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Newman, I., Capt., M.B.E., MiD, C.d.G., 1944
Photo: James Pasby

National Archives SOE Personal File HS9/1096/2

Captain Isidore Newman [Paul McCue Books]

Isidore on a cycling holiday

Mathausen Quarry Today

Mathausen Quarry then showing the stairs of Death

On the Brookwood Memorial is the name of 216306 Captain Isidore Newman, serving with the Special Operations Executive who died 07/09/1944.

Isidore (Izzy) Newman was born in Leeds on the 26th January 1916, to Joseph and Tilly Newman [nee Cohen]. His parents were Russian Jewish immigrants who had arrived in Britain from Lithuania in 1909. Joseph's original surname was Naviprutsky. The surname was changed when they immigrated.

He was one of thirteen brothers and sisters, who chose to stay and perished in the Holocaust. Two younger brothers escaped with the Polish army in 1939, and eventually reached Israel, where their families still live.

The Newmans were married at New Briggate Synagogue, Leeds on the 11th June 1912, prior to which Joseph had been living at 8 Gledhow Terrace and Tilly at 22 Whitlock Street. Both were tailors and pressers. They lived at 11 Kepler Street (or Grove), Leeds, at the time of Isidore's birth.

Isodore was the middle of three brothers. The older was Benny (Bernard), born in 1914, who although extremely clever developed acute mental illness as a young man. He had to leave school in the sixth form having shown great promise and was in and out of institutions much of his life. He died in Hull in the 1970s or 80s.

The other brother Montague, seventeen months younger, was slightly physically disabled. He eventually became a medical technician at the Royal Victoria Infirmary at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, married a non-Jewish woman and appears to have lost touch with the family after Joseph and Tilly died.

The family moved to Durham in 1922 when Isidore was six years old. An old friend, Dr Nat Cannon (living in Vancouver aged 94, in 2007) remembers [that] the family lived at 6 Cross Street and Isidore's uncle Isaac Cohen (Tilly's brother) resided at 9 Cross Street. The Durham City Directory for 1913 listed Joseph and Isaac as 'general dealers'. Both Isidore and Nat attended St Margaret's Elementary School (on the honours board at the school, listing the pupils who went on to Grammar School, Isidore's name was added in 1927) and later Johnston's Grammar School. Isidore attended the Synagogue at 107 Laburnum Avenue of the small Durham community, where his father was a cantor.

Isidore was a keen athlete, enjoying cricket, football, swimming and cycling, but was especially interested in learning French.

He successfully completed his matriculation, aged sixteen and Higher School Certificate, at eighteen and went up to Armstrong College Newcastle-upon-Tyne, then part of Durham University in 1934 to read French, English and Latin. He and Nat Cannon, studying Medicine, with their slight Geordie accents, met on occasion, although Nat was four years older.

As Isidore wrote in his SOE file on the 18th August 1941:- The exciting life of a young student began for me; I studied, I played games, I was interested in everything French language, literature and customs was my special study. In June 1936, at the beginning of the holiday, I decided to go to Belgium with a friend (I corresponded with a young Belgian student at the time). We left over for Ostend, then Brussels. As it was necessary for us to write a thesis for our BA degree, we installed ourselves at the University there - in the 'Cite estugiantine' in order to use the books in the library. When the thesis was finished, we went to Bruges and to Blankenberghe, then to the French coast for a few days; finally from Antwerp, we returned to England. In 1937, I obtained my BA Degree (2nd class honours) and in 1938, after a year of study, I obtained the DThPT (Diploma in the Theory and Practice of Teaching) from Kings College Newcastle. I left the University and settled in Hull as a teacher in a Primary School.

Meanwhile, Isidore's father was bankrupt by 1938 (though he later became a successful cloth merchant) and moved with his family to Hull, where he was able to find a poorly paid job. This was as shomer (literally, 'guard' or 'keeper', who ensures that food sold in the community's shops and prepared for weddings, bar mitzvahs and other events, is strictly kosher). They lived at 62 Etherington Drive then later at 137 Clumber Street, Princess Avenue. Joseph died 10th April 1966 and Tilly died 28th March 1956.

Isidore became engaged in Hull, and was teaching at Middleton Street Boy's School from September 1938. (The school was demolished in 1994.)

Isidore joined the army on he 29th August 1940 (2350538) and trained as a radio telegraphist with the Royal Corps of Signals at Catterick for six months. Posted to Scarborough, he then was posted to Kent for four months as a signalman. He was commissioned as a First Lieutenant (216306) and finished training on July 1941, moved to Sheffield with the 12th Light Anti Aircraft Regiment.

Stationed with a Royal Artillery battery in Hull.

On 1st August 1941, Isidore was sent for Wireless Officer Training with SOE. He broke his leg whilst training in Scotland.

Isidore Newman was sent to Wanborough Manor near Guildford, taking on the pseudonym of 'Matthieu Elliot' to disguise his identity from other recruits. The course instructors soon noticed his less than perfect French - he'd studied the language at university, but had only spent a couple of weeks on the Continent, travelling across Belgium and northern France - and they also had some concerns over his moodiness during his commando training in Scotland, but there was no question about his technical abilities and he proved himself a determined and dedicated student.

On the 9th March 1944, Newman was arrested by the Gestapo, following the capture of Claude Malraux. As well as these two, a total of some 80 members of the SALESMAN circuit were taken by the Germans. In the same roundup eighteen tons of arms were also seized.

At the beginning of September 1944 Newman's group was transferred to Mauthausen concentration camp, along with three other 'F' Section inmates, Sidney Jones, Marcus Bloom and Georges Clement. During 6th and 7th September Newman and his group were shot at or near the camp's quarry, along with 40 agents from SOE's Dutch section.

His full story is told in Captain Isidore Newman SOE , Martin Sugarman, Jewish Historical Studies, 2007.

See also SOE Profiles by Nigel Perrin, for a more detailed history of his operations as an SOE agent.

Isidore Newman was awarded a posthumous M.B.E. in 1946, and is commemorated at the Brookwood Memorial in Surrey, the SOE memorial at Mauthausen and the 'F' Section memorial at Valenšay in France.

With thanks to the Jewish Historical Society for using extracts from an excellent story.

Isidore Newman is remembered at Durham on D47.025

Special Operations Executive History
SOE Agent Profiles
The CWGC entry for Captain Newman

Read Isidore Newman's full Life Story

If you know more about this person, please send the details to janet@newmp.org.uk