Owen Gower LEWIS


LEWIS, Owen Gower

Service Number: 10181
Enlisted: 3 January 1916, Melbourne, Victoria
Last Rank: Lieutenant
Last Unit: Australian Flying Corps (AFC)
Born: Elsternwick, Victoria, 1897
Home Town: Armadale, Stonnington, Victoria
Schooling: Church Grammar School, Launceston, Wesley College, Melbourne, and Melbourne University
Occupation: Engineering student
Died: Killed in Action, Bertangles, France, 12 April 1918
Cemetery: Vignacourt British Cemetery
Memorials: Australian War Memorial, Roll of Honour, Launceston Church Grammar School WW1 Honour Board
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World War 1 Service

3 Jan 1916: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 10181, Melbourne, Victoria
10 Mar 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Sapper, 10th Field Company Engineers
25 May 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Second Corporal , 10th Field Company Engineers
20 Jun 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Second Corporal , SN 10181, 10th Field Company Engineers, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
20 Jun 1916: Embarked SN 10181, 10th Field Company Engineers, HMAT Runic, Melbourne
26 Jul 1917: Promoted Australian Flying Corps, Second Lieutenant, Australian Flying Corps (AFC)
26 Oct 1917: Promoted Australian Flying Corps, Lieutenant, Australian Flying Corps (AFC)
12 Apr 1918: Involvement Australian Flying Corps, Lieutenant, Australian Flying Corps (AFC), Villers-Bretonneux


Owen Gower Lewis was from Armadale Victoria, he was 19 years of age when he enlisted into the AIF in January 1916. He embarked from Melbourne in May 1916, arriving England in August 1916. He joined 10th Field Company Engineers as a Sapper, arriving in France in November 1917.

In March 1917 he was promoted as a Corporal and by April 1917 transferred back to England to undergo training. In July 1917 he was appointed Second Lieutenant graduating as an observer in the Australian Flying Corp.

In August 1917 Lewis was wounded on two occasions, receiving gun shot wounds to his thigh, foot, chest and arms, he was transferred back to England for treatment. In the October he was appointed Lieutenant discharged from hospital, returning to France in November 1917 joining 3rd Squadron AFC in January 1918.
By early April 1918, 3rd Squadron was transferred to an aerodrome at Poulainville near Amiens. It was by this time that Lewis was considered amongst one of the veteran Observers of the squadron, completing almost 10 weeks at the front.

It was the 11th April 1918 that the weather was reported not fit for flying. Lewis now had time to complete other duties other than flying. By this time a new pilot had joined the squadron just from pilot training in England, Lieutenant George Best who was from Hobart. Lewis had arranged to fly with Best.

On the 12th April 1918 Lewis and Best where assigned to escort another RE8 aircraft on a photo-reconnaissance mission over the front lines. It was at about 11am of that morning that Best and Lewis took off from the aerodrome when their own RE8 burst into flames shortly after taking off, crashing killing both Lewis and Best.

It was later found that Lewis and Best’s RE8 had mechanical failure. According to a fellow pilot from 3rd Squadron the engine of Lewis and Best’s RE8 had previously caught fire in mid-air whilst he was flying it. It was because he was an experience pilot he was able to quickly turn off the fuel gliding back to the aerodrome. It was due that George Best was an inexperience pilot, newly qualified that he was unable to deal with the emergency in the same way as the experience pilot.

Lieutenant Owen Gower Lewis and Lieutenant George William Best both of 3rd Squadron Australian Flying Corp are buried side by side in Vignacourt British Cemetery. Lewis was 21 years and Best was 22 years of age.

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Biography contributed by John Edwards

"Owen Lewis, an observer in No. 3 Squadron, was an experienced airman. An entry in his diary on a day when bad weather prevented flying reveals his feelings about operations: " This morning I was pleased when the weather was fairly dud – I am afraid I am always pleased when that is so." His fears were justified. On 12 April 1918, the day after he had teamed up with a new pilot, both men were killed in action." - SOURCE (www.awm.gov.au)