William Hewett

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For the Elizabethan Lord Mayor, c. 1505-1567, see William Hewett (Lord Mayor)

Sir William Nathan Wrighte Hewett
William Nathan Wrighte Hewett VC.jpg
Vice Admiral Sir William Hewett
Born (1834-08-12)12 August 1834
Brighton, Sussex
Died 13 May 1888(1888-05-13) (aged 53)
Portsmouth, Hampshire
Buried Highland Road Cemetery, Portsmouth
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  Royal Navy
Years of service 1847–1888
Rank Vice Admiral
Commands held Channel Fleet
East Indies Station
HMS Achilles
Cape of Good Hope Station
HMS Devastation
HMS Rinaldo
HMS Viper
Battles/wars Second Anglo-Burmese War
Crimean War
Mahdist War
Abyssinian War
Awards Victoria Cross
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India
Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur (France)
Order of the Medjidie, Second Class (Ottoman Empire)
Silver Medal of Military Valor (Sardinia)

Vice Admiral Sir William Nathan Wrighte Hewett VC, KCB, KCSI (12 August 1834 – 13 May 1888) was a Royal Navy officer and an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. The Hewett Treaty is named after him.


Hewett was born at Brighton to Dr. William Hewett,[1] physician to King William IV. He entered the Royal Navy in 1847, and served as a midshipman in the Burmese War. In 1854, while acting mate of HMS Beagle, he was attached to the Naval Brigade during the Siege of Sevastopol. While he was in command of the Right Lancaster Battery on 26 October, and again on 5 November, he performed deeds which led to a field promotion to lieutenant and his award of the Victoria Cross, one of the first for that war. The promotion was made official after passing his examinations at Portsmouth; Hewett was subsequently appointed to the royal yacht, from which he was promoted to commander 13 September 1858.[2]

Other commands included: HMS Viper, and HMS Rinaldo before his promotion to captain 24 November 1862, HMS Basilisk (1865–1869), flag-captain to Sir Henry Kellett (1870–1872) and captain of HMS Devastation (1872–1873). He was Commander-in-Chief, Cape of Good Hope and West Coast of Africa Station, in charge of naval operations during the Third Anglo-Ashanti War, from 1873. For his services during this conflict, on 31 March 1874 he was awarded made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath. He commanded HMS Achilles from 1877 until he was drawn into service in the Mahdist War. In 1882 he was appointed Commander-in-Chief, East Indies Station.[3] Following the British defeat at El Teb, Hewett commanded the naval brigade which landed at Suakin 6 February 1884, and was appointed governor of Sudan 10 February by Baker Pasha.[2] From May 1885 to July 1885 he was Junior Naval Lord.[3]

In April, Hewett led a delegation to Emperor Yohannes IV which negotiated, in exchange for free transit of guns and ammunition through Massawa, access through Ethiopian territory for the successful evacuation of the Egyptian garrisons that had been isolated in southern Sudan by the revolt of Muhammad Ahmad (also known as the Mahdi) against the Egyptian rulers.[4]

After his return from Ethiopia, Hewett was promoted to vice admiral 8 July 1884. From March 1886 to April 1888 he was in command of the Channel Fleet; however, his delicate health worsened and he died shortly after his retirement.[2]

The medal[edit]

On 26 October 1854 at Sebastopol Lieutenant Hewett was in charge of the Right Lancaster Battery, which was being threatened by the enemy. Through a misunderstanding, he was ordered to spike his gun and retreat. However the lieutenant assumed the responsibility of disregarding the order, then pulled down the parapet of the battery and with the assistance of some soldiers slewed his gun round and poured on the advancing enemy a most destructive and effectual fire. On 5 November at the Battle of Inkerman he again acted with great bravery. For these two actions he was awarded the Victoria Cross.[5] The medal is displayed at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London.[6]


  1. ^ "Memorials and Monuments in Portsmouth". Retrieved March 14, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c  "Hewett, William Nathan Wrighte". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 
  3. ^ a b William Loney RN
  4. ^ Paul B. Henze, Layers of Time, A History of Ethiopia (New York: Palgrave, 2000), pp. 155f
  5. ^ "No. 21971". The London Gazette. 24 February 1857. p. 652. 
  6. ^ Victoria Cross (MED1948)

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Sir John Commerell
Commander-in-Chief, Cape of Good Hope Station
Succeeded by
Sir Francis Sullivan
Preceded by
William Jones
Commander-in-Chief, East Indies Station
Succeeded by
Sir Frederick Richards
Preceded by
Sir Frederick Richards
Junior Naval Lord
Succeeded by
William Codrington
Preceded by
Charles Fellowes
Commander-in-Chief, Channel Fleet
Succeeded by
Sir John Baird