Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Newton, Frank Graham (1877–1962)

by Ian McNeill

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

Frank Graham Newton (1877-1962), by George Lambert, 1918

Frank Graham Newton (1877-1962), by George Lambert, 1918

Australian War Memorial, ART02796

Frank Graham Newton (1877-1962), soldier and pastoralist, was born on 5 October 1877 at Redland Bay, Queensland, son of London-born Richard Newton, planter and later stock and station agent, and his wife Mary Lucy, née Underwood. Newton was educated at Brisbane Grammar School and afterwards worked as a bank clerk. On the outbreak of the South African War he enlisted with a group of volunteers, all required to be 'trained men, expert shots, and good riders', who formed the 2nd Contingent of Queensland Mounted Infantry. They embarked on 13 January 1900.

For part of his tour of duty Newton fought under the command of Major (General Sir Harry) Chauvel. During one battle escapade the two men captured a Maxim machine-gun. They became lifelong friends, Newton acting as best man at Chauvel's wedding in 1906 and serving again under him at Gallipoli and in Palestine. Newton was promoted lieutenant on 1 May 1900 and after being severely wounded on 12 August was invalided to England.

In 1903-09 Newton was aide-de-camp and later private secretary to the governors of Queensland, first Sir Herbert Chermside and then Lord Chelmsford. He left the army in 1909 to work on the land. Having been invited in 1910 by Chelmsford, then governor of New South Wales, to return temporarily as A.D.C., he met Lady Chelmsford's young English companion Kathleen Verney. They were married on 10 April 1912 in St John's Anglican Cathedral, Brisbane, and went to live at Claydon, a sheep property in western Queensland that Newton had won in a land ballot.

Leaving Claydon in the hands of a manager, Newton was appointed lieutenant in the 5th Light Horse Regiment, Australian Imperial Force, on 16 December 1914. He sailed for Egypt on 20 December and joined the 5th L.H.R. on Gallipoli on 6 August 1915. He was appointed adjutant on 30 August and temporary captain on 3 October and for a time commanded 'C' Squadron. After continuous occupation of forward trenches Newton, confirmed as captain on 13 December, led a party in the evacuation of Gallipoli on the night of 19 December.

Promoted major on 26 March 1916, Newton commanded 'B' Squadron, 5th L.H.R., during the advance from the Sinai Desert into Palestine, after which on 18 June 1917 he was attached to the headquarters of the Desert Column, soon reorganized as the Desert Mounted Corps. He was promoted lieutenant-colonel on 1 January 1918, remaining on the staff during the great offensive through Palestine ending in armistice with the Turks on 31 October. Except for one month's attachment in England, Newton then served at A.I.F. Headquarters and Headquarters, Desert Mounted Corps, Egypt. In this period he accompanied Chauvel's party retracing the campaign through Sinai and Palestine. Newton was demobilized in Australia on 31 July 1919.

Tall and sinewy, dynamic, and with a pleasant disposition, Newton was liked and respected by both officers and men, the latter nicknaming him 'the official pullthrough'. He was noted for outstanding ability and tact and able liaison with subordinate units. He was twice decorated, with disappointingly brief citations. The C.B.E. citation reads, 'For valuable services in connexion with military operations in Egypt', and the Distinguished Service Order was 'awarded for distinguished service in connexion with military operations in Egypt'. He was twice mentioned in dispatches.

Newton and his family settled at Bendee, a sheep property he purchased near Stanthorpe in southern Queensland, Claydon having been sold. During the next twenty years he was active in local affairs. In 1946, when their son Richard took over Bendee, Colonel and Mrs Newton retired to Surfers Paradise. In 1961 they moved to Brisbane where, survived by his wife, son, and three of their four daughters, Newton died on 1 November 1962. He was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • Aust Defence Dept, Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa, P. L. Murray ed (Melb, 1911)
  • L. C. Wilson and H. Wetherell, History of the Fifth Light Horse Regiment (Syd, 1926)
  • H. S. Gullett, Sinai and Palestine (Syd, 1938)
  • A. J. Hill, Chauvel of the Light Horse (Melb, 1978)
  • London Gazette, 1, 22 Jan, 3, 5 June 1919
  • war diary, 5th Light Horse Regiment, AIF (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

Ian McNeill, 'Newton, Frank Graham (1877–1962)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/newton-frank-graham-7833/text13601, published in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 31 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

Frank Graham Newton (1877-1962), by George Lambert, 1918

Frank Graham Newton (1877-1962), by George Lambert, 1918

Australian War Memorial, ART02796