Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Benjamin Newton

Benjamin Newton :

Benjamin Newton : 1914-15 Star

1914-15 Star

Benjamin, or Ben as he was known, was born in around August 1889 in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire. His father was called Samuel and his mother was Jane. He was their oldest child and had 2 siblings, Ellen and Samuel, known as Sam. Sam's medals are also in the Museum of the Manchester Regiment collection.

In 1891 Samuel senior worked as a coal dealer and the family lived at 45 Pottinger Street in Ashton. He also played the euphonium in a number of brass bands, including the Kingston Mills Band, based in nearby Hyde. In the mid 1890s the family lived in Queensbury near Bradford in West Yorkshire. During this time Samuel played in the Black Dyke Band.

By 1901 the family had returned to Ashton and lived at 24 Hamilton Street. They lived with Samuel's mother Ellen and sister Mary. Jane was not living with her husband and children; we don't know what had happened to her. Samuel described himself as 'married' not 'widowed' in that year's Census, which suggests she was still alive. He now worked as an engine fitter in an iron works.

By April 1911 Jane had died. In that year Samuel and his children lived at 'Herman Mount', 119 Birch Street in Ashton. They all worked, Samuel was an engine fitter for Scott & Hodgson Ltd, a steam engine manufacturer based in Guide Bridge near Ashton. Sam was an apprentice moulder, Ellen was a housekeeper and Ben was a clerk for a brewer.

Ben had also begun a military career. On the 1st January 1911 he had joined the 9th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This was a unit of the Territorial Force based in Ashton. As a Territorial Ben kept his civilian home and job and trained as a soldier during evenings and weekends. The battalion would also go on an annual training camp, lasting around 2 weeks. He was given the service number 1129.

Following in their father's footsteps, both brothers played the euphonium. We know Sam played in the Ryecroft Sunday School Band. They also both played in the 9th Battalion Band.

By the summer of 1914 Ben had been promoted to Corporal. The First World War broke out on the 4th August and the 9th Battalion was called into service. They left the UK on the 10th September and arrived in Alexandria, Egypt, on the 25th.

In Egypt the battalion's main roles were to guard the Suez Canal, and to train. A large number of new recruits had enlisted after the outbreak of war and then gone straight overseas, so there were many inexperienced soldiers for Ben and his fellow Non Commissioned Officers to train.

In early May 1915 the battalion went to war. They landed in Gallipoli on the 9th and found themselves in the front line after a few days.

Ben served as a stretcher bearer, finding and recovering wounded men. He was also made Orderly Room Clerk, and was kept very busy dealing with the battalion's administration. He spent much of his time accompanying the Commanding Officer and the Adjutant, assisting them with their work.

The battalion took part in heavy fighting around the village of Krithia during June, July and August. Ben took part in a bayonet charge on the 19th June. He 'had a number of narrow escapes', but was never wounded.

Ben continued to serve in Gallipoli until the 4th December 1915. The main threat during the autumn was disease and the cold, although Turkish shells and snipers were a constant danger. Early December was 'shocking. A perfect blizzard raged, and it was cruelly cold. It almost froze one to death. Some of the trenches were absolutely flooded. We were washed out of our dug-outs in the middle of the night'.

Before the war members of the Territorial Force had joined the Army for a fixed period. During the early part of the war they were allowed to leave the Army and return home when this time had expired. Ben chose to leave the Army, so he was returned to the UK and discharged on the 20th January 1916. His conduct had been 'very good' and he was awarded a Silver War Badge, with serial number 123901, to show that he had been honourably discharged.

When he was discharged Benjamin was 5 feet 4 1/2 inches tall. He had a 'light' complexion, blue eyes and brown hair. He returned home to 119 Birch Street and his job as a clerk.

This option would be removed by a new law in May 1916. This law also made men who had left the Army in this way liable to be conscripted back into uniform. We don't know whether Ben was called up again and the rest of his life remains a mystery.

Sam was wounded in May 1915 and returned to the UK. He continued to play in the 9th Battalion Band until 1958. Both brothers' medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in May 1976. As well as his 1914-15 Star, Ben was also awarded the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal for his Army service.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council