Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

John William Newman

John William Newman : Photograph of John in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre.  Reference:  MR2/20/15

Photograph of John in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: MR2/20/15

John William Newman : (L to R) Distinguished Conduct Medal; 1914 Star with clasp '5th Aug.-22nd Nov. 1914'; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

(L to R) Distinguished Conduct Medal; 1914 Star with clasp '5th Aug.-22nd Nov. 1914'; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

John was born in March 1886 in the village of Frensham, near Farnham in Surrey. He was named after his father and his mother was called Hannah. He was their youngest child; Charlotte, George, Ruth and Henry were his siblings. He also had an older half-brother named John, from his father's previous marriage. He was a member of the Church of England.

John William senior died before his son was born. In June 1890 Hannah married Charles Loveland. The next year they lived at 'Haverlash' in Frensham with Fred and Burt Loveland, Charles' children.

In 1901 John lived in Repton in Derbyshire. He worked as a farm servant for William Matthews, who owned Loscoe Farm.

By the time he was 17 John had returned to Frensham, he worked there as a wheelwright for Mr Chuter. On the 23rd April 1903 he travelled to nearby Aldershot and joined the Royal Army Medical Corps Militia. This meant he would keep his civilian home and job, and train to be a soldier for a short period every year.

When he enlisted John was 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighed 111 pounds. He had a 'fresh' complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. He was given the service number 1462.

John began his service with a period of training at Aldershot. He passed this on the 21st July and was appointed to be an Orderly in the Southern District Command. After less than 3 months, however, he decided to join the Regular Army as an infantryman.

On the 2nd October 1903 John joined the Manchester Regiment in Aldershot. He was given the service number 9347 and assigned to the 2nd Battalion, who were based there at the time. Soon after he joined, on the 9th, John contracted rheumatism and had to spend a week in hospital.

He was promoted to Lance Corporal on the 16th September 1904, shortly before the battalion moved to the Channel Islands of Guernsey and Alderney. The Battalion was split between the two islands; we believe John was based on Guernsey.

During 1905 John was a member of C Company. During this year he qualified for a Marksman's Badge, obtained the 2nd Class Army Certificate of Education and was finally promoted to Corporal on the 28th July. He was admitted to hospital in Guernsey in April 1907, suffering from bronchitis.

John was posted to the Regimental Depot in Ashton-under-Lyne on the 16th November 1907, around the same time the 2nd Battalion moved to Portsmouth in Hampshire. He qualified as an Assistant School Master in October 1908 and obtained his 1st Class Certificate of Education on the 30th March 1909. We don't know how long he spent as Assistant School Master.

John was promoted to Lance Sergeant on the 12th February 1909, and then to Sergeant on the 8th October. We don't know what John's job was at the Depot, but he left after exactly 2 years and returned to the 2nd Battalion, who were now at Mullingar in County Westmeath, Ireland.

In August 1910 John extended his service. He would now be in the Army for 12 years. John's bronchitis troubled him again in December 1912, and he had to spend 11 days in hospital in the Curragh, County Kildare.

By October 1913 John was Officers' Mess Sergeant, responsible for the smooth running of the Officers' Mess, which was a dining room and social club for the officers. He still held this job in June 1914.

By this time John was married. His wedding took place on the 7th April 1914 at All Saints Church in Tufnell Park, London. His wife was Dorothy May Myrtle Bridges. Their first child, William Aldred, was born on the 1st September 1914 in Hampstead.

By this time Britain was at war. The First World War began on the 4th August, and by the 15th John and the rest of the 2nd Battalion had landed in France. They took heavy casualties on the 26th at the Battle of Le Cateau, and from then on were involved in heavy fighting.

John was never wounded at any point during the war, although he was taken ill once. In early April 1916 he developed septic glands in his neck. He reported to the 91st Field Ambulance on the 5th, and was sent for treatment at the Number 8 General Hospital in Rouen. He developed a 'new growth' on his neck during April, and on the 28th he was sent back to the UK for further treatment.

After 3 weeks at Bath War Hospital in Somerset John was discharged on the 15th May. After a short period of leave, which he took with his family at Morebath near Bampton in Devon, he returned to France on the 30th. His daughter Yvonne Vera would be born on the 14th January 1917.

Back in France, John was held at the 5th Infantry Base Depot in Rouen for 2 weeks before he was able to rejoin the 2nd Battalion. During the autumn of 1916 they were involved in a number of battles of the Somme Offensive, which began on the 1st July and lasted until November.

John was appointed Orderly Room Sergeant on the 10th November. In this role he ran the battalion office, dealing with the administrative work required to run the battalion.

During early 1917 the 2nd Battalion fought in the Fresnoy area. On the 1st April they attacked German positions near Francilly-Selency and captured a battery of German 77mm artillery pieces. Later that year they were sent north to Nieuport in Belgium.

Between the 6th and the 17th October John was able to go on leave. A month after he returned, on the 18th November, he left his job as Orderly Room Sergeant. On the 14th December he was promoted to Colour Sergeant and given the job of Company Quartermaster Sergeant (CQMS). He was responsible for making sure that his Company was kept supplied and properly equipped.

The 2nd Battalion took its turns in the front lines and the rear during the spring of 1918. John became a Company Sergeant Major on the 10th March, and was promoted to Warrant Officer Class II on the 13th. He was now responsible for maintaining standards and discipline within the Company. Just days after John's promotion the Germans began a major offensive, and the 2nd Battalion was thrown into battle.

Over the next 4 months the 2nd Battalion fought to stop the German advance in the area around Arras and Amiens. The Allies began their own offensive in early August and this was soon pushing the Germans back.

On the 1st October the battalion took part in an attack on the German Hindenburg Line, a strong defensive position. They broke through the Beaurevoir-Fonsomme section of the line after hand to hand fighting, and then held their new position overnight. Although they had been successful, the Germans had put up heavy resistance and inflicted around 100 casualties on the battalion; killed, wounded or missing. John was one of the men killed. He was 32 years old and 1 day short of spending 15 years in the Army.

John's conduct during the Allied offensive meant that he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in the London Gazette of the 1st January 1919. We don't know whether he knew he was to receive the medal, or if he ever read his citation:

For gallant and consistent good work and devotion to duty. He has always shown remarkable efficiency in carrying out his duties frequently under heavy shell and machine gun fire. It is mainly due to his remarkable coolness and discipline, both in and out of the line, that his company has been kept up to a high standard of smartness and efficiency at all times. He has never spared himself, and has been of enormous value to his commanding officer during the recent fighting, 25th February to 16th/17th September 1918.

John's body was never found, so he is now commemorated on Panel 9 of the Vis-en-Artois Memorial near Arras. There are 9847 names on the Memorial. It was constructed during the late 1920s and unveiled in 1930. At around this time Myrtle and her children lived at 11 Broadhurst Gardens in South Hampstead, London.

Yvonne died in St Albans, Herfordshire, between January and March 1951. She was 34 years old. Myrtle died in Colchester, Essex, on the 21st September 1972, aged 81. William served in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, then married and had children. In 1991 he lived in Hornchurch, Essex. He died aged 79 on the 26th May 1994.

John's medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in 1976.

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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council