William Newman (Snr)

Lance Corporal William Newman, M.M., Cycle Corps; 52768 13th & 12th Battalions Durham Light Infantry

Born on 29th July 1886 in Flamstead
Died on 16th February 1942 in Little Gaddesden

Family and Home 1, 2, 3

William Newman (Snr) was born in Flamstead, Hertfordshire, the son of John Thomas Newman and Sarah Ann née Gurney.

We refer to this William Newman as “Senior” to distinguish him from his son, William Searl (Billy) Newman.

His father was an Agricultural Labourer. By April 1891, the family lived at Fir Tree Hill, Wilstead, Bedfordshire and by December 1896 they had moved to Little Gaddesden.

Education 2, 4

In the 1891 Census, William is shown as a Scholar living in Wilstead, but he later attended Little Gaddesden School.

On 16th December 1896, the Little Gaddesden School Log Book records:

I am very sorry to say there is a case of Scarlet Fever in the village. Mrs Newman came down last evening and told me her little boy, William, had it. Dr Bontor is in attendance.

Little Gaddesden School had a Diocesan Inspection in January or February each year, during which the children were examined in Religious Knowledge. The children who distinguished themselves in the examination in January 1898 included William Newman.

On 29th July 1899, his 13th Birthday, William Newman left from Standard 6 at Little Gaddesden School with a Certificate of Attendance.

Employment 2

The 1901 Census shows 14 year old William working as a Domestic Gardener’s Boy and living with his parents near Home Farm in Little Gaddesden, almost certainly in Home Farm Cottages.

By 1911, 24 year old William worked as a Stableman and his father as a Carter on Home Farm; William and his parents still lived at Home Farm Cottages.

Military Service 5, 6, 7

On the original Little Gaddesden Roll of Honour, William is listed serving in the Cycle Corps but no record of that service has been found. However, the Autumn 1918 Absent Voters’ list records him as a Lance Corporal, Service Number 52768, serving in the 12th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry.

The 12th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry were sent to Northern Italy in October 1917, following the defeat of the Italian Army by Austrian and German troops at the Battle of Caporetto. They then remained in Italy until the end of the War. They spent time holding the line on the Piave River and manning trenches on the Asiago Plateau high in the Italian Alps. However, in October 1918, they joined the final Allied advance across the River Piave, which forced the Austrians to seek an armistice. During that final advance, the 12th Battalion captured 10 artillery guns, 46 machine guns, over 1,000 Austrian soldiers and huge stores of ammunition.

Between January and early March 1919, the men of the Battalion left Italy to return to England for demobilisation; in the Spring 1919 Electoral Register, William is shown at Home Farm Cottages, Little Gaddesden; he is no longer registered as an Absent Voter.

Awarded the Military Medal 8, 9

Supplement 31257 to the London Gazette of 29th March 1919 includes the following citation:

His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Military Medal for bravery in the field to the undermentioned Warrant Officers, non-commissioned Officers and Men: .

.. Durham Light Infantry

… 52768 Pte. (L./C.) Newman, W., 12th Bn. (Little Gaddesden). ITALY

William’s Medal and Award Roll entry shows that he also served in the 13th Battalion Durham Light Infantry. In addition to the Military Medal, he was awarded the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.

Men who have answered their Country’s call in defence of a “Scrap of Paper” 5, 8, 9

William Newman, Cycle Corps is named on the original Roll of Honour, which hangs in St Peter & St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden and lists 119 men from Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Hudnall who served in the 1914 – 1918 War. No record has been found of his service with the Cycle Corps; it cannot be proved or disproved. However, his service in the Durham Light Infantry is well-documented. On the Centenary Revision of the Roll, his service in both units is, therefore, recorded.

Rolls of Honour photos: Jane Dickson, Michael Carver

Marriage and the birth of a Son 1, 2, 3, 7, 10, 11

In the final Quarter of 1920, William Newman married Alice Elizabeth Searl; the marriage was registered in Hemel Hempstead. In 1911, Alice was a Parlour Maid in the household of Colonel Wheatley, father of Philip Wheatley, at The Manor House, Little Gaddesden.

William and Alice lived at 61 Little Gaddesden; their son William Searl (Billy) Newman was born on 31st October 1923. Billy was then baptised at St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden on 13th January 1924. William Newman (Snr) had returned to his pre-War work as a Farm Labourer at Home Farm.

The 1939 Register 3, 4

The 1939 Register shows that, in September that year, the family still lived at 61 Little Gaddesden. However, William Newman (Snr) was by then a Kitchen Gardener. Alice had “Unpaid Domestic Duties” and 15 year old Billy Newman, who had obtained a Scholarship from Little Gaddesden School to Hemel Hempstead Grammar School, was still at school.  

Joining the Home Guard 12, 13, 14

In May 1940, William Newman (Snr) volunteered for the Home Guard, first known as the Local Defence Volunteers. he is named on P.C. Parker’s hand-written list as an original member of No. 3 Section, based at the Golf Club.

Other First World War veterans who were members of the No 5, Little Gaddesden, Platoon of B Company, 7th Hertfordshire Battalion, Home Guard included: Albert Boarder, Walter Bunn, Donald Goodman, Horace Halsey, Joe Hing, Harry Hucklesby, Sidney (Jubal) Jones, John Mayling, Arthur Maunders, Edwin Purton, Reginald Purton, Frank Rogers and Edward Saunders.

The Platoon also contained young men, most of whom were subsequently called up for military service. Among these were George Halsey, son of Horace Halsey; Leonard Hing son of Lewis Hing; Raymond Hing, son of Joe Hing; Fred Hucklesby, son of Harry Hucklesby; Fred Liberty, son of George Liberty; John Oakins son of Steve Oakins; Gordon and Maurice Purton sons of Reginald Purton and Arthur Whitman son of James Whitman and named after his uncle Arthur Whitman.

The Platoon’s first Commander was Major James Neville Gray, K.C., D.S.O., father of Duncan Gray and in 1941, the Battalion’s Adjutant and Quartermaster was William O’Kelly.

Death 15, 16

It is not known how long William Newman (Snr) remained in the Home Guard. He died aged 55 on 16th February 1942 and was then buried in the old churchyard of St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden on 21st February. His widow, Alice, died aged 65 in St Paul’s Hospital, Hemel Hempstead in May 1955 and is buried with William.

Postscript: Death of their son Billy 17, 18

On 15th October 1944, William and Alice’s only son Flight Sergeant William Searl “Billy” Newman R.A.F.V.R was killed, aged 20, in a flying accident in the UK, having by then completed 32 sorties over enemy territory. He volunteered aged 18 in 1941, passing through the Cadet University at Southampton. He then undertook further training in Canada, gaining promotion to Sergeant Bomb Aimer and later Flight Sergeant. His funeral service took place at Hudnall Methodist Church prior to committal rites and burial in the churchyard of St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden. His grave, with a CWGC headstone, is adjacent to his parents’ grave.


1. https://www.findmypast.co.uk England & Wales births 1837-2006 Transcriptions

2. https://www.findmypast.co.uk 1891 – 1921 England, Wales & Scotland Census Transcriptions 

3. https://www.ancestry.co.uk The 1939 Register

4. Little Gaddesden School Log Books 1887 – 1906 and 1934 – 1963

5. 1918-21 Absent Voters’ Lists Parliamentary County of Hertford, Hemel Hempstead Division, Little Gaddesden

6. https://www.durhamatwar.org.uk/story/12857/

7. https://www.findmypast.co.uk Electoral Registers 1832 – 1932

8. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/31257/page/4132

9. https://www.ancestry.co.uk UK, World War I Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920

10. https://www.findmypast.co.uk England & Wales marriages 1837-2005 Transcriptions

11. Little Gaddesden Baptism Register 1813 – 1947

12. Police Constable Parker’s list of Little Gaddesden’s Local Defence Volunteers, compiled in May 1940

13. Leonhardt, John (ed), 2002, A Century Remembered – a celebration of the Millennium in Little Gaddesden, Rural Heritage Society of Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Ashridge

14. ed. Brock, Capt. Alan St H, (1945?) 7th Hertfordshire Battalion Home Guard. A History of the Battalion 1940-44

15. https://www.findmypast.co.uk England & Wales Deaths 1837-2007

16. Little Gaddesden Burial Register 1942, 1944, 1955

17. https://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find-war-dead/casualty-details/2932932/WILLIAM%20SEARL%20NEWMAN/

18. Obituary and Funeral Report for William Searl Newman, believed to be from The Gazette, week of 23rd October 1944

Do you have any questions about the information recorded here? Or do you have any further information that you can share with us about those from Little Gaddesden who died or fought for their country? In either case, please contact Jane Dickson at war-remembrance@littlegaddesdenchurch.org.uk.

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Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson