Albert Newby Braithwaite – an original Pal, with American connections

Major Sir Albert Newby Braithwaite DSO MC MP, son of a Leeds Lord Mayor and later a knighted MP.

                                Picture Courtesy of Illustrated London News

Albert Newby Braithwaite came from a privileged background.  His father, Alderman Albert Braithwaite, was a prominent businessman who was Lord Mayor of Leeds in 1920-21; he was born at Horsforth in 1868, died at his home Green Acres in Ilkley on 4th February 1946 aged 77 and is buried at St John the Evangelist Churchyard, Roundhay.  Albert Newby was educated at Woodhouse Grove School, Leeds Grammar School and the University of Leeds.  He enlisted in the 15th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment in 1914 as a soldier and was later commissioned in to the 17th Battalion; he was awarded the DSO (1/1/1918), MC (1/1/1917) and Mentioned in Despatches. The 17th Battalion, while based at Campagne, recorded in its War Diary on 8th February 1916 that 2/Lieut Braithwaite ordered to proceed to St Venant tomorrow to attend mortar school’. He was later placed on the General and Special List, promoted to Major and served in close alliance with the US Army in France prior to being appointed a member of the British Military Mission to the United States. His MC was awarded for bravery while attached to the Light Trench Mortar Battery.  Appointed Lieutenant in 1921 in the Yorkshire Hussars he was listed as being a Major in the Hussars during the Second World War, and was at some stage a Temporary Lieutenant Colonel.  Little more is known of his Army service as he continued to serve after 1920 and his military records remain with the Ministry of Defence.

Albert N was born in Wharfedale, Yorkshire on 2nd September 1893.  His father Albert and mother Martha Elizabeth Braithwaite née Newby (died 14th September 1954) had three children, Albert Newby, Robin Bruce and Madge Newby.  In 1901 Albert Newby, aged 7, was staying with his grandparents Timothy and Martha Newby at Clair House, Scotland Lane, Horsforth.  In 1911 Albert N was living with his parents and sister at Rossett Drive, Harrogate.

After the war Albert entered politics and in a 1926 by-election he was elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for the constituency of Buckrose in East Yorkshire, a seat he held until the 1945 general election. For his services to politics he was knighted.  Sir Albert returned to the House of Commons in a by-election in 1951, as MP for Harrow West.  On 10th August 1935 he was involved in a fatal traffic accident with a motorcycle combination on the Great North Road at Southoe, Huntingdonshire. At the inquest held at Huntingdon General Hospital a few days later he explained that he had not seen the motorcycle due to dense smoke from a hedge fire being blown over the road.  Sir Albert said that the motorcycle overturned and he had dragged the trapped rider away from the fire but that he died later in hospital. This statement was supported by his son Alan Anderson Braithwaite. The verdict was accidental death.

He married Anne Anderson, an American from South Carolina, USA.  She was born 10th June 1894 in America, died 12th March 1950 in London and is commemorated in the Bridlington Priory Church. The inscription records: Anne wife of Sir Albert Newby Braithwaite D.S.O., M.C. Born 10th June 1894 in Greenville, South Carolina, United States of America. Died 12th March 1950 in London.’ Their youngest son Robin Bruce Braithwaite, who had recently been released from National Service with the Army, also married an American, Susannah Wilcox, who came from Augusta, Georgia.  Their wedding took place on 8th October 1949 at St Margaret’s Westminster and was a quiet affair due to the prolonged illness of his mother Lady Braithwaite. She had taken her children to America at the outbreak of war where they were brought up by their grandmother and it was at school in the USA that Robin met his future wife.  His best man was his brother Alan Braithwaite.

Sir Albert married his second wife, Lady Joan, shortly after his first wife’s death in 1950 and she remained with him until his untimely death on 20th October 1959.  He was still a sitting MP for Harrow West when, aged 66, he died of barbituric poisoning, which was self-administered.  The Coroner at the Westminster inquest said the drug was taken while Sir Albert was suffering from a very serious kidney infection which must have had a very serious effect on the state of his emotions.  He also said that a note left by him when he died at his London home, 145 Marsham Court, London SW1 clearly showed his intention of ending his own life.  The pathologist said he was surprised that a man with a chronic kidney disease could lead such an active life.  He would have expected him to be an invalid spending most of his time in bed.  The family’s country home was Fyning Hill, Rogate, Sussex.

Sir Albert had been out for lunch with friends that day and he had gone home when they returned to the House of Commons.  Lady Braithwaite said that she had arrived home at 5.30pm to find her husband lying on the bed with her medication and a note in his handwriting by his side.  She told the Coroner that he had had very bad health for many years and the infected kidneys were poisoning the whole of his system.  An announcement of his death was made in the House of Commons on 27th October 1959.  It was a sad ending for a gallant and successful man, who had fought in the Great War.  He also achieved a great deal as a businessman and had been a committed and active MP from 1926 to 1945 and 1951 to 1959.

Sources:

The National Archives – Medal Roll, Medal Index Card and Army Lists

London Gazette

Ancestry & Findmypast – Birth, census, marriage, and death registers and passenger lists

West Yorkshire Regiment War Diaries

House of Commons – Biographies and Hansard

British Newspaper Library – Reports on accident and death

Researcher: David J Owen

Please Note:

  • All opinions and inferences are the researcher’s own.
  • Please refer to our Glossary of Terms for further information on the terms and phrases used in this post.
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