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Captain James Ernest Newland

Monday 30 March, 2020

Captain James Ernest Newland

12th Infantry Battalion, Australian Imperial Force

New Boursies and Lagnicourt, France

7-9 and 15 April 1917


James Ernest Newland was born in the Geelong suburb of Highton, Victoria, on 22 August 1881 to William Newland, a labourer, and his wife Louisa.

A career soldier, his first taste of military life occurred in 1899 when he enlisted in the Commonwealth Military Forces as just a young man.  He was sent to Cape Town, South Africa as part of the 4th Battalion, Australian Commonwealth Horse, arriving just prior to the signing of the peace treaty between the Boers and the British government in May 1902.

His eldest brother, William Andrew Newland, had also served in the Boer War the previous year as part of the 2nd Scottish Horse cavalry regiment that was raised in Melbourne.

Another two other brothers also served in World War One. 2nd Lieutenant Alfred Lindsay Newland, who had joined the 22nd Infantry Battalion and then transferred to the 6th Machine Gun Company, was killed in the Somme by enemy shellfire in November 1916. He had received his officer’s commission in the field just the previous month. Lieutenant Herbert Leslie Newland rose from the ranks serving with various field artillery units of the AIF. He, like his brothers William and James, survived the war.

When World War One was declared in August 1914, James Newland was living in Sheffield, Tasmania with his wife, Mrs Florence May Newland.  They had been married just over 12 months when war was declared.

He was 33 years old when he enlisted with the 12th Battalion, 3rd Brigade, Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in Portville, Tasmania on 17 August 1914.

He took part in the Gallipoli landing but was evacuated in May 1917 following a dangerous gunshot wound that penetrated his armpit.  It was during his treatment and convalescence in England that his Victoria Cross was presented by King George V at Buckingham Palace in 21 July 1917.

Captain James Ernest Newland VC MID returned to Australia in September 1917 and was discharged from the AIF in March 1918.

Following the war, James returned to Australia, James continued to serve in the army until 1941. His wife, Florence, died of tuberculosis in 1924 and he went on to marry Heather Vivienne Broughton in 1925.  They had one daughter.

James continued to serve in the army until 1941. During World War II, Major Newland VC was seconded to duty in 1940. At the age of 60 in 1941, he was placed on the retired list with the honorary rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

Following his departure from the army, he worked briefly for the Red Cross then joined the inspection staff at Footscray Ammunition Factory, Melbourne, until his death on 19 March 1949.  James Newland was buried with full military honours at Brighton Cemetery.

As well as the Victoria Cross Newland received service medals for the Boer War and First and Second World Wars, the King George VI Coronation Medal, and long and meritorious service medals.


For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty, in the face of heavy odds, on three separate occasions.  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 London Gazette, 8 June 1917

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