Frederick William (Jim Lewis) LEWIS

Badge Number: 80932, Sub Branch: RENMARK

LEWIS, Frederick William

Service Number: 3276
Enlisted: Not yet discovered
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 32nd Infantry Battalion
Born: Renmark, 29 January 1895
Home Town: Renmark, Renmark Paringa, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Driver
Died: Lung Cancer, Renmark Hospital, 26 January 1969, aged 73 years
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
Memorials: Men from Renmark and District Roll of Honor Boards (4)
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World War 1 Service

27 Jun 1916: Involvement Private, 3276, 32nd Infantry Battalion, --- :embarkation_roll: roll_number: '17' embarkation_place: Adelaide embarkation_ship: HMAT Malakuta embarkation_ship_number: A57 public_note: ''
27 Jun 1916: Embarked Private, 3276, 32nd Infantry Battalion, HMAT Malakuta, Adelaide

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Biography contributed

Contributed by great granddaughter of Lewis who attends Loxton High School

Wounded twice, gassed, injured in training, involved in the French train crash, and survived it all, Private Frederick William Lewis earned respect from his fellow mates in the 32nd Battalion – Ebony Petch, great-granddaughter of Frederick William Lewis


Frederick William Lewis was a remarkable role model to anyone who was lucky enough to meet him. Lewis was born on 29 January 1895 in the small town of Renmark, South Australia. Lewis was born into a family of 12 children, being 1 of 3 boys of parents Frederick and Elizabeth (nee. Nicholls) Lewis. His mother was listed as next of kin. Lewis was a horse driver before enlisting, meaning this prepared him for the war. Lewis was commonly known as Jim Lewis.

At the age of 20 years and 11 months, Lewis enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in the city of Adelaide, South Australia on January 5, 1916. While enlisting, he had to complete a series of questions before attestation. When enlisting for the war, he was placed in the 32nd Battalion as a driver. A driver in WW1 rode on team horses which pulled wagons, guns, ambulances, and equipment. Usually, a wagon had a team of 6 horses, 3 pairs of 2. Each driver was responsible for his two horses (feeding, shoeing, vet care, etc.) and he teamed up with two other drivers to pull the wagon. Drivers were usually Privates in rank but designated "Driver" to distinguish them from infantry. Drivers were essential in getting supplies, food, ammunition, and equipment to the men at the front line and bringing the wounded back to medical stations. It was a dangerous job as they were targeted by machine guns and artillery to prevent them from getting supplies through. Their uniforms were very similar to the Light Horse except they wore peaked caps instead of slouch hats. They wore leather putties, instead of canvas, and spurs. Lewis’s persistence, courage, and mateship, demonstrate the true meaning of the ANZAC spirit.

Lewis began his training on the 9 August 1915 on the outskirts of Adelaide. Here he learned the basic skills of how to fight on horses. During his furthermore training over in Europe, he was involved in the French train crash, experiencing the first of his accidents. A letter was not sent home to inform his mother. After completing all their training, the 32nd Battalion was sent to Fromelles on 19 July 1916. This battle was fought on the western front and was a military operation that was carried out by the British and Australian troops. A battle that would last 24 hours.

The battle of Fromelles was a gory fight for Australian soldiers. The attack was intended to hold German reserves that were moving South to Somme, where a larger battle would be taking place. Almost 2,000 Australian soldiers were killed in action or died of wounds, and an estimated 400 soldiers were captured. Experts across the globe have said to believe that this battle to be the greatest loss in 24 hours.

This was only the start, before moving along the Western Front to the Battle of Somme. Lewis and his crew members were known as ‘the terrible ones’. This name came about when their enemies would start to quickly become scared of them. Over the duration of two years, Lewis would be a major role in seven fights, the biggest being the Battle of Sommes.

The battle of Somme was one of the most brutal battles fought in the first world war, with an approximate number of 6,800 men dying on the front line and in trenches. Australia and its troops and battalions arrived at Pozières in France on 23 July 1916. This battle lasted four months and was fought between French and British troops.

Later in 1918. He would fight in the Battle of Lys. This battle lasted 20 days. In this battle, Lewis would experience his second accident after being bombed by a nebelbomb, a smoke bomb in modern terms. This bomb was thrown over by the enemy line to help them across the enemy line and would leave Lewis in hospital for 3 weeks. On 10 April 1918, Elizabeth received a letter informing her about her son’s injury. The letter read “Dear Madam, I regret to advise you that Private F.W. Lewis has been reported wounded - gas.”

While fighting in the Kazan Operation, Lewis was mildly wounded in the right shoulder and was in hospital for a week. Again, on the 10th of September 1918, another letter was sent home, informing his mother, Elizabeth, that he had been injured once again. The letter read “Dear Madam, I now beg to advise you that Private F.W. Lewis has been reported admitted, 30.8.18, to Cheltenham Voluntary Aid Detachment, suffering from a gunshot wound, right shoulder, mild.” Reading this letter, Elizabeth started feeling distressed and worried for her son, receiving the second letter about his injuries. The feeling of ambiguous grief started to grow, and this time, thinking her son might not come home alive.

Being discharged from the Imperial forces of the 32nd Battalion, Lewis returned home to Renmark and met Margaret Mary Pinyon, later getting married and they moved to a fruit block in Chaffey, just on the outskirts of Renmark, where they operated and worked. While working on the fruit block, he later got a job with the Renmark Irrigation Trust, where he helped distribute water to fruit blocks and farms all over the Renmark and Chaffey region.

Margaret and Frederick became beloved to 3 beautiful, healthy children: Robert (Bob), Helen, and Margaret. All three children attended Renmark High School, before leaving in year 9 to pursue their own careers. Bob grew his passion for camel farming, Helen became a nurse, who travelled around the globe working with the best doctors from across the major countries, and Margaret worked at a caffe before marrying and working on an Ostridge farm, citrus block, and vineyard. In January of 1969, Lewis was diagnosed with lung cancer and spent his final days in the Renmark Hospital. The lung cancer was connected to his earlier accident in the war, being gassed. On 26 January 1969, Lewis sadly passed away leaving behind a devastated family, yet a respectful legacy within the Australian Imperial Force. His ashes were spread among the River Murray in Renmark.

Serving in the war earned Lewis the British War Medal (left) and the Victory Medal (right) for his courageous bravery in the war. Surviving several accidents and persisting with fights, Private Frederick William Lewis earned respect from everyone who was lucky enough to meet him and shake his hand.



Australian War Memorial n.d., 32nd Australian Infantry Battalion, viewed 14 November 2022,



Australian War Memorial (n.d.) Battle of Fromelles, Australian War Memorial, accessed 17 May 2023.

Hayley Biddle, Interview with Author, Oct 16, 2022 Hayley Biddle, Interview with Author, Nov 8, 2022 Margaret Biddle, Interview with Author, Oct 20, 2022

Monument Australia n.d., 32nd Infantry Battalion, viewed 14 November 2022,


National Archives of Australia 2004, Lewis Frederick William, viewed on 05 May 2023,

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Trove (n.d.) 32nd Battalion, Trove, accessed 19 May 2023.