The Tank Museum | Recipient

Cecil Harold Sewell


Cecil Sewell was born in 1895 and educated at Dulwich College. He joined The Public Schools Battalion, the 21st Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers (London Regiment) and went to France in November 1915. Following several months service as a machine gunner, Cecil received officer cadet training and was commissioned into the 3rd Royal West Kent Regiment in August 1916. In France Cecil transferred to "C" Battalion of the Heavy Branch, Machine Gun Corps, after seeing tanks in action on the Somme.

In 1918 Cecil was issued with a new fast tank, the Whippet and this can be seen in the First World War Hall in the museum. On August 29th 1918, Cecil's battalion was supporting the New Zealand Division when they came under heavy fire. At this point another tank slipped into a deep shell crater, overturned and caught fire. Cecil jumped out of his own tank and helped the crew escape. He then saw that his own driver had been hit and it was while he was trying to save Gunner Knox that he was killed himself. He was 23 years old. Another officer wrote "We found him with his arms round Knox" They were buried side by side where they fell, but were reburied at Vaulx Hill Cemetery in 1920.

Cecil was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
Two of Cecil's brothers were also killed during the war. A memorial stands to them all in Charlton Cemetery in south London

Tales of valour

Victoria Cross

Victoria Cross

SEWELL Cecil Harold, (Lieutenant)

3rd Battalion Tank Corps

When in command of a section of Whippet (Light) tanks in action in front of Fremicourt on the afternoon of August 29th 1918, this officer displayed the greatest gallantry and initiative in getting out of his own tank and crossing open ground under heavy shell and machine gun fire to rescue the crew of another Whippet of his Section, which had side-slipped into a large shell-hole, overturned and taken fire. The door of the tank having become jammed against the side of the shell-hole, Lieutenant Sewell, by his own unaided efforts, dug away the entrance to the door and released the crew. In doing so he undoubtedly saved the lives of the officers and men inside the tank, as they could not have got out without his assistance.
After having extricated this crew, seeing one of his own crew lying wounded behind his tank, he again dashed across the open ground to his assistance. He was hit while doing so, but succeeded in reaching the tank, when a few minutes later he was again hit fatally, in the action of dressing his wounded driver.
During the whole of this period he was in full view and short range of enemy machine guns and rifle pits, and throughout, by his prompt and heroic action, showed an utter disregard for his personal safety.


1914-15 STAR