Synagogue unveils plaque to honour soldier who defused a German parachute mine

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Synagogue unveils plaque to honour soldier who defused a German parachute mine

Former Oxford and St George Jewish Youth Club in Totteridge salutes Commander Harold Newgass, awarded the George Cross in 1941 for "great gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty"

Pic: Courtesy of Martin Sugarman
Pic: Courtesy of Martin Sugarman

A plaque to remember an exemplary Jewish soldier who was awarded the George Cross has been installed at his former youth club in London.

The commemoration to Lt Commander Harold Newgass (3 August 1899 – 17 November 1984)) was unveiled on the Totteridge, north London building which was once the Oxford and St George Jewish Youth Club.

Newgass had been a club leader there before World War Two, when it was located in Henriques Street, Whitechapel.

Now a synagogue, the congregation welcomed the plaque, especially as many of its older congregants were once members of the Club.

Lockeyear W T (Lt), War Office official photographer. Imperial War Museums. A defused, German 1000kg ‘Luftmine’ similar to the one defused by Newgass. Glasgow, 18 March 1941

Newgass, a Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, was awarded the highly distinguished honour for dismantling a huge un-exploded German bomb that fell in the Garston Gas Works in Liverpool over two days in November 1940.

The announcement for the award was published in the London Gazette newspaper on 4 March 1941 and read:

The King has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the GEORGE CROSS for great gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty to: Temporary Lieutenant Harold Reginald Newgass, R.N.V.R.

Pic: Wikipedia via Liverpool Echo

Few such awards were given and include two other Jewish World War Two recipients; Capt Simmon Latutn ((25 July 1916 – 30 December 1944) and Fireman Harry Errington, ((20 August 1910 – 15 December 2004), the only London firefighter to be awarded the honour.

Financed by Jerry Klinger of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation, and organised by AJEX archivist and military historian, Martin Sugarman, the plaque to Newgass is one in a series being raised to increase knowledge of famous Jewish war heroes and personalities in the UK and abroad.

Sugarman told Jewish News: “Celebrating our George Cross winners is one way of fighting anti-Semitism and at the same time raising the profile of all of our Jewish war heroes, men and women, who helped defend  Britain in two World Wars.”

Martin Sugarman, pic: Hackney Archives

The George Cross is the highest award for bravery that can be given alongside the VC (Victoria Cross) and was instituted by Kings Charles’ grandfather, George VI in 1940.

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