b. 03/08/1899 London. d. 17/11/1984 West Stafford, Dorchester, Dorset.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 28/11/1940 Liverpool.
Harold Reginald Newgass (1899-1984) was born on 3rd August 1899 at 54 Princes Gate, London, the son of Benjamin and Maria Regina Newgass. Harold had two older brothers, Edgar Isaac and Gerald and he was born into a very wealthy family. His father purchased Shernfold Park in Sussex in 1900. At the age of 7, Harold began school at Hazlehurst with his brother Gerald. School was not good for Harold and he soon moved to Hawkridge and then Tonbridge, firstly as a boarder then as a dayboy.
In February 1918 he was posted to an Artillery cadet unit at St John’s Wood where he looked after the Battery’s horses. After 4-5 months he was posted to Larkhill for firing practice and map reading as a 2nd Lieutenant. In November 1918 he was finally posted to France, arriving at Harfleur on the day of the Armistice. He remained in France, largely involved in the moving of the Battery horses to Dieppe, before he was demobilised in August 1919.
After the war, Harold returned to England and began work on his father’s estate. His father had interests in South American railways, an iron mine in Spain, a tramway in Italy, plantations in Mississippi as well as many others. In 1922, Harold’s father died with massive debts. Fortunately, his mother’s personal wealth managed to allow the family to continue at Shernfold and gradually pay off the debt.
Harold remained in the Territorial Army in the Sussex Artillery and rose to the rank of Captain. He was also keen to work in the Scout Movement and was a Scout Master. In 1931, he married Mary Lloyd, and they had two daughters, Miriam and Jenny. During the 1930s, the family lived at Clapton Manor, near Kettering, where he was Secretary of the Fitzwilliam Hunt. On the outbreak of World War II, he immediately volunteered for the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve and was posted to the Mine Disposal Squad. He was commissioned as a Temporary Sub-Lieutenant in September 1940, and then Temporary Lieutenant in December 1940.
On 28th November 1940, a bomb fell on the Garston Gas Works in Liverpool, paralysing industry over a large area. The bomb had fallen through the top of a large gasometer and the parachute had become entangled in the roof. The bomb itself was resting nose down but in an almost upright position on the floor, in 7ft of foul, oily water, and leaning against one of the brick pillars that supported the roof. The bomb's fuse was against the pillar and it had to be turned in order to access it. Lieutenant Newgass tackled the bomb on his own, in one of the most dangerous assignments ever undetaken. He could only breathe using oxygen supplied in cylinders, six of which he used during the operation. On the first cylinder he did his inspection and made his plan. On the second he took down his tools and a ladder. On the third he put sandbags around the nose and lashed the top of the bomb to the iron roof support. On the fourth he turned the bomb, removed the fuse and unit primer and detonator. On the fifth he turned the bomb again and undid the clock keep ring and on the last he withdrew the clock, and the bomb was safe. At the time it was regarded by some as the most hazardous bomb disposal ever carried out.
On the 4th March 1941, Harold was awarded the George Cross for his actions, and was presented with the medal by King George VI at Buckingham Palace on 8th July 1941. He spent the remainder of the war in the Mine Disposal Squad and was involved in many hazardous incidents. Sadly, his marriage to Mary broke down, and in 1945 he married a second time to Nancy Craig, who was previously married herself and had a son and a daughter of her own. The family settled down at Seaborough Court, Beaminster, Dorset where they stayed until 1958. Harold’s private income from his inheritance meant they lived comfortably, and he devoted time to activities such as being County Councillor for Dorset, and was also Chairman of the County Planning Committee. He was also interested in local politics and was Treasurer for the West Dorset Conservative Association.
Harold died on 17th November 1984 in West Stafford, near Dorchester and was cremated at West Stafford Crematorium, where his ashes were scattered. His medals including his GC, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45, 1953 QEII Coronation Medal and 1977 QEII Silver Jubilee Medal were placed on permanent loan to the Imperial War Museum, London where they are displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: WEST STAFFORD CREMATORIUM, DORCHESTER, DORSET.
Harold Newgass' medals on display at the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London