Newbattle at War a history of the Parish at war   

 Now featuring Scots in the Great War Living History Society.    




John Herbert is one of the men I am trying to have added to Newtongrange War Memorial, and at this stage it’s probably unlikely that Midlothian Council will accept him, given their refusal of George Noble.


In World War One John Herbert was a Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve who served on HMS Maidstone a Submarine depot ship based at Harwich, he married Marion Simpson from 7 The Square, Newtongrange by Warrant of a Sheriff on 11th November, 1916 in Stobhill House, Gorebridge.


John gave his address as 2 Arniston Common at the time, but as he was serving at sea, his wife stayed at her parents house in The Square, Newtongrange.


On 12th of June, 1917 Marion’s brother, John Herbert’s brother-in-law, Sgt William Pentland Simpson of the Royal Field Artillery was kiled in action in Flanders. He is buried at Dickebusch New Military Cemetery Extension, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen. He is commemorated on the WW1 stone of Newtongrange War Memorial.


After the war John returned to Newtongrange and on 17th of April 1922, he became a father to John Herbert Junior, who was born in their house at 7 The Square.


Despite being a middle-aged man when World War Two broke out in 1939, John Herbert was given a Temporary Commission with the rank of Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve and posted to HMS Chitral, (pictured above) an armed merchant cruiser based on the Clyde and operating in the North Atlantic protecting convoys.


On 20th November 1939 she intercepted the German merchant Bertha Fisser, whose crew scuttled her to avoid capture.


At 4.55 am on February 5th, 1941 John Herbert was making his along Argyle Street in Glasgow during the Black Out, when he fell and fractured his skull killing him. He was 52 years old.


It appears that he was staying with son John junior at 328 Garscadden Road in Glasgow, given that John was just approaching his 19th birthday, it’s likely he was either on active service or war work in Glasgow.


His next of kin on the death certificate is given as Marion Fowler Simpson. He was buried in Hawthornden Cemetery near Rosewell, Midlothian.

I don’t know the reason he is buried in Hawthornden Cemetery, but the most obvious is that there is a family plot there, John Herbert’s father pre deceased him, his mother Mary was still alive.


The Herbert’s connection with Newtongrange / Newbattle does continue. On 16th of June 1950, John Herbert Junior married Annie Roberston Smith in Newbattle Church.


Importantly the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records that John Herbert was the “Husband of Marion Simpson Herbert, of Newtongrange.”


When the time came for the name to added to the War Memorial John Herbert Jnr was 15 years in his grave, his mother had also passed on.


It would seem a travesty if a woman who lost her brother in WW1 and her husband in WW2 has one commemorated and the other not.


A man who served his country in both World War One and World War Two with the Royal Naval Reserve, should get the recognition he deserves.