|Pte. Lewis Walker Kelly's 193rd Battalion portrait|
Two weeks later, Lewis’s Highland Brigade mates departed for England, its overseas arrival coinciding with significant Canadian Corps casualties incurred at the Somme. As a result, two of its battalions—the 193rd and 219th—were dissolved before year’s end and their members dispersed to other units. Meanwhile, Lewis remained in Nova Scotia, where he was transferred to the 246th Battalion—the Highland Brigade’s reinforcement unit—on December 9. He spent the winter of 1916-17 at Camp Aldershot, NS, while the 246th attempted to recruit its ranks to full strength.
While the 246th began dispatching its recruits to England in “reinforcement drafts” during the spring of 1917, a second health issue delayed Lewis’s overseas departure. On March 31, 1917, he was admitted to military hospital with diphtheria. Discharged to duty two and a half weeks later, Lewis finally boarded SS Olympic at Halifax on May 31 and arrived at Liverpool, England, nine days later. Transferred to the 185th Battalion (Cape Breton Highlanders) on June 11, he spent the remainder of the year at Camp Witley with his new unit, awaiting the opportunity to proceed to France.
When military authorities disbanded the 185th in February 1918, its ranks were gradually assigned to existing units. On March 8, 1918, Lewis was assigned to the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia Rifles) and immediately departed for France. Eight days later, he reported to his new unit’s camp at Raimbert, France.
Throughout the spring and early summer, Lewis served regular rotations in the line with the 25th. In late June, the battalion entered Divisional Reserve, its soldiers spending the following month training and rebuilding its ranks. On July 30, the unit made its way southward to Briquemesnil, near Amiens, France. Following a week’s preparation, the 25th assembled on the outskirts of Cachy during the evening hours of August 7. The following morning, its personnel participated in a massive Allied counter-attack on the German line east of Amiens.
On the first day of fighting, the 25th occupied support positions behind two of its 5th Brigade mates, the 22nd (Quebec’s “Vandoos”) and 24th (Victoria Rifles of Canada, Montreal) Battalions. The following day, the 25th participated in an attack on the village of Méharicourt. The unit remained in the line until mid-month and received several days’ rest before making its way northward to the Arras area on August 21.
On the evening of August 25, the 25th’s soldiers assembled at Beaurains and prepared for their second combat engagement in less than a month. The following morning, the 5th Brigade moved forward in reserve as Canadian units launched an attack on German positions east of Arras. Two of its battalions—the 24th and 26th (New Brunswick)—led the attack on August 27 and 28, while the 25th occupied support positions behind their comrades on both occasions.
On August 30, the unit retired from the line and spent the first two weeks of September training while rebuilding its ranks. Lewis came through the August engagements without injury and returned to the forward area with his comrades at mid-month. Prior its departure for the line, the 25th’s war diary reported that 23 of its “other ranks” (OR) had been awarded the Military Medal for bravery, while five other OR received a bar to the Military Medal, “in connection with the operations in front of Amiens.” Private Lewis Walker Kelly was one of the recipients, although the details of his actions on the battlefield were not recorded.
From September 19 to 26, the 25th completed a particularly challenging tour near Inchy-en-Artois, as its soldiers wrestled with their German foes for control of advance posts in No Man’s Land. Upon withdrawing from the line, the soldiers received a day’s rest before occupying trenches near the recently captured Canal du Nord on September 28. The 25th remained there for several days, awaiting orders to advance. On the afternoon of October 1, its personnel moved into support positions near Sailly, where they remained one week, “digging trenches” along a nearby railway line under cover of darkness.
At 1:30 a.m. October 9, the 25th participated in an attack on Canal de l’Escaut, located on Cambrai’s northern outskirts. During the early morning hours, it soldiers successfully captured their final objective on the city’s eastern side, while several Canadian units to the south passed through the city itself. The unit’s war diary later reported 15 “other ranks” (OR) killed and another 85 OR wounded during the day’s advance.
Private Lewis Walker Kelly was one of the day’s casualties. Evacuated to a nearby clearing station with “wounds [in his] back,” Lewis was initially described as “dangerously wounded.” By October 12, Lewis was stable enough to permit transport by ambulance train to No. 55 General Hospital, Boulogne. At the time of his admission, medical staff identified his injuries as “GSW [gunshot wound] back and head.”
Three days later, Lewis was invalided to England and admitted to Endell Street Military Hospital, London. While the evacuation suggests that his condition had stabilized, an October 24 note on his medical chart indicated that Lewis was “seriously ill,” suffering from paraplegia and incontinence. During the night, his condition “gradually got worse—delirious unconscious.” Private Lewis Walker Kelly died of wounds at 5:30 a.m. October 25, 1918, and was laid to rest in Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey.
|Pte. Lewis Walker Kelly's headstone, Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey|