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Tuesday, July 20, 2010



The seventh of the eight "Friends of My Grandfather" from his photograph and the most difficult initially to locate was Corporal John Alfred Newton #426149. Newton was neither an original 3rd Battalion man nor was he a member of the 23rd Reserve Battalion, like the other seven soldiers. Before I had the service records of the friends, my search for a Corporal Newton went through a number of possibilities on the Library and Archives Canada website of Attestation Papers. Finally deciding there were no other options, I sent away for John A.'s service record and lo and behold, he was indeed our man.

14 Alexandria Road, West Ealing, London, England
John Newton's view from the Vimy Memorial France
John Alfred Newton was born February 11, 1888 in a small Norfolk village by the name of West Rudham to farm labourer father Robert and mother Susanna. The 1901 Census shows him as an 14 year old "Cowboy" farmer with six sisters and an older brother, Issac R. Newton. Apparently in a few years he left the family and spent 6 years with the 3rd Battalion, Norfolk Regiment. At some point, probably about 1910-12, John emigrated to Canada and was employed as a farmer when he enlisted in the 46th Battalion in Weyburn, Saskatchewan on December 24, 1914. Possibly due to his prior military experience, John Newton was sent on the urgently required 1st Reinforcing Draft of the 46th Battalion sailing from Montreal July 5, 1915 on the S.S. Elele. By July of 1915, after the disastrous 2nd Ypres, Givenchy and Festubert the British and Canadian commanders had realized the urgent requirement of tr
ained Commonwealth troops consequently a large number of the recruiting 2nd Contingent Battalions were asked to sent one or two reinforcing drafts well ahead of the main battalion force. As we have seen over and over again, on arrival in England reinforcing draft soldiers, most with prior military experience, were sent almost immediately on arrival to First Contingent units and so it was with Private John A. Newton. On arrival in England the draft from the 46th "Suicide" Battalion was taken on service to the newly forming 32nd Reserve Battalion. By August 28, 1915, Private John Alfred Newton was in the field with the 3rd (Toronto) Battalion, who at the time were in reserve near Ploegstreet Woods. John service record Casualty Sheet's last entry is dated December 28, 1916 in which it states that "Confirmed in the rank of Corporal effective from July 1, 1915".So he was already rightly a Corporal in the 46th Battalion. He actually spent one month attached to the N.C.O.'s School as an instructor, 2nd Army, April 9, 1916 to May 6, 1916.
The objective of the 3rd and 4th Battalions Oct 8, 1916

Except for a 2-day hospitalization February, 1916 for influenza, the only other listing in the Casualty Sheet is "Killed In Action" October 8, 1916. The circumstances of Corporal Newton's death are unknown as is his grave site. His name is commemorated in the Vimy Ridge Memorial. The Battle of the Somme and specifically the involvement of the 3rd (Toronto) Battalion I believe have been previously covered on this blog site. Suffice to say the conditions were horrific. "Of the 14 officers and 481 ranks that went into battle that day attacking a German defensive position known as The Quadrilateral, near Le Sars, only 1 officer (Major A.W.Haddon) and 85 ranks were left". 3rd Battalion War Diary. A complete description of the battle and casualties can be found here on this website.

Sometime in the short time between John Newton's enlistment and his death it appears his father died with mother Susanna becoming a widow and moving to 14 Alexandria Road, Ealing, London. It was here his three World War I medals, Memorial Plaque, Scroll and Memorial Cross were sent. His mother, as a widow, also received the soldier's War Service Gratuity of $180. as well as the balance of his modest wages as Assigned Pay and a small pension. A small price to pay for a valuable and heroic life!

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