Newman James BREALEY


BREALEY, Newman James

Service Number: 5998
Enlisted: Not yet discovered
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 16th Infantry Battalion
Born: Southern Cross, Western Australia, date not yet discovered
Home Town: Not yet discovered
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Labourer
Died: Killed in Action, France, 11 April 1917, age not yet discovered
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Cherry Gardens Uniting Church WW1 Memorial Stained Glass Window, Cherry Gardens WW1 Memorial, Cherry Gardens WW1 Roll of Honour, Northam Memorial Hospital
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World War 1 Service

7 Aug 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 5998, 16th Infantry Battalion
7 Aug 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 5998, 16th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Miltiades, Fremantle


James Newman Brealey was a son of John William and Elizabeth Lillian Brealey, Newman (as he was known) was born in Southern Cross, WA.

The family lived in Cherry Gardens, South Australia when Newman was primary school age as he attended the Cherry Gardens Public School. The family must have moved back to WA soon after and then moved around a fair bit, as Newman also attended the Yalgoo State School ,and the family lived in various gold mining towns along the road west from Perth towards Kalgoorlie. It appears that Newman's father and brother were gold miners at one time. Newman himself worked as a labourer or 'lumper'.

He enlisted at Black Boy Hill, WA on 13 March 1916 at the age of 19, as reinforcement for the 16th Battalion. He joined the battalion in France in December 1916 after a couple of months of training in England.

The freezing winter meant little action until April, when the battalion's first commitment after the spring thaw was the attack on the German Hindenburg defensive line near Bullecourt, France on 11 April 1917.

On the eve of his first battle, probably at the urging of his officer or sergeant, Newman wrote a brief will and testament in his pay book, leaving his possessions to his mother in case of his death. On the following day, the 16th Battalion attacked without adequate artillery support but with the support of tanks, many of which broke down. Despite this, the battalion captured its objectives, but ran out of ammunition and bombs and was eventually forced to withdraw back to their original trenches. Of the 17 officers and 700 soldiers of the 16th Battalion that attacked that day, only 3 officers and 87 soldiers returned to their start line. One of the soldiers left on the battlefield was Newman Brealey. As his body was never found, his name is inscribed on the Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, France, along with thousands of other Australians who have no known grave.

On 2 November 1918, nine days before the War ended, a photograph of Newman Brealey was unveiled in the schoolhouse of the Cherry Gardens Public School alongside others from Cherry Gardens that had been killed. His name is inscribed on the Cherry Gardens War Memorial. His brother, Lance Corporal Robert Harold Brealey served with the 51st Battalion and survived the War, returning to Australia in July 1919.

By 1923, the family had moved again, and was living in Manjimup, WA (360 kms south of Perth).

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Biography contributed by Faithe Jones

James Brealey enlisted for the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) on the 13th March, 1916 in Nannine, Western Australia. His Regimental number was 5998 and he joined the 16th Battalion A.I.F. His parents were John William & Elizabeth Lillian Brealey and they were living at East Northam in Western Australia when James enlisted. James was 18 years and 11 months old when he enlisted and was a light brown-haired, blue-eyed young man with a “fair” complexion whose occupation was a labourer. He was just under 5ft 8ins tall and weighed 134lbs. Because of his age James’s parents had to write and give permission for James to enlist. On his medical history it was noted that James had reasonable eyesight and no vaccination scars. His teeth had some defects but they were not bad enough to prevent him being accepted. James religious denomination was Anglican. James embarked for the war on 9th August 1916, on the Fremantle arriving in Plymouth, England on 26th September 1916. He remained in England until the 12th December when he proceeded overseas to France from Folkstone on the Arundel disembarking at Estaples. He was taken on strength on the 23rd December 1916 and was sent to the front line where he spent the rest of his time in France. On the 11th April 1917 James was killed in action. The battle he died in was an attack on the Hindenberg line near Bullecourt and Queant. This was a poorly organized attack where they tried to use tanks which were a dismal failure and the soldiers while achieving their first 2 objectives were then unable to get reinforcements or additional ammunition and eventually had to retreat back to the initial jumping off place. In this battle that took around 7 hours from 4.30am to 11.30am nearly 80% of the soldiers were killed. 17 Officers and 700 soldiers started the attack and only 3 officers and 87 soldiers got back alive. James was one of those killed and his body was never found. James had been in France for less than 4 months. James had prepared his last will and testament on 10th April 1917 naming his mother as sole benefactor. His will was recorded in his pay book and he must have wrote this just prior to the battle where he was to lose his life. Because James body was never found there is no burial site for him and he is remembered on the wall of the Australian War Memorial in Villiers Bretonneau.