James Ernest Newland VC

b. 22/08/1881 Highton, Victoria, Australia. d. 19/03/1949 Caulfield, Victoria, Australia.

James Ernest Newland (1881-1949) was born on 22nd August 1881 at Highton, Geelong, Victoria, Australia. His father, William Anthony, was a labourer and later a railway employee. His mother, Louisa Jane nee Wall, and married William at Geelong in 1879. They had a large family with eleven children in total.

James E Newland VC

James enlisted in Melbourne on 11th February 1902 and served with 4th Battalion, Australian Commonwealth Horse in the South African War. He embarked on SS Templestowe on 26th March 1902, arrived at Durban and took part in operations in the Transvaal. The peace treaty was signed soon afterwards and he returned to Australia. He then served as a gunner in the Royal Australian Artillery in Victoria between 1903 and 1907. He was promoted to Acting Bombardier in November 1904, Bombardier in December 1904 and Corporal in December 1905. He then left the military and became a policeman in Tasmania between 1909-1910. He married Florence May nee Mitchell at Sheffield, Tasmania on 27th December 1913.

James rejoined the Army in Hobart, Tasmania and served in the Australian Instructional Corps from 11th August 1910. He attended a qualifying course as a staff sergeant major at the School of Musketry at Randwick, New South Wales, passing out in 1912. When war broke out, he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces on 17th August 1914 as regimental quartermaster sergeant with 12th Battalion (No 2) at Pontville, Tasmania. He was commonly nicknamed “Skipper”. He embarked for Egypt from Hobart aboard HMAT A2 Geelong on 20th October, arriving at Alexandria before moving to Heliopolis. He was appointed Temporary Warrant Officer Class Two in the Permanent Military Forces on 29th January 1915.

He landed at Gallipoli on 25th April 1915 and received a gunshot wound to the arm between then and 28th April when he was evacuated. He was commissioned on returning to 12th Battalion on 22nd May and was appointed Battalion Transport Officer in Egypt on 9th June. He was promoted to Lieutenant in October 1915 and posted to the Transport Section at Maadi, Egypt on 3rd November.

In March 1916, he was made Honorary Captain, and the Adjutant of 12th Battalion from 15th March. He left Alexandria on 29th March and landed at Marseilles, France on 5th April. He was mentioned in despatches for his actions at Pozieres on the Somme on 21st August 1916, when he led his company in a successful attack on trenches northeast of Mouquet Farm. He was recommended for the Military Cross and later the French Croix de Guerre for this incident, but got the MID instead.

On 4th December, he fell ill with pyrexia and was admitted to No 2 General Hospital at Le Havre until 12th December. He joined the 1st Australian Division Base Depot at Etaples two days later and was attached to HQ 2nd Australian Brigade from the 18th until January 1917. After some leave in England, he was wounded by shrapnel to the face near Bapaume on 26th February. He was discharged to Base Details, Boulogne on 5th March and rejoined the Battalion later that month.

On 8th-9th April 1917 at Boursies, and 15th April 1917 northest of Lagnicourt, he performed several acts of gallantry which led to the VC. On the first occasion he organised the attack by his company on a most important objective, and led personally, under heavy fire, a bombing attack. He then rallied his company, which had suffered heavy casualties, and he was one of the first to reach the objective. On the following night his company, holding the captured position, was heavily counter-attacked. By personal exertion, utter disregard of fire, and judicious use of reserves, he succeeded in dispersing the enemy and regaining the position. On a subsequent occasion, when the company on his left was overpowered and his own company attacked from the rear, he drove off a combined attack which had developed from these directions.These attacks were renewed three or four times, and it was Capt. Newland’s tenacity and disregard for his own safety that encouraged the men to hold out. The stand made by this officer was of the greatest importance, and produced far-reaching results.

The VC was gazetted on 8th June, and he was presented with the medal by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 21st July. During the Second Battle of Bullecourt on 5th May, he had been shot in the left arm and evacuated. Following his investiture, he left for Australia. He was promoted to Warrant Officer Class Two in the Permanent Military Forces on 14th November 1917 and his appointment with the AIF was ended on 2nd March 1918 as medically unfit. He was on the Reserve of Officers on 1st October 1920 and carried out full time duty as a Captain in the Reserve until 1921. He was Honorary Captain in the Australian Instructional Corps in January 1922, and was later Quartermaster of 8th and 38th Battalions.

His wife died of tuberculosis in 1924 and he re-married to Vivienne Heather nee Broughton on 30th April 1925 at St Paul’s, Bendigo. They went on to have a daughter, Heather Dawn, born in 1926. In June 1926,  James was a founder member of Bendigo Legacy, which still cares for the families of deceased or incapacitated service veterans. He attended the ANZAC Commemoration service in 1927 in Melbourne, and took part in the march past the Duke of York (later George VI) with 25 other VCs.

He was posted to A Branch, Army Headquarters, Melbourne on 10th May 1940 until being retired on 22nd August 1941 as Honorary Lieutenant Colonel. He was appointed Deputy Commissioner of the Northern Territory Division of the Australian Red Cross Society in 1941. James died of heart failure at his home at 54 Brigg Street, Caulfield on 19th March 1949. He was buried in the Methodist section of East Brighton Cemetery, Melbourne. In addition to his VC, he was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal 1899-1901 with two clasps, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf, George VI Coronation Medal 1937, Permanent Forces of the Empire Beyond the Seas Long Service & Good Conduct Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, War Medal 1939-45 and Australia Service Medal 1939-45. His medals were donated to the Australian War Memorial, Canberra by his daughter in 1984.





Steve Lee www.memorialstovalour.co.uk – Image of the Newland VC Medal Group at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.