Robert and William Lewin were born in 1913 & 1918 respectively, the two younger sons of Caroline and Harry Lewin, who was killed at Passchendaele at the end of July 1917. Caroline subsequently married again, and went on to have a second family of three daughters, Marjorie, Caroline and Kathleen.
When young Robert contracted TB in his hip, thought to have been as a result of a fall, thanks to his late father’s army service, he was able to be treated in an army hospital. He spent much of his childhood there, – receiving care that was not available locally. Robert was always interested in music. He taught himself to play the accordion, and although he was right-handed, he always played the instrument left-handed, – upside down, in fact! In time, William also learned (from Robert) to play and together they formed a duet, going on to play all over the Midlands in the 1930s, – the “golden age” of the accordion. The two brothers won a Midlands talent contest and were entered into a nation-wide competition but WW2 intervened. William was drafted into the Army and posted to Norway, but Robert’s medical history meant that he could not enlist, and as a baker, he was in a reserved occupation, and so stayed at home.
After the war, Robert moved into the Dance Band business playing in many of the local bands. Convinced that the accordion was not the best instrument to play dance music, he took up the saxophone and clarinet, with resounding success. He was a talented musician and a skilled sight-reader, which enabled him to sit in with any band.
During the war, William played for the troops, and afterwards became a well-known solo accordion artist working the Midland Clubs, but the brothers often met up and ‘jammed’ together, rekindling their former musical partnership.
Robert went on to form his own band, “The Lew Roberts Four,” with husband and wife Reg and Mavis Moore and their son, Rodney. Their repertoire covered music from the traditional to the latest chart hits, ensuring success far and wide, – from local dance venues to the USAF base at Upper Heyford in North Oxfordshire.
William’s day job was with Walsgrove Brothers, where he made a name for himself as an extremely talented wood carver. He is remembered locally for two plaques he carved, outlining the achievements of Sir Frank Whittle, one of which can still be seen in Milverton School, where Sir Frank Whittle was a pupil before transferring to Leamington College for Boys. The second plaque was relocated to the new North Leamington School site, on Sandy Lane, overlooking the school’s remembrance garden.
During the early sixties, Robert remained active in the music world: he was Secretary of the local branch of the Musicians’ Union, and tutored many an up-and-coming musician. Even at eighty, he still picked up his accordion at home. He passed away in 1993, and William died in 1997.
Tom Lewin and Bobby Boalch