THE Museum of Somerset has been handed three First World War medals 100 years to the day after the soldier who was awarded them was killed in action.
Pte William John Newman, of the 1st battalion the Somerset Light Infantry, was killed in the battle of Le Cateau at 10am on August 26, 1914 – one of 7,812 British servicemen killed, wounded or missing that day.
The battle was the batallion’s first engagement in the war, having landed in Le Havre four days earlier.
Le Cateau was an important defensive battle that prevented the Germans from overwhelming the allied forces.
Pte Newman’s grandson, Mike Newman, 73, said: “I wanted to give these medals to the museum because they’re just sat in a drawer and people should be able to see them.
“The medals today have been presented by my grandson, Benjamin Newman, who is seven and the youngest relation of Pte Newman there is.”
Precisely a century since Mike’s grandfather lost his life his family is thriving with 32 relations all living in the Taunton area.
“It’s incredible really because when he was killed he didn’t know his wife was expecting his son – my father, who was born six months and one day after he died.”
Affectionately known as Pip, Squeak and Wilfred, the medals were awarded to Pte Newman for his services in the First World War before being passed down through the generations of the family.
Mike said: “He was born in Milton Clevedon in 1888, lived in Bickenhall and worked on a farm from the age of 13.
“He joined the Somerset Light Infantry in 1911 and I can only guess he didn’t like the farm work.”
Sam Astill, assistant curator of the Somerset Heritage Service, said: “Mike got in touch earlier this year and was very keen that the medals were presented today on the 100th anniversary.
“It’s very special to receive any objects into our collection, but even more so when it’s such a significant moment in history.”