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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Anonymous said...

My great grandfather Alfred E Levett has a similar Royal Fusiliers regimental number - 14349. He was a regular having served in Ireland just before WW1. On his medal roll lists a number of regiments-
2nd battalion RF
5th battalion RF
8th battalion RF
I unfortinately been unable to find a service record.


Paul Nixon said...

Hello Mike

Yes, 14349 dates to around the 5th January 1911 and is easy to date. Newell's number could belong to one of several battalions which I need to get to the bottom of.

I see that Alfred Levett was also awarded the MM and later transferred to the Northumberland Fusiliers.

It could be that he went overseas with the 2nd Bn, was wounded or became sick and was posted to the 5th (Special Reserve) Bn, was posted overseas to a service battalion (the 8th) and was then transferred for the last time to the NF. I reckon his NF number could belong to a series of numbers issued in France to men transferring from other regiments but I have nothing to back this assumption up. It might be worth your while trying to find other NF men with numbers close to his to see if any patterns emerge.


Graham said...

Hi Paul
I've a relative i'm researching that served in the Northumberland Fusiliers during the Great War. His medal card gives him two numbers - 3926 and T-425188 (Pte. William O'Neal)He was born,bred and worked in Hull. I know the 17th Battalion (North Eastern Railway Pioneers) were formed there. Would he have been part of this? I'm very new to this and don't know how to use his number to find out.If you can help it would be great. He was a larger than life character in his time and a bit of a strongman - all the bent railings down his street testified to that when he was thrown out of the house by my great grandfather and went off in a rage. How could i not want to find out more!
Andy O'Neil (His surname was spelled with an A)

28 March 2011 18:35

Noted this amongst your series of enquiries and can tell you he enlisted on either the 5th or 6th August 1914. Alas though no battalion todate. However he was recorded as wounded in February 1917 and later transferred to the A.S.C.(T-425188)


manicscrew said...


I'm not sure if this is the correct way to correspond with you but here goes. I am researching a man who served with the 2nd Battalion Oxf & Bucks. His service number was 6805 and he went to France on 13th sept 1914 (after the 2nd battalion were initially deployed) My question is would you know if he was a reservist at the time of mobilisation or was he a territorial. I know of one other who, in the same battalion (service number 9205), who with his period of reserve service expired joined as a territorial in August 1914 but being a former serviceman was deployed in the November of 1914 - which would suggest to me that the first man was in fact a reservist.
Any ideas?

Paul Nixon said...

Hello Jeff

Definitely NOT a territorial with that number. There are two possibilities. He either joined the regular battalions in April 1901 (6804 was issued to a man on the 11th April who had attested two days earlier) or he had joined the 4th Militia Battalion in late 1906 and then transferred to the Special Reserve in 1908, retaining his militia number. So he was certainly a pre-war enlistment although had he been a regular soldier he would have had to extend his period of engagement to still be serving, or on the Reserve, by August 1914. A man joining in 1901 would generally have enlisted for 7 years with the colours and 5 on the Reserve; 12 years in total which would have taken him up to April 1913, at which point he would have been discharged.

Hope this helps.