Next of kin plaque : Private J A Newcomb, 18 Battalion, AIF

Accession Number REL39378
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Bronze
Maker Royal Laboratory Woolwich Arsenal
Place made United Kingdom: England
Date made c 1920
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Bronze next of kin plaque showing on the obverse Britannia holding a laurel wreath, the British lion, dolphins, a spray of oak leaves and the words 'HE DIED FOR FREEDOM AND HONOUR' around the edge. Beneath the main figures the British lion defeats the German eagle. A raised rectangle above the lion's head bears the name 'JOHN ALEXANDER NEWCOMB'. A manufacturer's mark 'W' within a circle, for the Royal Woolwich Arsenal, is stamped into the reverse.

History / Summary

Next of kin plaque issued to the family of 1977 Private John Alexander Newcomb of Pyrmont, NSW, after he had died of wounds in Australia. Working as an 18 year old clerk when he enlisted on 8 June 1915, Newcomb embarked for overseas service on 9 August 1915 from Sydney aboard the transport HMAT 'Runic' as part of the 3rd reinforcements for 20 Battalion. Joining A Company, he arrived at Gallipoli just as the August offensive petered out. However, on 28 September Newcomb was transferred to A Company, 18 Battalion to cover the 50 per cent losses suffered by this battalion in the late August offensive on Hill 60. From this point until the evacuation, the 18th played a defensive role, being primarily responsible for holding Courtney's Post. The last members of the battalion left Gallipoli on 20 December. After further training in Egypt, Newcomb proceeded with 18 Battalion to France, arriving on 25 March 1916.

His Service Record notes: 'Took part in a raid on enemy trenches on night of 26-27 June 1916'. This refers to a series of raids conducted by Australians and New Zealanders against German positions prior to, and in support of the impending Battle of the Somme. Private Newcomb was one of six officers and 73 other ranks who raided German trenches south east of Bois Grenier near Armentieres, at around midnight. The Official History notes: 'The Germans met the advance at the parapet with bombs and the first attack failed, but the party reformed... and attacked again. The party entered the trench and went along it, bombing six dugouts'. The German counter-attack failed and the Australian party withdrew after nine and a half minutes, having inflicted casualties of 13 dead, 23 wounded and 4 taken prisoner. Fifteen Australian were wounded; one was captured.

Newcomb fought in the battle at Pozières from 25 July and was wounded with a 'severe' gunshot wound to his right forearm on 5 August; he returned to England for treatment on 16 August at Herne Bay Hospital. Newcomb spent the remainder of 1916 and early 1917 in convalescent camps until transferred to the strength of the newly formed 63rd Battalion on 28 April at Perham Downs and was promoted to Temporary Corporal on 7 May. He was returned to 18 Battalion on 11 August and reverted to the rank of private; three weeks later he rejoined his battalion in France. On 29 September, in the aftermath of the Menin Road battle, he received a severe penetrating gunshot wound to his chest and was evacuated to Birmingham War Hospital in England. His condition slightly improved over the following months before he relapsed in late 1917. The decision was made to return him to Australia for further treatment and discharge. He returned aboard HMAT 'Kanowna' in May 1918 and was discharged in Sydney on 24 November directly from hospital. On 11 July 1919 his sister Edith wrote to Victoria Barracks informing them that 'he was still in hospital at Randwick when he passed away on 12 April of this year. Our mother is very anxious to have some memento to hang on the wall in memory of our darling lad who suffered so much for King and Country'. Newcomb's father continued writing to the Army, receiving no acknowledgement of his correspondence until June 1922. Meantime the Military authorities pondered his entitlement until 1922 when it was decided that the wound causing his death was war related and that John Newcomb was therefore entitled to the Next of Kin plaque and accompanying scroll, issued to those who died on overseas service or whose deaths were attributable to the war. John Newcomb is buried at Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney.