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War Memorials



In Memory of
GEORGE HENRY NEWTON
Private 3711
1/4th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers
Who was killed in action on Wednesday, 15th September 1916
Age 32

No Known Grave. Pier & Face 10B, 11B & 12B
Thiepval "Memorial to the Missing", Somme, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
&
Remembered with Honour
Thiepval Memorial

Thiepval "Memorial to the Missing", France1

George Henry Hemmings Newton was born in Beeston, Notts on 23 July 18842, second son of Ann Newton (b. c1857, Heage, Derbyshire). In 1901 he was living with his mother, who worked as a lace mender, at 23 Middle Street, Beeston and had started work as a leather dresser's labourer3. By 1911, George and his mother had moved to 82 Station Road, Beeston where they had four boarders. George was then working as a lamplighter for Beeston Urban District Council4.

In 1915, George married Alice Heard (b. c1875 Beeston), the daughter of George & Emma Heard. Their son Stanley was born in 1916 but died very shortly afterwards. Their daughter Rachel Eleanor was born in 1917, some six months after George's death5.

As George's Army Service Record has not survived, we do not have a precise record of when he enlisted with the Northumberland Fusiliers, but it is believed to have been sometime late in 19156. He become part of 1/4th Battalion which had been renumbered from '4th Battalion', an existing Territorial Force battalion, when the strength was increased in August 1914 by creating duplicate battalions. At the start of the war, the battalion had been stationed at Hexham, and had left for France in April 1915 with 149th Brigade, 50th (Northumbrian) Division7. It is likely that Private Newton arrived in France early in 1916, after his initial training in England.

The battalion - which would now have included Private Newton - arrived in the Somme battlefield on 11th August 1916 and, on 15th September, took part in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, a British attack on a 1½ mile front with the ambitious objective of breaking into the enemy lines by infantry attack, exploited by cavalry. The attack was also to be notable for the first use of tanks although this was controversial from the start as the only 49 were then available, they had been found to be unreliable during testing and many considered that the ground, over which they were to be used, to be unsuitable. In the event, these fears proved largely justified when only 15 of the available tanks were actually able to take part in the attack. While the appearance of the tanks had a devastating effect on enemy morale initially, their slow lumbering progress and vulnerability to shell-fire and poor navigational performance, meant only limited effectiveness at this stage of their development. The infantry - including 4th Battalion, alongside 7th Battalion, with two other battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers in support and reserve, all part of 149th Brigade, attacked at zero-hour, which had been set at 6.20am, and were able to make early gains, capturing High Wood, which had been heavily fought over for weeks, with successes in other parts of the line later in the day - lead by a corporal, after most of the officers had been killed or wounded. Casualties were extremely high. Out of 22 Officers and 695 other ranks that took part, 9 offices and 220 men were killed, 7 officers and 229 men were wounded and a further 143 were missing. Private Newton was amongst those who were killed on this day8.

Private Newton's body was never identified and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing which now stands adjacent to the Leipzig Redoubt. The memorial was unveiled on the 1st August 1932 by the then Prince of Wales and is the largest British War Memorial in the world. Standing 150 feet high, it dominates the surrounding area. The memorial stands on a concrete raft 10ft thick, built 19ft below the ground, the solution to the problems of building over the warren of tunnels that formed the German second line. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens the memorial has sixteen masonry piers, where can be found, on the panel faces, the names of some 72,000 British and 830 South African soldiers who died and have no known grave, during the period starting in July 1915, when the British Third Army took over from the French, through the Somme battles of 1916, until 20th March 1918, the eve of the last great German offensive on the Somme. The focal point of the memorial is the Stone of Remembrance, which lies under the great arch and centrally between the piers, for which Rudyard Kipling chose a quotation from Ecclesiasticus, "There name liveth forevermore".

Private Newton was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal9. In his 'Soldiers Will' he left his belongings to his wife Alice and, consequently, she was paid his financial effects of 2 1s 2d on 13 March 1917 and his War Gratuity of 3 on 23 September 191910. By this time, Alice was living at 25 Wollaton Road, Beeston with her daughter and apparently continued to do so until her death, apparently in 195311.


Footnotes
1The photograph of the Thiepval Memorial is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His exact birthdate is recorded in the Beeston Parish Church baptism register and his birth was registered in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q3/1884 (Ref 7b 187). At his baptism on 10 September 1884, his mother is recorded as a singlewoman with George's third Christian name - Hemmings - a probable clue to his otherwise unnamed father.
3Beeston, Notts, 1901 Census, Piece 3153 Folio 93. Ann's other son, Francis Newton (b. 1878) had married in 1899.
4Beeston, Notts, 1911 Census, Piece 20432 RD429 SD3 ED7 Schedule 255. Although Ann is then recorded as a widow, she was never married.
5Their marriage is recorded in Basford Registration District in Q4/1915 (Ref 7b 610). Stanley's birth was recorded in Basford Registration District in Q1/1916 and is death in the same District and Quarter (Ref 7b 236). Rachel Eleanor's birth was recorded in Basford Registration District in Q2/1917 and was stated as 19 April 1917 when her death was recorded.
6The amount of his War Gratuity indicates that George served for less than 12 months.
7Details of the battalion in the early part of the war is based on its history on the Forces War Records website (www.forces-war-records.co.uk/units/278/northumberland-fusiliers/) and its Wikipedia entry.
8The account of the battalion's involvement at the Somme are from its War Diary. Detail about the first use of tanks is derived from firstworldwar.com (www.firstworldwar.com/battles/flers.htm)
9Details from George's Medal Roll entry - available on ancestry.com. No medal card had been found.
10Details of the payments are from the "Army Register of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929" - available on ancestry.com. The amount of the gratuity indicates that George had served for less than 12 months.
11This address appears in local electoral rolls and directories, except an entry in a mid-1930s Street Directory that records the house number as 45. Ann appears to have died in Nottingham in Q4/1953 (Ref 3c 235) aged 79. Rachel married George W Silkstone in 1940 and, secondly, Edward George Rose in 1954.


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