No. 18/87, 11th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles
Killed in action on Saturday 1 July 1916 (aged 26)
No known grave
Thiepval Memorial, France (Pier and Face 15 A and 15 B)
Newtownards and District War Memorial
Second Newtownards Presbyterian Church
Lord Londonderry’s Own CLB Flute Band Roll of Honour
True Blues LOL No. 1055 Roll of Sacrifice, Newtownards Orange Hall
Thomas Newell was born on 19 February 1890 in Millisle and he was a son of Thomas and Eliza (Lizzie) Newell (nee Kerr) who were married on 7 January 1887 in Ballycopeland Presbyterian Church. Thomas Newell from Ballymoney was a son of Thomas Newell, a labourer. Eliza Kerr from Ballymoney was a daughter of Charles Kerr, a farmer.
The Newell family lived in the townland of Ballymacruise, Carrowdore.
Thomas Newell worked as a labourer and he and Eliza had at least nine children including:
Elizabeth (Lizzie born 10 June 1888 in Millisle)
Thomas (born 19 February 1890 in Millisle)
Mary (born 25 April 1892 in Ballycopeland)
Margaret Jane (Maggie, born 24 September 1893 in Ballycopeland)
Charles (Charlie, born 11 April 1896 in Millisle)
George (born 5 May 1898 in the townland of Ballymoney, Carrowdore)
Alexander (born 12 January 1900 in Carneyhill)
Andrew (born 29 May 1901 in Ballymacruise)
Four of the children, including Charles (but not Thomas), were baptised in Millisle Presbyterian Church.
Later the Newell family moved to 54 South Street, Newtownards.
Prior to the outbreak of the Great War Thomas Newell worked as a general labourer and, like Charlie, he was a member of Loyal Orange Lodge No. 1055. He enlisted in Belfast in May 1915 and joined the 18th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles. He went to France on 5 October 1915 with the 11th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles in 108th Brigade of the 36th (Ulster) Division and he was 26 when he was killed in action on the first day of the Battle of the Somme while he was in the Lewis Gun Section of the Battalion. Initially he was reported as missing in action and the following May it was officially confirmed that he must be presumed to have been killed.
Rifleman Thomas Newell (No. 18/87) has no known grave and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
There were two For King and Country notices in the 26 May 1917 edition of the Newtownards Chronicle, one from his mother, sisters and brothers and one from Lord Londonderry’s Own Church Lads’ Brigade (CLB) Flute Band of which Thomas, like Charlie, had been a member. The family notice included the verse:
Forth into the dreadful battle
The steadfast soldier goes,
No friend when he lies dying
His eyes to kiss and close;
Yet never alone is the Christian,
Who lives by faith and prayer,
For God is a friend unchanging,
And God is everywhere.
In July 1918 his family placed an Our Heroes – In Memoriam notice and it contained the verse:
No loving voice was there to soothe,
To whisper low the parting vow;
No tender hand was there to smooth
Or wipe away the death-dew from his brow.
Perchance he heard a comrade’s prayer,
Ere death for ever sealed his eyes;
We may be here, our hearts are where
Two gallant British soldiers lie.
Brothers Charlie and Thomas Newell were killed in action within five months of each other and both are commemorated on Newtownards and District War Memorial; in Second Newtownards Presbyterian Church; on Lord Londonderry’s Own CLB Flute Band Roll of Honour and on True Blues Loyal Orange Lodge No. 1055 Roll of Sacrifice. Charles Newell is also commemorated in Ballymoney Heroes 1914 – 1918 (Page 75).
[There are eleven townlands named Ballymoney in what is now Northern Ireland; Charles Newell has a connection with the townland of Ballymoney, Carrowdore, Co Down.]