Hartlepool family’s pride at war hero grandad

SO PROUD: Philip Prosser whose granddad, Leonard Newman, pictured below, won medals for bravery

SO PROUD: Philip Prosser whose granddad, Leonard Newman, pictured below, won medals for bravery

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A HARTLEPOOL man has unearthed a goldmine of memorabilia on his war hero grandfather.

But Philip Prosser is missing some vital facts about the courageous role that his ancestor Leonard Newman played in the First World War.

Family's memories of First World War hero Leonard Newman.

Family's memories of First World War hero Leonard Newman.

Philip, 63, a retired timber worker and HGV driver, found a treasure trove of medals, photographs and other memorabilia when he was going through the possessions of his mum Gwenie, 93, - Leonard’s daughter.

Gwenie has moved into a care home in the town and dad-of-two Philip is examining the family documents she has amassed down the years, including those of Leonard.

Philip said: “It has become a fascinating subject.”

His finds included a box filled with medals, German currency from 1918, and a postcard from the Front.

Family's memories of First World War hero Leonard Newman.

Family's memories of First World War hero Leonard Newman.

Some facts are known about Leonard. He was born in 1899 and tried to join up for the war effort in 1914 - at 15 years old. “He lied about his age,” said Philip.

“They scattered him but he came back two weeks later and they said ‘you’re in’.”

Leonard became a stretcher bearer, possibly at Ypres, and won the Military Cross and the Meritorious Service Medal for his bravery.

He was mentioned in dispatches which said: “Corporal L Newman, in recognition of valuable services rendered with the Forces in France during the war.”

Family's memories of First World War hero Leonard Newman.

Family's memories of First World War hero Leonard Newman.

To this day, Philip does not know exactly what his granddad did to win the medals.

“He saw so many horrors but like many people from that war, they didn’t like to talk about it. Whenever I talked to him, it was always about sports. He was a mad keen Hartlepool United fan.”

But Philip does know that his granddad end the war as a Sgt in the 51st Battalion of the Royal Field Artillery 9th Division.

Leonard survived the war which claimed the lives of 16 million people and left 20 million more wounded. Tragically, it still cost him his life even though he lived until 1967.

Family's memories of First World War hero Leonard Newman.

Family's memories of First World War hero Leonard Newman.

Philip said: “He died of emphysema caused by the gases of the First World War.”

Gwenie kept every one of the buttons off her dad’s military uniform as well as striking photographs of him in his regimental dress.

His battalion, colleagues, medal collection - they’ve all been kept by Gwenie.

Once the war was over, Leonard became an ICI storeman. He lived his whole life in Hartlepool and married his wife Edie, a curtain seller, who died in 1974 on the day of her 80th birthday.

The pair ran a curtain shop in Oxford Road and later in Rugby Street.

They had two children - Gwenie who worked in the ICI laboratories and Audrey, 89, who now lives in a home in Northallerton and drove tank transporters in the Second World War.

Family's memories of First World War hero Leonard Newman.

Family's memories of First World War hero Leonard Newman.

Leonard also gave service to the St John’s Ambulance Brigade for many years.

Philip said: “He saw some horrors in the war and he must have won the medals for rescuing people from No Man’s Land.”

But Philip would love to know for sure what happened to Leonard.

Can anyone fill in the blanks on what happened to him in the First World War?

If so, contact Chris Cordner on (01429) 239377 or email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk