Augustus Charles Newman VC
Name: Augustus Charles Newman
Conflict: Second World War
Gazetted: June 19, 1945
Augustus Charles Newman VC
Place/date of birth: Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Essex/August 19, 1904
Rank when awarded VC (and later highest rank): Lieutenant Colonel
Date of bravery: March 27, 1942
London Gazette citation:
Lieutenant-Colonel Augustus Charles NEWMAN (33927), The Essex Regiment (attached Commandos) (Salford, Bucks.).
On the night of 27th/28th March, 1942, Lieutenant-Colonel Newman was in command of the military force detailed to land on enemy occupied territory and destroy the dock installations of the German controlled naval base at St. Nazaire.
This important base was known to be heavily defended and bomber support had to be abandoned owing to bad weather. The operation was therefore bound to be exceedingly hazardous, but Lieutenant-Colonel Newman, although empowered to call off the assault at any stage, was determined to carry to a successful conclusion the important task which had been assigned to him.
Coolly and calmly he stood on the bridge of the leading craft, as the small force steamed up the estuary of the River Loire, although the ships had been caught in the enemy searchlights and a murderous cross-fire opened from both banks, causing heavy casualties.
Although Lieutenant-Colonel Newman need not have landed himself, he was one of the first ashore and, during the next five hours of bitter fighting, he personally entered several houses and shot up the occupants and supervised the operations in the town, utterly regardless of his own safety, and he never wavered in his resolution to carry through the operation upon which so much depended.
An enemy gun position on the roof of a U-boat pen had been causing heavy casualties to the landing craft and Lieutenant- Colonel Newman directed the fire of a mortar against this position to such effect that the gun was silenced. Still fully exposed, he then brought machine gun fire to bear on an armed trawler in the harbour, compelling it to withdraw and thus preventing many casualties in the main demolition area.
Under the brilliant leadership of this officer the troops fought magnificently and held vastly superior enemy forces at bay, until the demolition parties had successfully completed their work of destruction.
By this time, however, most of the landing craft had been sunk or set on fire and evacuation by sea was no longer possible. Although the main objective had been achieved, Lieutenant-Colonel Newman nevertheless was now determined to try and fight his way out into open country and so give all survivors a chance to escape.
The only way out of the harbour area lay across a narrow iron bridge covered by enemy machine guns and although severely shaken by a German hand grenade, which had burst at his feet, Lieutenant-Colonel Newman personally led the charge which stormed the position and under his inspiring leadership the small force fought its way through the streets to a point near the open country, when, all ammunition expended, he and his men were finally overpowered by the enemy.
The outstanding gallantry and devotion to duty of this fearless officer, his brilliant leadership and initiative, were largely responsible for the success of this perilous operation which resulted in heavy damage to the important naval base at St. Nazaire.
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Other decorations: OBE, TD
Place/date of death: Sandwich, Kent/April 26, 1972
Grave/memorials: Barham Crematorium, Kent
Origin of VC to the Lord Ashcroft collection: Purchased privately, 1990
Current location of VC: Displayed on rotation at The Lord Ashcroft Gallery: Extraordinary Heroes exhibition, Imperial War Museum