Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

William Newton

William Newton :

William Newton : (L to R) 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

(L to R) 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

William was born in around 1894 in the Coldhurst area of Oldham in Lancashire. His father was called James and his mother was Betty Hannah. He had at least 3 older siblings, John, Jane and Frank.

In 1901 the family lived at 7 Bradford Street in Oldham. James worked as a hoistman, operating a lift in a mill. Between July and September 1902 Betty died aged 46. John remarried between July and September 1904, to Mary Jane Lees. By 1911 they lived at 25 Caroline Street in Oldham. They had had no children of their own, and only William still lived with his father. He worked as a piecer in the spinning room of a mill.

The First World War broke out in August 1914 and William joined the Army in early November. He left his job as a piecer at the Royal Mills Company to enlist. We don't know whether William had also worked for this company in 1911.

William was one of the first recruits to the Oldham Battalion of Comrades. This was formed by the men of Oldham so that they could serve together. It became the 24th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment and William was given the service number 14005. He was assigned to II Platoon in A Company.

The 24th Battalion began life at Chadderton Hall Farm near Oldham (in 2013 a park). In early March 1915 the battalion moved to Llanfairfechan between Conwy and Bangor on the North Wales coast, and then moved again to Grantham, Lincolnshire 2 months later. They stayed there until September and then moved one last time to Larkhill in Wiltshire. From there William and the battalion moved to France on the 8th November.

During their first few months in France the 24th Battalion spent time holding the front line trenches around Albert and Arras, as well as being used as labour for various construction and excavation projects behind the lines. They saw some fighting, but were not involved in any large battles.

During May 1916 the 24th Battalion was given the new role of Pioneers. They would now focus on work such as digging trenches, building roads and buildings, and moving supplies. They were still equipped and trained to fight as infantry, but this was no longer their main role.

As Pioneers the battalion supported the Somme Offensive that began on the 1st July. They followed the attacking infantry and began to build new trenches and dug outs in captured areas. The battalion lost 3 men killed and 5 wounded on the 1st July.

Their next operation was on the 14th. This was at Bazentin-le-Petit, again in support of a large British attack. They were constructing trenches in captured positions when they were asked to spare some men to help another unit drive some Germans out of a nearby wood. The rest of the battalion kept working, under German shellfire. Eight men were killed and 44 wounded on this day.

At some point William was wounded in the back by a shell. The 24th Battalion was withdrawn from the front line on the 21st, so it is almost certain that this happened on either the 1st or the 14th. He was evacuated for medical treatment, and sent to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Netley near Southampton. Ultimately his wounds proved too severe and he died there on the 29th July. He was 22 years old.

The Oldham Evening Chronicle newspaper announced William's death on Saturday the 5th August. His funeral had been held on Wednesday the 2nd at St Matthew's Church on Chadderton Hall Road in Chadderton. 'A party of six soldiers from the Oldham Drill Hall' had attended. William is buried in grave 739 in the churchyard.

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