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Lehmann James Oppenheimer
According to the 1911 census (Lehmann?) James Oppenheimer was 58 and surely therefore too old to have died at the Somme. Also he is recorded as being a Cotton Spinning Salesman, living in Manchester but born in Germany. There is no record of Lehmann Oppenheimer in that census. Ludwig Oppenheimer, however, is there present and recorded as a mosaics manufacturer. Who made the entry about Lehmann James and what is the source of this information?
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records Lehmann James Oppenheimer (1868-1916) as born in Manchester. He was the eldest son of Ludwig and Susan McCulloch Oppenheimer (nee Findlay), of Montrose. He married Edith, daughter of Richard Newton, of Manchester. By profession Lehmann James was a designer of mosaics and artist (he exhibited at the Royal Academy),he was a member of the English "Climbers Club" and "Fell and Rock Club of the English Lake District", he was the author of The Heart of Lakeland (Sherratt and Hughes, London, 1908). Due to his general fitness, he was recruited into the army despite his middle age on the outbreak of the First World War. He held the rank of Lieutenant, 2nd/23rd (County of London) Battalion, The London Regiment. This was a Territorial Army regiment in the British Army, known as the Artists' Rifes. Two battalions of the 23rd were raised during the First World War for overseas service with a reserve battalion in England. The 1/23rd fought in France and Flanders from March 1915 until the end of hostilities in 1918, being involved in actions at Festubert, Loos, the Somme in 1916 and 1918, Messines, Ypres, Cambrai, Lille and Tournai. Casualties were heavy, 237 being killed and 262 wounded at Givenchy during the Battle of Festubert.
The battalion Lehmann James Oppenheimer served in, the 2/23rd, went initially to France in June 1916 but later went to Salonika and then to Egypt to take part in General Edmund Allenby’s offensive against the Turks in Palestine. Finally they returned to France in 1918 and saw action around Ypres. Twenty-four Battle Honours were awarded to the 23rd, ten of them being carried on the King’s Colour. Lehmann James Oppenheimer was 48 at the time of his death, following a gas attack, in 1916 during the closing stages of the Somme Offensive (July to November, 1916). He is buried in the Eastern Graveyard at Boulogne-sur-Mer a large Channel port in Northern France.
Lehmann’s son Eric, who later changed his name to his mother’s maiden name, Newton, worked as a designer for the company during 1913-14 and from 1918 until 1933. He saw action, but unlike his father he survived the war. Robert Field speculates that as Eric joined his father in the firm in 1913 it seems likely that they worked together on translating their ideas and designs into mosaic see Robert Field “L. Oppenheimer Ltd and the Mosaics of Eric Newton” (2006) http://www.tilesoc.org.uk/events/conference2006/papers/pdf/field.pdf
Sources: Commonwealth War Graves Commission http://www.cwgc.org/search/casualty_details.aspx?casualty=48333; Dictionary of Irish Architects, 1720-1940 http://www.dia.ie/architects/view/4230; Journal of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club http://www.frcc.co.uk/archive/1907-1919/V2-2.pdf; Roll of Honour, Artists' Rifles http://www.archive.org/stream/regimentalrollof00highiala#page/10/mode/2up.
James G. R. Cronin, University College Cork.