21st Division 1914-18...a divisional history

Captain T G Newbury, MC

 

Thomas Grindall Newbury, born in July 1895, came from a traditional army family. He was educated at Bradfield college from September 1904 to July 1913. He was obviously a keen sportsman, as he was not only a prefect in 1913, but football XI 1912, Cadet pair 1909, Shooting VIII 1911, and Captain in 1913.

His father was a Lt-Colonel of the Lincolnshire regiment, commanding the 11th training battalion during the Great War, apparently born prior to the Indian Mutiny in 1857, he would very likely have been of non active service prior to hostilities and would have been what would be classed as a dugout.(1) It is possible that his fathers connections to the Lincolns influenced him to join the 1st battalion at the wars beginning. He was in France before Christmas 1914 and would be with the battalion almost non stop for the wars duration.

His father was to die during the war, obviously still in command as he warrants a CWGC grave, the date shows as 25th May 1918. This was not the first, nor the last Newbury to die in uniform, the lot of an army family. His uncle was killed whilst serving with the Duke of Cornwall’s Light infantry during the Boer war. His brother Fred, a tea planter by profession in Ceylon, was killed in Mesopotamia as a sublatern of the 92nd Punjabis on the 22nd February 1917. His eldest son, David, was killed in Italy in 1944 whilst serving with the RAC, he like his father earned the honour of the Military cross. (2)

Thomas had celebrated his nineteenth birthday in July 1914 and as such was a very young subaltern when he went to war. Twice wounded during the conflict he was called on numerous occasions, like many were, to conquer challenges well beyond his years.

At the action on 3rd July 1916 at Shelter wood, day three of the Battle of the Somme, he was put in temporary command of the battalion at a crucial time due to officer casualties. He showed obvious control and fortitude, as the battalion stuck to its job over the crucial few hours where success stood in the balance.

Again later at the battle of Guedecourt in late September 1916 he again seems to have assumed command and earned himself a Military Cross.

 The recommendation, dated 1st march 1917 reads,

"Lieut: (acting Captn) Thomas Grindall Newbury, on 25th Sept 1916, at Geudicourt assembled with marked success the survivors of three companies of his Battn in the frontline trenches after an advance of 1500 yards: under shell fire of the greatest intensity and heavy machinegun fire: By his quick judgement and initiative he enabled a very important position to be quickly and safely consolidated under very critical conditions. This officer has been with this Battn since Novr 1914 has been twice wounded and has done loyal and valuable work throughout. 62nd Brigade 21st Division First Corps”


Again in 1918 as the German offensives came to an end he once again found himself in command of the battalion and for a week until a more senior officer could be found to take over he led the men in trying times. This was at a time when as Haig was to put it “with our backs to the wall” and his parent unit 62nd brigade was detached and under some French control. As a consequences he was awarded a French Croix de Geurre for services around this time.

 

At some time after this he returned to England and married Dorothea (Dorothy) Webber-Smith in June and then was posted to Cork, in Southern Ireland, where the British army was under taking a Guerrilla war with the Irish republicans who had ‘risen’ up in April 1916. Here was here when he and Dorothy heard the news of the armistice on 11th November 1918.

In 1919 he returned to England and the depot of the regiment, here Dorothy gave birth to their first child, Daphne, on the 19th December. And fourteen months later when their daughter was fourteen months old they set sail for India on the SS Huntsgreen, arriving in Poona a month later in February 1921.

He served out in India with the 2nd battalion of the Lincolns, where their first son David was born at Jalapahar, near Darjeeling on 12th June 1923. Returning in April 1926 to England.

His second son, Hugh, was born on 12th May 1928, at St Margarets bay, near Dover and was christened in the chapel. Thomas was stationed at the time in Dover castle. He passed the exam to the staff college in 1929 but was not able to attend on that attempt due to the class being full. (3)

In august 1930 he was seconded to the 138th brigade of the 46th (Territorial) North Midland division as a staff Captain and also was stationed for a second time at the regimental depot. From 1931 until 1935 worked with the London university OTC at Shorncliffe as Adjutant. A keen and able shot he went to Bisley with the bradfield veterans

Then in 1936 he returned for his third visit, but this time to command, at the depot until 1939. He had been expecting to leave on his next duty to return to India but the war intervened and he was sent with the battalion to Verne Portland and then to Frampton manor, Dorset and finally to France under 8th brigade of 3rd division. The Lincolns were returning to war and this time Newbury was to command. His Lt-Colonelcy originally an acting rank was made temporary whist in command.

Newbury ably led the battalion during the trying times of 1940 as the three important actions of, the defence of Dyle 14th - 16th May, the defence of the Yser Canal 28th-29th of may and finally the Dunkirk perimeter 30th- 31st. He was wounded during this last action whilst crossing a field with the battalion adjutant, he taking a wound to the hand, which would finally lose him a finger. The battalion history account states.

‘The situation on the Royal Berkshires' front was still so critical that "A" Company was ordered to remain in position until 8.30 p.m. to back up the Carrier Platoon. At about 8.30, when the enemy shells were falling 100 yards short of the Carrier positions, Captain Rowell fired a white Very light as a signal for his platoon to close.

Unfortunately, this was also the German infantry signal for their artillery to lift, which it did, right over the Carriers, who, realizing what had happened, remained where they were. A few minutes later two German infantry companies advanced on the Carriers' positions, and the platoon closed with them, inflicting very heavy casualties at extremely close range. In fact, they actually ran down a machine gun and its crew who had worked round to their flank and were threatening their line of retreat.

Meanwhile, the Commanding Officer and the Adjutant, Captain Hefford, moving across country to catch up with the Battalion, ran into intense shell fire and were both .hit, the Commanding Officer in the hand and the Adjutant in the leg. They did, however, manage to get back to the main road where transport was awaiting them.’

He was unfortunately to injured to continue in command and had to hand over to his second in command and was evacuated from Dunkirk, as were many in those last days as the circle closed around the BEF. He was mentioned in despatches for his conduct at this difficult time, gazetted on 20th December 1940.

On return he was sent to Cheltenham racecourse, with possibly no exaggeration, showing a sign of the predicament the army was in in 1940, with one sergeant, one table, two chairs and orders to form a brigade. This would be a challenge that Thomas Newbury would relish.

His daughter, Daphne, was engaged and soon married to Lt C P N Wells-Cole of the Royal Navy on the 16th March 1942. Further promotion was gained in 1942 with promotion to temporary Brigadier on 12th April.

For Newbury though it appears his frontline combat days were over for when the army returned to France in 1944, it was as commander of the Lines of Communication that he went ashore, something that would not have been to the liking of this soldier, however he seems to have proved very able at the job. Whilst out here he must have written to Field Marshall Montgomery, having been under his command in 1940, as there is a communication of return. It reads

“TAC Headquarters, 21 Army Group
13 - 6 - 44
My dear Newbury
Thank you for your letter. I was glad to hear news of you again.
Next time you are in my vicinity look in on me and see me.
Yrs sincerely
BL Montgomery"
(4)

It appears eventually that the body gave out, perhaps saddened with the death of his son in Italy the year before. Newbury suffered a heart attack and died on 5th April 1945, he was just 49 years of age. He was awarded a Belgian Croix de Guerre.

 

Another Newbury to die with the colours.

 

 

 

 

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In Memory of
Brigadier THOMAS GRINDALL NEWBURY,MC
Lincolnshire Regiment
and Commands and Staff, General Staff
who died age 49
on 05 April 1945
Son of Lt.-Col. P. F. R. Newbury and of Mrs. L. H. J. Newbury (nee Turnbull); husband of Dorothea Newbury, of Fleet, Hampshire.
Remembered with honour
LILLE SOUTHERN CEMETERY

 

 

 

Notes

1..Many former army officers who had retired before the war commenced, these men who were returned to the colours to help raise Kitcheners Army were literally dugout from retirement. They were in many instances out moded by the new warfare and out aged for combat, but as seen many still paid the sacrifice of an old soldier.

2..David joined the 17th/21st Lancers in 1943 and served with the 1st Army in North Africa and Italy. He won an MC for an action in 1944 near Monte Cassino, where the tanks had been held up by a boggy stream and the bridge parties of engineers were shot up before they could reach the area. David used his troop of tanks to pull down trees and manoeuvred them into the stream to form a makeshift bridge for the tanks. Then his troop led on through minefields and booby traps and reached their objective at dusk. In a later action, the regimental history relates, 'many tanks [were] bogged in the soft ground; the enemy withdrew; and tragically during the afternoon Newbury was killed by a lone sniper after fighting had ceased. His troop, who had the greatest admiration and affection for him, were almost berserk with fury.' He had celebrated his 21st birthday the week before.

3..It is unclear as to whether he actually ever attended the staff college. The psc was much coveted by regular officers as a way of gaining promotion to battalion command and beyond. This would have been a disappointment to a regular soldier, though obviously he did not lack for experience.

4.. .. It would appear that these two men met when Montgomery was in charge of 3rd division in 1940, where 2nd battalion Lincolns were part of that unit. There is no obvious link to say they new each other previous to that time

 

(My thanks to Brigadier Newbury’s son, Hugh, who provided all the photos and much information to enable this article to be written.)