1396485 Flight Sergeant William Searl Newman, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Born 31st October 1923 in Little Gaddesden
Died 15th October 1944 in a flying accident in the U.K.
Family and Home 1
William Searl (Billy) Newman was the only child of William Newman and Alice Elizabeth née Searl of 61 Little Gaddesden. His father was a Gardener who, in the First World War, had been awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field whilst a Lance Corporal with 12th Bn. Durham Light Infantry in Italy.
Education at Little Gaddesden School
Billy was educated first at Little Gaddesden School, where he remained until he was 10¾. He has been identified on this 1930 photo from the School Archive, aged 6 or 7.
He is right in the middle of the 3rd row back, wearing a light coloured jersey and standing between boys in dark jackets.
Education at Hemel Hempstead Grammar School 2
The Little Gaddesden School Log Book entry for 29th May 1934 records that:
Of the five children who entered for the Special Place Examination at Hemel Hempstead Grammar School, two have been placed: Muriel Noakes 9th; & Willm Newman 21st.
Both pupils gained free places and, on 14th June the Log Book entry notes:
As the two Scholarships are the first ever to have been awarded in Little Gaddesden, there will be a half day on Friday to celebrate the occasion.
Billy started at Hemel Hempstead Grammar School in September 1934, half a term before his 11th Birthday.
The 1939 Register 3
In the 1939 Register dated 29th September 1939, Billy was a 15 year old school boy living with his parents at 61 Little Gaddesden. His father William was a Kitchen Gardener and his mother Alice had “Unpaid Domestic Duties”.
On leaving Hemel Hempstead Grammar School, Billy worked in the laboratories of Messrs. Cooper, McDougall & Robertson in Berkhamsted until he volunteered for the R.A.F in 1941.
Death of his Father 4
Billy’s father William Newman died aged 55 on 16th February 1942 and was buried in the old churchyard of St Peter and St Paul’s, Little Gaddesden on 21st February.
Second World War Service
In 1941, once he was 18, Billy volunteered for the R.A.F. He trained first at the Cadet University, Southampton and later in Canada, where he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant Bomb Aimer. He was later promoted to Flight Sergeant and completed 32 sorties over enemy territory.
Death in a Flying Accident 5
On 15th October 1944, 20 year old Flight Sergeant William Searl Newman, R.A.F.V.R was killed in a flying accident in the UK. His death was registered in the Chipping Norton District of Oxfordshire.
Funeral and Burial 6
Billy’s funeral service took place on Saturday 21st October at Hudnall Methodist Church and was conducted by the Revd. G. H Kingswood of Hemel Hempstead and the Revd. Charles Edward Wager, Rector of Little Gaddesden. The following press report noted that many friends were present to pay their last respects and that the service included the hymn “Fight the good fight”. Committal rites and burial in the churchyard of St Peter and St Paul, Little Gaddesden followed and were conducted by the Revd. C. E. Wager.
The report of Flt. Sgt. Newman’s funeral in what was then The Hertfordshire, Hemel Hempstead Gazette and West Herts Advertiser, originally published on or around 25 October 1944. This copy published courtesy of the Hemel Gazette & Express
William’s Grave and CWGC Headstone 7
William’s grave is located N.E. of the church in the old churchyard of St Peter and St Paul, Little Gaddesden. It has a CWGC headstone with the following inscription below the R.A.F. Badge:
1396485 Flight Sergeant
Royal Air Force
15th October 1944 Age 20
The inscription at the base of the headstone reads:
Safe in God’s keeping.
We will remember them
William Newman Royal Air Force is commemorated on the Little Gaddesden War Memorials on the village green and in St Peter & St Paul’s Church.
- Little Gaddesden School Log Book 1906 – 1934
- https://www.ancestry.co.uk 1939 England and Wales Register
- Little Gaddesden Burial Register 1813 – 1980
- https://www.findmypast.co.uk England and Wales Deaths 1837 – 2007
- Obituary and Funeral Report for William Newman, believed to be from The Gazette, week of 23rd October 1944
Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson