NEWCOMBE Joseph William 1892 – 1917


Private 45456, Joseph William Newcombe, 14th Battalion Durham Light Infantry, died of wounds 30 March 1917 aged 25.  He is buried in Bethune Town Cemetery, Nord Pas-de-Calais, France[1] and commemorated on Witton Park war memorials.

Family Details

Joseph William Newcombe was born in 1892 [2] at Woodland, County Durham, the son of Robert and Isabella Newcombe.  There were at least 5 children:[3]

  • Jane Ann bc.1889 at Bolam, County Durham
  • Eleanor bc.1891 at Woodland
  • Joseph William born 1892 at Woodland
  • George Edward bc.1896 at Heighington, County Durham
  • Richard Henry bc.1899 at Witton Park

Prior to about 1899, the family were at Witton Park and in 1901, they lived at Albion Street where 36 years old Robert was employed as a, “freestone quarry worker”.[4] By 1911, the family lived at Viaduct Terrace, Witton Park where Robert worked as a coal miner, “shiftman” and 18 years old Joseph was employed as a coal miner, “putter”.[5] At a later date the family lived at 23 High Thompson Street, Witton Park.[6]

Military Details

The service details of Joseph William Newcombe have not been traced.  Joseph enlisted at Bishop Auckland and joined the 14th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry, being allocated the service number 45466.[7] .[8]  Initially, 14/DLI and 15/DLI formed part of the 64th Brigade of the 21st Division of Kitchener’s New Army but 25 November 1915, the battalion was transferred to the 18th Brigade, 6th Division as part of the XIV Corps, Fourth Army. [9]  Private Joseph W. Newcombe did not enter France until after 31 December 1915 by which time the battalion has already been blooded on the Western Front at the Battle of Loos, which commenced 25 September 1915.  By 1916, other battalions in the 18th Brigade were: [10]

  • 1st Bn., the West Yorkshires
  • 11th (Service) Bn., the Essex
  • 2nd Bn., Durham Light Infantry
  • 18th Machine Gun Company
  • 18th Trench Mortar Battery

Private Joseph W. Newcombe possibly joined 14/DLI sometime during the summer of 1916 and may have been amongst drafts required to reinforce depleted numbers among the ranks.  14/DLI saw action at the Battle of the Somme in the following phases:[11]

  • 15 to 22 September, The Battle of Flers-Courcelette
  • 25 to 28 September, The Battle of Morval
  • 1 to 18 October, The Battle of Le Transloy

Later research, records that between 15 September and 20 October, during its tour of the Somme, 14/DLI lost 7 officers and 154 ORs killed in action or died of wounds.[12]  Whether or not Private Joseph W. Newcombe saw action here is unknown.

DLI Cap Badge

The following account details the postings of 14/DLI after the Somme until the end of March 1917 when Private Joseph W. Newcombe died.[13]  The battalion war diary has not been researched.

23 October 1916, 14/DLI left the Somme battlefield arriving at Lapaugnoy on the 29th for training.  It is possible that Private J.W. Newcombe joined his unit at this time.  From there they went to the Cambrin sector and the 18th Brigade relieved the 64th Brigade providing fatigue parties for the RE tunnelling companies at Noeux-les-Mines, Sailly-Labrourse and Annequin.

24 November, the battalion moved to Lapaugnoy then were in brigade reserve at Annequin by the end of the month.  6 December, 14/DLI relieved 1/West Yorks in the front line at Cambrin.  Second Lt. R.H.C. Macdonald and 8 men attempted a raid on German trenches on the evening of the 10th, but the enemy were alert to it.  Most of the party were wounded, Second Lt. R.H.C. Macdonald mortally, Private W. Parkin was killed in action on the 10th and Private J.J. Close (from Cockfield) was KIA on the 11th.[14]  Sergeant R.T. Young and Corporal T. Jaye showed great courage in attempting to recover the officer and both were awarded the Military Medal for their efforts.[15] The battalion was in and out of the line in this area until the middle of February 1917.

In early March, 14/DLI took over reserve trenches in the Loos salient just north east of Loos.  It did 2 tours of the front line before going into reserve at Mazingarbe.  Casualties for the month amounted to 8 men killed and 1 officer and 40 other ranks wounded.[16]

Later research records that between 20 October 1916 and 31 March 1917, the period when it is likely that Private J.W. Newcombe served on the Western Front, 14/DLI lost 3 officers and 37 other ranks, killed in action or died of wounds, including Private Joseph W. Newcombe who died of wounds 30 March 1917 .[17]  It is likely that he sustained wounds as a result of enemy shell fire or sniper fire, the usual violence of warfare.

Awards and Medals

Private Joseph W. Newcombe was awarded the Victory and British War medals.[18]

Medal Roll Card Index


Private 45456 Joseph W. Newcombe, 14th Battalion Durham Light Infantry, died of wounds 30 March 1917 is buried at grave reference vi.c.50, Bethune Town Cemetery, Nord Pas-de-Calais, France.[19]  The following epitaph is inscribed on his headstone:

In Life We Loved Him, In Death We Do the Same


Joseph William Newcombe’s effects were received by his parents[20] and his pension initially by his mother then his father.[21]


Joseph William Newcombe was born in 1892 in Woodland, the son of Richard and Isabella. The family lived at various properties – 15 Albion Street, Viaduct Terrace and 23 High Thompson Street, Witton Park.  Joseph W. Newcombe enlisted at Bishop Auckland into the 14th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry.  He did not see service overseas before 31 December 1915 and most likely joined his unit as a draft after the battalion suffered heavy casualties during the Battle of the Somme in September and October 1916.  He died of wounds, aged 25, 30 March 1917 when 14/DLI was posted to the Loos salient.  He was a single man, both parents survived him.


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC)

[2] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.265 Teesdale 1892 Q3

[3] 1901 census

[4] 1901 census

[5] 1911 census

[6] CWGC

[7] Soldiers Died in the Great War (SDGW)

[8] SDGW




[12] ODGW & SDGW

[13] “The Durham Forces in the Field 1914-18:  The Service Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry” 1920 Captain W. Miles p.113-115

[14] SDGW

[15] Miles p.113/114

[16] Miles p.115 

[17] ODGW & SDGW

[18] Medal Roll card index and Roll dated 21 May 1920

[19] Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC)

[20] UK Army Register of Soldiers; Effects 1901-1929 Record No.470034

[21] Dependant’s Pension card index