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Gabriel Newton was born in Preston on the 24th March 1888 the eldest of at least ten children born to his parents Thomas and Mary Ellen Newton (nee Leeming). His parents had married in Preston the year before Gabriel was born. He had six brothers and 3 sisters; Joseph (1889), Mary (1891), John (1892), Martha (1893), Conrad (1894), Gertrude (1895), Hildelide ? (1898), Francis (1900), Bernard (1902) and Charles (1904).

Gabriel`s father was a railway worker and in 1891 the Newton family were living at 321 Cemetery Road in Preston and according to the Census Thomas Newton was a `shunter` (points). Ten years later when the 1901 Census was taken Gabriel and his family had moved to 1 Water Street West and his father was now employed as a goods guard on the railways.

On the 13th July 1904 Gabriel joined the Militia at Preston, his occupation being noted as a `factory lad` working in a cotton mill. He gave his age as 17 years and 4 months, he was however only 16 years and 4 months old at the time. He had a fresh complexion, grey eyes and brown hair and he was from a Roman Catholic family. He stayed with the Militia until the 5th September 1904 and then joined the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. When the 1911 Census was taken Gabriel was stationed in India at Ghospura Barracks in Poona with the 2nd Battalion LNL.

During his service with the 2nd Battalion, later newspaper information confirms that he was awarded a 1st Class Army Education Certificate and did in fact serve as an Army assistant schoolmaster whilst he was in India with the Battalion.

After completing his service with the Army Gabriel joined the Preston Borough Police Force, later information suggests that this was around 1913.

At the outbreak of war Gabriel, as a reservist, was recalled to the Colours and he embarked for France with the British Expeditionary Force on the 12th August 1914. Gabriel survived the Retreat from Mons and also the Battle of the Marne and having survived a few near misses, he subsequently suffered a machine gun bullet wound in the arm during the Battle of the Aisne. The injury he sustained was severe enough for him to be shipped back to England for treatment. By the beginning of November 1914 he had recovered and was at home on furlough where he was interviewed by a Preston Herald newspaper representative under the date 4th November 1914;

WITH THE NORTH LANCASHIRES AT THE RIVER; P.C. Newton`s story of the advance;

“Pte. G. Newton, better known to Prestonians as P.C. Newton, of the Borough Force, is home again on furlough, after being wounded in the Battle of the Aisne in which his Regiment – the Loyal North Lancashire – suffered so terribly.

Talking to a pressman on his experiences with the Expeditionary Forces, P.C. Newton said that the Britishers did a lot of growling when they had to retreat from Mons towards Paris, but the rearguard action they were fighting was a picnic to what had to follow. However, the order to advance came, and the men`s spirits rose as they got the enemy on the run. They all believed that they had got the German horde on the retreat for good, and even the first clash of arms at the Aisne was regarded as nothing more than a desperate attempt to cover the retreat. They had then to learn that they had come against fresh troops, strongly entrenched. It was Sunday, September 13th, when the river was reached, and our engineers began at once to throw pontoons across the river, all the bridges having been blown up. The North Lancashire’s found an aqueduct, and across the river they went, and on for two miles to that position the holding of which was to spell such a disaster to the Regiment. On Monday morning, when the mists of morning blew away, the North Lancashire’s found themselves on top of the enemy, too strongly placed and too strongly supported by artillery, not only to prevent a dashing forward move, but even to make worse than useless any attempt to entrench are own troops. They had to seek what spare cover was available, and prepare to hold the position until the Allied line should be brought up.


Shot and shell was raining down upon the Division, of which the North Lancashire was an important section, and Private Newton saw his Police force comrade, P.C. Howard, fall wounded, with a piece of shrapnel in his leg, and his fellows falling around him. The British and French artillery could not give the support so badly needed, but the men grimly hung on. determined the hold the line to the last man. P.C. Newton, himself, had some narrow misses; one bullet grazed his hip, and another inflicted a minor flesh wound, but he hung on throughout that terrible day, and well into the next, when, however, a bullet from a machine gun brought him down with a bullet in the arm, and he had to move to the rear. From the clearing hospital at Braisne he was re-shipped to England, where on recovery he was given his furlough which he is spending at home in Ratcliffe Street. Unlike some of our wounded warriors, Private Nelson has a real admiration for the French soldier, and particularly for the Turco, who he says, does not know the meaning of fear, and flies at the enemy whenever he gets a chance”.

After his leave ended Gabriel would have re-joined the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion at Felixstowe in order to prepare for going back out to the front. However, Gabriel was still in England in the early part of 1915 because he married Mary Ellen Fisher in Preston in the March quarter of that year.

Unfortunately, other than his Militia papers, none of Gabriel`s WW1 service papers have survived but he did return to France at some point and on arrival he re-joined the 1st Battalion. He served throughout the war with the 1st Battalion before finally being discharged to Class Z on the 3rd February 1919, his Medal Index Card noting that he had attained the rank of Lance Corporal.

For his war service Gabriel was awarded the 1914 Star with Clasp and Roses and the British War and Victory Medals.

After coming back home Gabriel returned to his job as a Police Constable with the Preston Borough Force. As far as can be ascertained Gabriel and Mary Ellen did not have any children.

On the 14th September 1925 the local Preston newspaper, the Lancashire Evening Post reported on the presentation of a special award being made to PC 96 Gabriel Newton;                    

PRESTON POLICEMAN`S BRAVERY – Presentation by the Mayor

“An interesting ceremony took place at Preston Police Court this morning, when the Mayor (Alderman J.R. Hodgson) presented an award to PC 96 Gabriel Newton for bravery. Accompanying the Mayor on the bench were Councillor Ellison, and Messrs. A.E. Healey, John McDonald and T. Gardner.

Dr. C.J. Trimble, Commissioner for the No. 4 area of the St. John Ambulance Association, asked the Mayor to present to PC 96 Gabriel Newton an illuminated certificate granted by the Order for brave actions. P.C. Newton, had, on several occasions, demonstrated that he was a brave man and that is heart was in the right place.

The Mayor in presenting the illuminated Certificate of Honour for valour said the recipient, on June 17th 1914, saved the life of a child which was in danger of being run over by a tramcar in Friargate. On January 7th, 1920, he arrested a dangerous thief single handed. On June 28th 1924 he dived into a pit 16ft deep in an endeavour to recover the body of a man who had committed suicide. On February 17th, 1924 he showed prompt, skilful and efficient action in a case of attempted suicide, and for this he received the merit badge, the highest decoration the Police authority could confer. On March 28th, 1925 PC Newton made a gallant attempt to save the life of a boy who was unfortunately drowned in a mill lodge, and whose body he afterwards recovered. Altogether, said his Worship, the record was one of the most creditable that could fall to the lot of a policeman.

The award, which was then handed over by the Mayor, who shook hands cordially with the recipient, contains the following; Grand Priory of the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in England. At a Chapter General of the order holden of the Order, holden at St. John`s Gate, Clerkenwell, London, on May 28th 1925.” It was unanimously resolved that this certificate of honour be awarded to PC 96 Gabriel Newton in recognition of gallant conduct in saving life at Preston on several occasions at great personal risk”. The signatures of the Grand Prior, the Chancellor, and the Secretary follow.

P.C. Gabriel Newton has completed twelve and a half years` service in the Borough Police and served in the Army throughout the late war. His gallant exploits were brought to the notice of the St. John Ambulance Association by Mr. J.P. Ker Watson, Chief Constable”.

In 1939 Gabriel, his wife Mary Ellen and an elderly lady named Catherine Fisher were living at 32 Lambert Road in the Ribbleton area of Preston, Gabriel`s occupation noted as Police Sergeant. Towards the end of 1939 he retired from the Preston Borough Force having completed 26 years` service. Mary Ellen Newton, who was 12 years older than Gabriel, passed away at 32 Lambert Road on the 20th January 1947 aged 71 years.

Retired Police Sergeant 83 year old Gabriel Newton`s death was registered in the June quarter of 1971.

Janet Davis
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