Sussex Yeomanry as 2nd Lieutenant on 1 May 1910, giving his profession as metal broker. The London Gazette noted:

Supernumerary Second Lieutenant Hanbury L. Kekewich is restored to the establishment.

However, he still gave his occupation as metal merchant on the 1911 census at Kidbrooke Park. The 1st Line regiment of the Sussex Yeomanry was mobilised on 4 August 1914, at which time it was at Hode Farm near Canterbury. Hanbury was in the machine gun section, and later commanded C Company. On 1 November 1914 Hanbury married Dorothy Anne Lane at St Barnabas, Clapham Common. A daughter, Sylvia Lilian, was born in 1916.

The regiment was camped at Maresfield in 1915 but in September that year it marched to Wrotham, Kent, to entrain for Liverpool. On 25 September it embarked on RMS Olympic, headed for Lemnos, where it arrived on 1 October. By the 8th the men had arrived in Gallipoli. Almost immediately, soldiers started to go down with enteritis. However, they also served in trenches at Border Barricade and Fusilier Bluff. On 30 December the regiment was evacuated to Mudros, and it must have been here that Hanbury gathered the seed which was later sent back to England and planted.

 

In February 1916, the regiment was moved to Egypt to defend the Suez Canal, and more particularly, the railway beside it. With some exceptions, the Sussex Yeomanry spent most of the year there. On 3 January 1917, following amalgamation of several units, the regiment was re-designated as 16th (Sussex Yeomanry) Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment. Hanbury was promoted to commanding officer of C Company with a temporary Captaincy.

In July 1917 he was promoted to second-in-command of the 16th Battalion. On 6 November 1917 he was in command of his company attacking the Turkish lines and defending Gaza with about 600 of the battalion. They came under heavy fire and he was killed in action along with around 125 others. He was buried near Gaza. His effects as a soldier were listed as £65 9s. 9d. Probate was granted to his wife, Dorothy Annie, on 27 September 1918, with the effects valued at £618 2s. 11d. Although he had died on active service, his address was given as 69, Elspeth Road, Clapham Common. In 1919 his widow remarried in a civil ceremony at St George's, Hanover Square, and became the wife of Hugh Page-Turner.

The Western Times reported Hanbury's death on 19th November 1917, saying:

Captain Hanbury L. Kekewich, Yeomanry, killed on November 6, aged 32, was the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Kekewich. He had been seven years in the Yeomanry, and was a very efficient officer.

Kekewich Memorial, St Martin's, Exminster

A fine memorial remembers all three brothers in the church at Exminster, in which parish Peamore, the family estate, lies. Another tablet was dedicated at the same church on Remembrance Day 1920, which listed:

Those brave lads from the village who laid down their lives in the war.

As well as the three brothers, there were two other Kekewiches — Robert and Arthur.

Like his brothers, Hanbury Lewis Kekewich had numerous memorials. As well as Forest Row and St Martin's, Exminster, his name appears on the memorial at Hove Library, the MCC roll of honour and Eton College's roll of honour.

When Hanbury's mother gave information for the Forest Row Memorial Book, she was living at 14, Adelaide Crescent in Hove. Both parents must have been devastated by the toll the war had demanded of them. However, happier times were to come. On 2 October 1934, Lewis and Lilian celebrated their golden wedding at Peamore. The Exeter and Plymouth Gazette reported that, to mark the occasion, Mr Kekewich planted a Golden Cypress tree. Despite their losses, the paper noted that they had one remaining son, Sydney, a married daughter and three grandchildren. Lewis was noted as a keen sportsman, passionate about hunting, shooting and golf, and one-time Master of West Kent Harriers, while Lilian was described as an enthusiastic sportswoman. She died on Coronation Day 1937 while Lewis survived a second war and died, aged 88, in 1947.

Pam Griffiths