Cyril Louis Norton Newall GCB OM CBE AM

b. 15/02/1886 Mussoorie, India. d. 30/11/1963 London.

DATE OF AM ACTION: 03/01/1916 St Omer, France.

Cyril L N Newall

Newall was born to Lieutenant Colonel William Potter Newall and Edith Gwendoline Caroline Newall (née Norton). After education at Bedford School, he attended the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. After leaving Sandhurst, he was commissioned into the Royal Warwickshire Regiment on 16 August 1905. He was promoted to lieutenant on 18 November 1908, and transferred to the 2nd King Edward VII’s Own Gurkha Rifles on 16 September 1909. He served on the North-West Frontier, where he first encountered his future colleague Hugh Dowding; at an exercise in 1909, Dowding’s artillery section ambushed Newall’s Gurkhas whilst they were still breakfasting.

Newall began to turn towards a career in aviation in 1911, when he learned to fly in a Bristol Biplane at Larkhill whilst on leave in England. He held certificate No. 144 issued by the Royal Aero Club. He later passed a formal course at the Central Flying School, Upavon in 1913, and began working as a pilot trainer there from 17 November 1913; it was intended that he would form part of a flight training school to be established in India, but he had not yet left England when the First World War broke out.

On the outbreak of war, Newall was in England. On 12 September 1914, he was given the temporary rank of captain, and attached to the Royal Flying Corps as a flight commander, to serve with No. 1 Squadron on the Western Front. He was promoted to the permanent rank of captain on 22 September, effective from 16 August. On 24 March 1915 he was promoted to major and appointed to command No. 12 Squadron, flying BE2c aircraft in France from September onwards. The squadron took part in the Battle of Loos, bombing railways and carrying out reconnaissance missions in October 1915.

On taking command of the squadron, he chose to stop flying personally in order to concentrate on administration, a decision which was regarded dismissively by his men; relations were strained until January 1916, when he demonstrated his courage by walking into a burning bomb store to try to control the fire. He was awarded the Albert Medal for this act on the personal recommendation of General Hugh Trenchard, and in February 1916 was promoted to lieutenant colonel and given command of Training No. 6 Wing in England. In December 1916 he took command of No. 9 Wing in France, a long-range bomber and reconnaissance formation, and in October 1917 took command of the newly formed No. 41 Wing. This was upgraded as the 8th Brigade in December, with Newall promoted accordingly to the temporary rank of brigadier-general on 28 December 1917. During 1918, it joined the Independent Bombing Force, which was the main strategic bombing arm of the newly formed Royal Air Force. In June 1918 Newall was appointed the Deputy Commander of the Independent Bombing Force, serving under Trenchard.

Newall was awarded the Croix d’Officier of the French Legion of Honour on 10 October 1918, and appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George on 1 January 1919, a Commander of the Order of the British Empire on 3 June 1919 and an Officer of the Belgian Order of Leopold on 18 April 1921.

Newall was granted a permanent commission in the Royal Air Force as a lieutenant colonel on 1 August 1919 and promoted to group captain on 8 August 1919. He became Deputy Director of Personnel at the Air Ministry in August 1919 and then Deputy Commandant of the apprentices’ technical training school in August 1922. He married May Weddell in 1922; she died in September 1924, and he remarried the following year to Olive Foster, an American woman. He had three children with Foster, a son and two daughters.

Newall was promoted to air commodore on 1 January 1925, and took command of the newly formed Auxiliary Air Force in May 1925. He was appointed to a League of Nations disarmament committee in December 1925 and then became Deputy Chief of the Air Staff and Director of Operations and Intelligence on 12 April 1926. He was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath in the 1929 Birthday Honours and, having been promoted to air vice marshal on 1 January 1930, he stood down as Deputy Chief on 6 February 1931. He became Air Officer Commanding Wessex Bombing Area in February 1931 and then Air Officer Commanding Middle East Command in September 1931. He then returned to the Air Ministry, where he became Air Member for Supply and Organisation on 14 January 1935, during the beginnings of the pre-war expansion and rearmament. He was advanced to Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in the 1935 Birthday Honours and promoted to air marshal on 1 July 1935.

On 1 September 1937, Newall was appointed as Chief of the Air Staff, the military head of the RAF, in succession to Sir Edward Ellington. The promotion was unexpected; of the prospective candidates mooted for the job, Newall has been widely seen by historians as the least gifted. Newall was advanced to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in the 1938 Birthday Honours. He was still Chief of the Air Staff at the outbreak of the Second World War on 1 September 1939; his main contribution to the war effort was his successful resistance to the transfer of fighter squadrons to aid the collapsing French thus preserving a large portion of Fighter Command which would become crucial during the Battle of Britain. While he remained committed to the idea of a “knock-out blow” offensive by Bomber Command, he also recognised that it was too weak to do so successfully, but still strongly opposed the use of the RAF for close air support.

Following the end of the Battle of Britain, Newall was quickly forced into retirement and replaced as Chief of the Air Staff by Sir Charles Portal. He was promoted to Marshal of the Royal Air Force on 4 October 1940 and retired from the RAF later that month. He was awarded the Order of Merit on 29 October, and made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George on 21 November. In February 1941 Newall was appointed Governor-General of New Zealand, a post he would hold for the remainder of the war.

Following his return from New Zealand in 1946, Newall was raised to the peerage as Baron Newall, of Clifton upon Dunsmoor, in the county of Warwick. He spoke in the House of Lords rarely, making five speeches between 1946 and 1948 and one in 1959, mostly addressing defence issues. Newall died at his home at Welbeck Street in London on 30 November 1963, at which time his son Francis inherited his title.



On the 3rd January, 1916, at about 3 p.m., a fire broke out inside, a large bomb store belonging to the Royal Flying Corps, which contained nearly 2,000 high explosive bombs, some of which had very large charges, and a number of incendiary bombs which were burning freely. Major Newall at once took all necessary precautions, and then, assisted by Air Mechanic Simms, poured water into the shed through a hole made by the flames. He sent for the key of the store, and with Corporal Hearne, Harwood and Simms entered the building and succeeded in putting out the flames. The wooden cases containing the bombs were burnt, and some of them were charred to a cinder.