Thomas Arthur Lewis was born August 22, 1872 at Shropshire, England. He was the son of Thomas Lewis, born 1846 and Mary Lewis born 1843 in Wales. The Lewis family, consisting of Thomas and Mary and their eight children, arrived in Revelstoke around 1890 and started a dairy farm south of town.
Thomas Lewis signed his enlistment papers March 24, 1915 at Vancouver. His regimental number was 116236. His occupation was rancher. He was 42 years old, single, 5’ 10” tall with iron-grey hair and brown eyes. His religious affiliation at the time was Roman Catholic. His family was staunch Presbyterian, but Thomas had recently converted to Catholicism, following the example of his sister Susan, who had become a Catholic when she married local baker Alex Hobson.
The Revelstoke Museum and Archives has a copy of the Lewis family history in which Thomas’ letters home are reproduced. He is exceptionally literate and related very moving accounts of his life at the front. Because of his age and demeanor, he was looked upon as a father figure by the young men beside him and was a comforting, stabilizing influence upon them when under fire.
Thomas Lewis died August 21, 1917 during the battle for Hill 70. He was one day shy of his 45th birthday. At the time of his death he was a Private with the 29th Battalion, Canadian Infantry (British Columbia) Regiment. His body was never found or identified and his name is memorialized on the Vimy Memorial. His name is on both the Courthouse and Cenotaph plaques.
The Revelstoke Review had this account of his death:
“Pte. Lewis was born in Wales Aug. 22nd, 1872, and came to Revelstoke some 28 years ago, and since that time Tom has been a familiar figure on the streets of Revelstoke. In his untimely death we have lost one of our earliest and best citizens.
“The Boer war found Tom enlisted with the Strathcona Horse…When the war broke out in 1914 Tom was at home with his parents. Now growing old they needed the support of his strong arm in their declining years, but among the conflicting calls of duty his patriotic spirit saw the “Call of the Empire” above all others, and March 1915 found him enlisted with the 11th CMR’s bound with heart of hope to strike his best and to give his all if necessary for the cause of Freedom and Democracy, Truth and Right…Always a tower of moral strength among his fellows, his sterling worth shone out in times of stress…A noble patriot, a good son, a loving brother, a true friend and a worthy citizen is gone from our midst; yet the memory of just such faithfulness to duty, such heroism, such self-sacrifice as his will steel the rising generation to future greatness in well doing.
“To the aged and lonely parents, and sorrow-stricken relatives of our respected townsman goes out the deepest sympathy of many old-time friends and though mourning with them in this time of universal grief, yet we envy them the richness of their gift to their country.”
A sad conclusion to his story is the fact that his father, Thomas Lewis Sr., died on November 1, 1917, at the age of 70, just two and a half months after the death of Thomas Jr. His mother, Mary Lewis, died soon afterwards, on July 5, 1918, at the age of 75.