Cecil Arthur Lewis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Cecil Arthur Lewis
Cecil Lewis
Born (1898-03-29)29 March 1898
Birkenhead, England
Died 27 January 1997(1997-01-27) (aged 98)
London, England
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Royal Air Force
Years of service 1915–1919
1939–1945
Rank Squadron Leader
Unit
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Military Cross

Cecil Arthur Lewis MC (29 March 1898 – 27 January 1997) was a British fighter pilot who flew in World War I. He went on to co-found the British Broadcasting Company and enjoy a long career as a writer, notably of the aviation classic Sagittarius Rising (inspiration for the film Aces High).[1]

Biography[edit]

Educated at Oundle School, Lewis joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1915 after lying about his age[2] and learned to fly at Brooklands. In 1916, he flew the Morane Parasol in combat with No. 3 Squadron and was awarded the Military Cross[3] for his actions during the Battle of the Somme. Flying the S.E.5a with No. 56 Squadron, he was credited with eight victories during May and June 1917.[4] Back in England, Lewis served with No. 44 and No. 61 Squadrons on Home Defence before returning to France in late 1918 with No. 152 (Night-Fighter) Squadron, flying the Sopwith Camel, and serving as a flight commander with the rank of captain.[5]

After the war, Lewis was hired by the Vickers company to teach the Chinese how to fly and to establish a Peking–Shanghai air service using Vickers Commercials, the civilian version of the Vickers Vimy bomber. It was in Peking that Lewis married Doushka Horvath (1902–2005), the daughter of a Russian general.[6] Lewis returned to England when the air service project was abandoned by Vickers after a couple of years.

Through his friend, the Russian singer Vladimir Rosing, Lewis met the artist Charles Ricketts, who became his artistic mentor and sponsor. After Ricketts' death, Lewis edited his letters and journals for publication.

Lewis was one of the five young men who, in 1922, founded the British Broadcasting Company (precursor of the British Broadcasting Corporation) where he was a writer, producer, and director.[7] (The other founders were John Reith, Arthur Burrows, Stanton Jefferies and Peter Eckersley.) In 1931, he co-wrote and directed a short film adaptation of the George Bernard Shaw play How He Lied to Her Husband. In late 1936–early 1937 he was a producer and presenter for the infant BBC Television Service at Alexandra Palace.[8] At the 1939 Academy Awards ceremony, Lewis, Shaw, Ian Dalrymple and W. P. Lipscomb were awarded Oscars for their screen adaptation of Pygmalion.[9]

Lewis joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in early 1939 as a pilot officer,[10] and during World War II served in Sicily, Greece, Egypt, and Italy, rising to the rank of squadron leader.[11]

During the late 1940s Lewis became enamoured with the teachings of the Greek-Armenian mystic Gurdjieff. In 1947 he flew a Miles Gemini to South Africa, where he spent the next three years on a farm he established, but the farm was not a success, and in 1950 he returned to England. He joined the Daily Mail in 1956 as a reporter. After his retirement he moved to Corfu where he spent the rest of his life, continuing to write until well into his nineties.

George Bernard Shaw wrote of Lewis; "This prince of pilots has had a charmed life in every sense of the word. He is a thinker, a master of words and a bit of a poet."[12]

He was the last surviving British flying ace of World War I.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Cecil Arthur Lewis". The Aerodrome. 2015. Retrieved 9 May 2015. 
  2. ^ Lewis, Cecil (1936). Sagittarius Rising. p. 10. ... How old are you?' 'Almost eighteen, sir.' (Liar! You were seventeen last month.) ... 
  3. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29824. p. 11058. 14 November 1916. "For conspicuous skill and gallantry. He has done fine work in photography, with artillery and on contact patrols. On one occasion he came down very low and attacked a column of horsed limbers, causing casualties and scattering the limbers."
  4. ^ Shores, Christopher F.; Franks, Norman & Guest, Russell F. (1990). Above the Trenches: a Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the British Empire Air Forces 1915–1920. London, UK: Grub Street. ISBN 978-0-948817-19-9. 
  5. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30286. p. 9540. 14 September 1917.
  6. ^ "Obituary: Doushka Williams". The Independent (London). 4 August 2005. Retrieved 9 May 2015. 
  7. ^ "British Broadcasting Company Ltd. Formed". BBC Timeline. 2015. Retrieved 9 May 2015. 
  8. ^ "Cecil Lewis". BBC Genome Project: Radio Times 1923-2009. 2015. Retrieved 9 May 2015. 
  9. ^ "The 11th Academy Awards (1939)". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 2015. Retrieved 9 May 2015. 
  10. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34603. p. 1396. 28 February 1939.
  11. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 36930. p. 814. 6 February 1945.
  12. ^ "The Week-end Review". New Statesman and Nation 12 (284). 1 August 1936. 

Bibliography[edit]

Works by Lewis[edit]

  • Sagittarius Rising (1936) ISBN 1-85367-143-6
  • The Trumpet Is Mine (1938)
  • Challenge to the Night (1939)
  • Pathfinders (1944)
  • Yesterday's Evening (1946)
  • Farewell to Wings (1964)
  • Turn Right For Corfu (1972)
  • Never Look Back; an Attempt at Autobiography (1974)
  • Gemini to Joburg (1984)
  • Five Conversations about Gurdjieff (1984)
  • Sagittarius Surviving (1991)
  • All My Yesterdays (1993)
  • A Wish to Be: A Voyage of Self-Discovery (1994)
  • So Long Ago, So Far Away (1996)

External links[edit]