4 April 2011

In search of Sergeant Newell

A couple of months back I picked up an MM to Sergeant W A Newell of the Royal Fusiliers. There appears to be no surviving service record for this man and so pretty much all I have to go on his campaign medal index card (above) and the reference in the London Gazette to his MM award.

The medal index card (MIC) notes that he arrived in France as 1444 Pte William Newell of the Royal Fusiliers on the 1st June 1915. By the time he was discharged to Class Z of the Army Reserve on the 24th February 1919 he was a sergeant, and acting Company Quarter Master Sergeant with the Cameron Highlanders; not a bad record of promotion.

My main intention (apart from reuniting his MM with his trio) is to find out how he won his gallantry award, but at this point in time I don't have a battalion for him. The Supplement to The London Gazette for the 14th September 1916 simply notes, 1444 Cpl W A Newell. So, no battalion, but we can see that he had been promoted by the time he won his MM and we also have another initial for him.

A check through the medal rolls (using the references on his medal index card) revealed nothing on the 1914-15 Star roll, but there was additional information on the British War and Victory Medal roll. Thanks to the information contained there, I now know that he transferred to the 11th Battalion of the Cameron Highlanders, and also that he seemed to be part of a draft of men who all transferred from different regiments (see below).

I checked all the men listed on this page to see if I could ascertain when they transferred to the Cameron Highlanders but could find no surviving service records for any of them. I did however find a pension record for S/49801 Sgt Jonathan Malpas who originally joined the Northumberland Fusiliers on the 9th November 1914 and was transferred to the 11th Battalion, Cameron Highlanders in the Field on the 10th June 1918. So it looks as though that's when Sergeant Newell, and all the men listed with him, were also transferred.

As for Sergeant Newell's original number with the Royal Fusiliers, 1444; at this point in time I find it difficult to pin a precise date to it, but there are some battalions I can rule out, and I'm going to add to this list:

1st - 4th Battalions - 1444 is just too low a number and would have dated to around September 1884
5th (Special Reserve) Battalion - Ditto. The number is too low.
6th & 7th (Extra Reserve) Battalions - Ditto, for the same reason.

Note however, that a seperate series of numbers was introduced for men enlisting in the Special Reserve for General [Wartime] Service. This number series started at 1 in August 1914 and so it's possible that William Newell's number belongs to this series. Men joining this General Service Special Reserve were however, often past military service age and many were time expired old soldiers, some with very many years' service under their belts. Their service records are identifiable by a SR/RF/GS stamp.

17th Battalion - E/1444 was issued to Joseph G Fawcett
22nd Battalion - 1444 was issued to Thomas C Pickford

For now, the search goes on.

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