Harold Ernest Montague Newman
The 1920's

I wrote the following comments based on notes that I took during a visit my father made to Australia in 1985 when I pressed him to tell me about his life before my birth. It was as a result of my expressed interest that he subsequently wrote his memoirs many of which expand on the things he told me verbally. Most of these memoirs are presented in web-page format (see HEMN Memoirs). A complete set of these memoirs is also available in chronological order in PDF format.

My own notes of HEMN's 1920's experiences are as follows (based on my conversations with him):-

Harold was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on 19th December 1919 after completing 12 month's training at Woolwich (see graduation certificate below)

He subsequently graduated from Chatham in 1922, moving to Aldershot for 2 months for horse training. From there he was sent to Bullford for 18 months as a subaltern in the 54th Field Company of the Royal Engineers under a Major Kelly. At the end of 1923 he was posted to India after volunteering to serve with the Madras Sappers and Miners (following the career of his uncle Edwin who had served in the Madras Sappers and Miners before he was killed 38 years earlier).

He arrived in India on 9th February 1924 (after a month's sea journey). He must have spent the first months in Bangalore (Madras), where he joined the 9th Field Company under the Company command of a Captain(?) Morse. One of his (slightly senior) contemporaries was Gilbert Cassels (Cassey, who I remember from childhood). In August 1924 his Company was posted to Wazeristan (which I think was part of the infamous and mountainous North West Frontier which was in a constant state of revolt). During this spell, Captain Morse was sent to another posting while at the same time Cassey went home on furlough (6 month leave), leaving the young Lieutenant Newman to gain his first experience of responsibility as O/C (Officer-in-Charge) - a situation which he enjoyed for five months from April to September 1926. I gained the impression that this was an experience that left a lasting impression on him - which I suspect had a lot to do with developing his self-confidence and (I suspect) a dislike of any form of intrusive authority that I inherited or learned from him. His work at that time was mostly associated with bridge replacements on military access roads - whether the bridges were destroyed by storm or local guerrilla activity, I'm not sure - but the photos he left from this time suggest that the region was barren and conditions harsh. His return to Bangalore took five days on a troop train.

Other officers he was associated with in those days included Jack Steedman and Maurice Jeakes (my two god-fathers), and Tarn Bassett who was Commandant in Bangalore in 1929, and who (my notes tell me) made the decision to stop married officers from taking command of Field Companies because of the risks involved. Since this was the year that Henry married, he found himself unable to return to the North West. I think this influenced his decision to return to the UK at this time because he felt his opportunities for self-advance (or at least repeating what he had enjoyed so much before) had been taken away from him. (I'm sure he didn't regard this as intrusive authority, because he and Tarn Bassett remained friends for the rest of their lives, Tarn also retiring to Somerset, if I remember correctly).

In 1927 he was eligible to take furlough himself and returned to England between June 1927 and January 1928. Furlough was the name given to leave entitlement that was granted to soldiers serving overseas, which granted them 6 months leave - 2 months on full pay and four months on half pay.

In 1928 he met Margaret Smith who was visiting her brother Dick Richards in Bangalore, fell in love and planned to marry, which he was strongly discouraged from doing by his commanding officer and his peers. Apparently, the age of 27 was considered young for marriage, and the pay of an army Lieutenant (as he still was then) was considered totally inadequate to be able to properly support a wife. Furthermore, he would not be eligible for married quarters, either because of his age or rank or both. Notwithstanding, he ignored the advice and returned to England to marry in the summer of 1929. (See notes on Margaret Helena Newman (nee Smith) for more details on the marriage).