Lucy Beatrice May Raw – served in YMCA at Le Havre

Gravestone of May Raw in All Saints' churchyard, Witley, Surrey

Title: Gravestone of May Raw in All Saints' churchyard, Witley, Surrey
Description: Image copyright and courtesy of Stephen Mills by-nc

Lucy Beatrice May Raw (known as May) was born in Leyland, Lancashire, in 1886, the daughter and third child of the Reverend Percy Lloyd and Elsie Bowers of The Rectory, Market Bosworth. The Bowers were well-to-do (Reverend Percy’s father was a cotton manufacturer) with four live-in servants and a governess. Reverend Percy was the Archdeacon of Loughborough when he died in 1922 at the age of 66.

At the time of the 1911 census, May was living in Albert Court, London, with George, Sarah and Rowland Raw (26), a wool broker. The Raw family originated in Yorkshire but George, Sarah and their children were born in South Africa. Rowland and May married on 17 May 1911 in Market Bosworth (the ceremony was performed by her father) and moved to Umberleigh House, Umberleigh, Devon. At the outbreak of the First World War Rowland enlisted in the Public Schools Battalion, was made a corporal in September, 1914 and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in X Company, 9th Battalion, the Lancashire Fusiliers in December.

Rowland’s unit, and that of his brother Rupert (a Boer War hero), trained initially at Beltham Park, Grantham, and both units moved to Witley Camp for further training on 4 April 1915. May followed Rowland to Witley, living in Vine Cottage, Churchfields (since demolished), remained after he went to Gallipoli and perhaps at first she spent time in Witley and Umberleigh.

Rowland’s Battalion was the first unit to land at “A” beach, Suvla Bay, Gallipoli, on 7 May 1915 and formed a defensive screen. The Battalion records state that during a counter-attack by the Turks, Rowland’s leadership was of great assistance in keeping the defensive screen intact. Rowland was killed later in the day and is buried in Hill 10 Cemetery. He is also commemorated on Atherington War Memorial, Devon, and there is a plaque to his memory in Atherington church; these are probably the work of May. Rupert was killed at Gallipoli on 10 May 1915.

May served in the YMCA during the First World War, spending time in Le Havre, France, between November 1917 and April 1918, for which she was entitled to the British War Medal. As a woman of independent means May might have been friends with similar Witley families, employed local people, attended All Saints’ Church, Witley and been at the unveiling of the Witley war memorials.

May might have spent winters in the south of France, as did many well-off people in the inter-war years, including some from Witley. May died aged 46 in the Villa Noel Nursing Home, Nice, on 12 February 1932 and was buried in All Saints’ Churchyard, Witley, on 23 February, 1932. On her gravestone, May is shown as living at Vine Cottage.  May and Rowland had no children.

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