COWLING man Willie Hewitt was a bit of a handful when he joined the army in 1915.

While training at Clipstone Camp he went absent three times in a month, suffering punishments including pay deductions and being confined to barracks.

By the following spring he was in France and even there he was still wild, riding a signaller’s bike and receiving 25 days’ confinement to barracks.

But like any other soldier in the Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment he finally had to face the enemy.

In late summer that year Private Hewitt was in trenches on the Leipzig Salient at Thiepval, patrolling and keeping a lookout under constant night-time bombardment from the Germans. Even during the day the enemy artillery fired salvos from time to time.

On September 18, the British sent out special patrols, capturing a German brigade orderly who had apparently got lost.

But on that same day, 20 men were wounded by shell or shrapnel, and 23-year-old Willie was killed.

Willie had grown up in Cowling, son of a cotton weaver, and by the age of 18 Willie himself was working as a warp dresser with A Cowgill at Royd Mills.

He was a noted local footballer, playing with several Cowling teams, and was a centre forward with a team that won the Keighley and District League Trophy a few years before war broke out.