Newman, William Henry. Died 28th Sep 1918

‘A H Newman’ appears on the Rugby Memorial Gates, however, there does not appear to be any relevant casualty with Rugby connections with that surname and initials.

Two possible ‘H’ Newmans were mentioned in September 1914: an ‘H H Newman’ was in a list of men from the Locomotive Department of the L & N-W Railway at Rugby;[1] and an ‘H Newman’ joined up from the Cambridge Street Wesleyan Bible Class.[2]   The death of the wife of a 2nd Lt C J Newman of Henley Street, was reported in July 1918.[3]  There was a ‘J E Newman, 220th Fortress Co, R.E.’ who joined up in 1916,[4] also, a Drummer W Newman, of the ‘Rugby Infantry Co, younger son of Mr C Newman, of Benn Street, Rugby,’ and who was also mentioned in the ‘7th Battery Royal Warwickshire Regiment, brother to Mr C J Newman, architect, of Rugby’ or in the ‘‘C’ Company, 1st/7th Warwicks’ and who appeared in several press reports – albeit the regiment and relationships may have been confused – indeed was it he reported as ‘R.W.R, … and C E Newman’?  It seems that a ‘C J Newman’ may himself have served later.  George William Newman, of 7 Houston Road, Brownsover, Rugby, who was also born about 1895, served as a Driver No. 840763 in the Royal Field Artillery, was discharged unfit with a head wound in November 1917.  However, there is no evidence that any of these died in the war.

The most likely candidate would seem to be a ‘W H Newman’ for whom a casualty report appeared in 1918
and Private W. H. Newman, Royal Berks Regt, has died of wounds.[5]

The CWGC site names him as the ‘Son of Mr. and Mrs. Newman, of 37, Campbell St., New Bilton, Rugby.’

William Henry NEWMAN was probably born in early 1895 in Long Ditton, Surrey, as he was baptised there on 14 July 1895 at St Mary’s church.  He was the eldest son of William Henry Spencer Newman, who was born in about 1866 in East Coker, Somerset, and Emily Ann, née Spooner, Newman, who was born in Surbiton Hill, Surrey in about 1867.  When Ernest was baptised, his father was working as a ‘labourer’.  His parents had been married on 26 December 1891 at St. Mary’s church, Long Ditton, Surrey

Soon after his birth, sometime between 1896 and 1899, the family moved from Long Ditton to Rugby, and in 1901, when William H junior was five years old, the family were living at 7 Windsor Street, Rugby.  His father was a ‘labourer in foundry’.

In 1911, William junior’s parents had been married for 19 years and had had five children, all of whom were still living.  They lived in a six room house at 29 Campbell Street, New Bilton, Rugby.  With his father working as an ‘iron moulder’, 15 year old William junior, was an ‘Iron Moulders Apprentice’, probably working with his father.

Unfortunately no Service Record has survived for William, but he joined up, and served, at least latterly, as a Private, No: 43077, in the 5th Battalion, Princess Charlotte of Wales’s (Royal Berkshire) Regiment, more usually known as the Royal Berkshire Regiment.

The 5th (Service) Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment was formed as part of the First New Army (K1) in Reading on 25 August 1914 and joined the 35th Brigade of the 12th Division and then moved to Shorncliffe.  In January 1915 the Battalion moved to Folkestone and then, on 1 March 1915, to Malplaquet Barracks at Aldershot.  On 31 May 1915 they mobilised for war and landed at Boulogne and then engaged in various actions on the Western Front including:

1915: the Battle of Loos.

1916: the Battle of Albert; the Battle of Pozieres; and the Battle of Le Transloy.

1917: the First Battle of the Scarpe; the Battle of Arleux; the Third Battle of the Scarpe; and the Cambrai operations.

1918: on 6 February 1918, they transferred to the 36th Brigade,[6] but were still in the 12th Division and continued to fight on the Western Front in the Battle of Bapaume; the First Battle of Arras; the Battle of Amiens; the Battle of Albert; the Battle of Epehy; and then took part in the Final Advance in Artois.

There is no date when William went to France, but it would probably have been some time after he joined up as he would have had to be trained.  However, he would have been old enough to serve overseas from the start of the war and he probably could have gone to France with his Battalion.  However, he was not awarded the 1914-1915 Star, and this suggests he did not go to France until after 1915.

Whilst he may have been involved in some of the actions outlined above, it is only the actions in 1918 and around the time of his death that are detailed here.

Whilst it was fairly quiet at the start of 1918, William would have continued to be involved in the routine of trench warfare, and the front was comparatively quiet prior to 21 March.

However, an attack by the Germans had been anticipated, and on 21 March 1918 they launched a major offensive, ‘Operation Michael;[7] against the British Fifth Army and the right wing of the British Third Army.  The German artillery targeted command and communications; then, the destruction of artillery; and then the front-line infantry.  The artillery bombardment began at 4.40am on 21 March 1918, and hit targets over an area of 150 square miles, the biggest barrage of the entire war.  Over 1,100,000 shells were fired in five hours.

The Battalion War Diary until January 1918 is filed under the 35th Brigade,[8] and then from February onwards it is filed under 36th Brigade.[9]   In late December 1917 the Battalion was training in the Merville area, and on 21 January 1918 relieved the 7th Bn. Royal Sussex Regiment and then on 29 January they were relieved by the 7th Norfolks, and soon after transferred to the 36th Brigade.

Their activities in the period March to June 1918 were described in  the biography of Ernest COLSTON who was also in the 5th Battalion and killed on 20 June 1918.

A summary of the Battalion’s movements and actions during William’s last few months, based on the 5th Battalion War Diary, is given below.

From 1 September the Battalion had been ‘resting and refitting after CARNOY operations, in valley, W. of MARICOURT.’  Over the next two days they moved to trenches around ST-PIERRE VAST WOOD.  On 5 September, they moved on through a gas shelled area to MUNASTIR, ready ‘… to attack village of NURLU at 8-0am … orders miscarried and rations lost the Battalion …’.  On 5 September at 4-0am ‘Battalion moved over Canal at MOISLAINS … and attacked village at 8-0am under cover of Creeping Barrage.  The next day they held the line and the following morning were ‘… withdrawn to NURLU … Cookers were waiting as arranged, with breakfasts’.

From 7 to 17 September they were training and refitting for future operations.  The rest of the month is reported in detail in a three page typed report.  A major attack on EPEHY took place on 18 September with follow up action the next day.  After a day’s relief, they formed up for a midnight attack on 21 September – ‘ … by 2-0am all Objectives were captured.  One officer and 18 Other Ranks and about 30 M.G’s captured.’  They were relieved on 23 September and dispersed in reserve.  An enemy attack and entry to DADOS LANE and LOOP the next day led to unsuccessful attempts to repulse them over the next four days.

27 September   – ‘Battalion held line on Left of Brigade Sector.’

28 September   – ‘5.20am – 6th Queens attacked DADOS LOOP and LANE without success.
                         – ‘10.0pm – 6th Queens withdrawn and Battalion took over line …’.

After further fighting on 29 September, attacking ‘… across the Tunnel of the Canal …’, on 30 September, ‘It was found that enemy had withdrawn from area W of canal … Brigade pushed on.’

The casualties sustained during these operations from 18 to 30 September 1918 totalled, one Officer killed and five wounded, and 250 Other Ranks, Killed, Wounded & Missing.

W H Newman’s death is recorded by the CWGC on 28 September 1918, and he would have been one of those 250 men killed or wounded in the operations near Epehy between 18 and 30 September 1918.  He was 23.  Whilst the Battalion was in action near Epehy, several members of the 5th Battalion were buried in the nearby Epehy Wood Farm Cemetery.  William was buried some five miles behind the lines to the south-west, which could suggest that he was wounded and was evacuated to one of the Casualty Clearing Stations that had been established that month at Doingt, and died, or was registered dead, there.

He was buried in the nearby Doingt Communal Cemetery Extension, in grave reference: I. E. 42.  Later when a permanent gravestone replaced the temporary cross, probably in the 1920s, it included his family’s message, ‘Gone but not Forgotten by his Loving Father, Mother, Brothers and Sisters’.

Doingt is a small village on the eastern outskirts of Peronne.  Doingt was captured by the 5th Australian Division on 5 September 1918, and the village was completely destroyed in the fighting.  In the same month, the 20th, 41st and 55th Casualty Clearing Stations arrived, remaining until October, when the cemetery was closed.  It was made in three plots; Plot I contained only Commonwealth graves, Plot II only American, and Plot III the graves of both armies.  The American graves were later removed by the American Graves Registration Services.  Doingt Communal Cemetery Extension contains 417 Commonwealth burials of the First World War.

William’s Medal Card showed that he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.  He is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gate.

William’s parents were later registered by the CWGC as living at 37, Campbell Street, New Bilton, Rugby, having either moved or been re-numbered.  William’s mother, Emily Ann, died in Rugby, aged 63 in 1928; his father, William H Newman senior, died there, aged 86 in late 1951.

 

RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM

– – – – – –

 

This article on ‘A. H.’, or more likely, William Henry NEWMAN was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the RFHG, June  2018.

[1]      Rugby Advertiser, 5 September 1914, also, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/5th-sep-1914-rugbys-magnificent-response/.

[2]      Rugby Advertiser, 19 September 1914, also, https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2014/09/19/19th-sep-1914-more-recruits/.

[3]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 20 July 1918.

[4]      Rugby Advertiser, 25 September 1915, also https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2015/09/26/25th-sep-1915-local-war-notes/.

[5]      Rugby Advertiser, Saturday, 9 November 1918.

[6]      This does mean the Battalion War Diary has to be found in two separate files under the two Brigades.

[7]      See: https://rugbyremembers.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/the-1918-spring-offensive-operation-michael/.

[8]      UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Various Infantry Brigades, 12th Division, TNA ref: Piece 1850: 35 Infantry Brigade (1915 – 1919).

[9]      UK, WWI War Diaries (France, Belgium and Germany), 1914-1920, Various Infantry Brigades, 12th Division, TNA ref: Piece 1856: 36 Infantry Brigade (1915 – 1919).

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