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James Ernest Newland (1881–1949)

by Anthony Staunton

This article was published:

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James Ernest Newland (1881-1949), by unknown photographer

James Ernest Newland (1881-1949), by unknown photographer

Australian War Memorial, A02614

James Ernest Newland (1881-1949), regular soldier, was born on 22 August 1881 at Highton, Victoria, son of William Newland, labourer and later railway employee, and his wife Louisa Jane, née Wall, both Victorian born. No details of his education are known.

Newland embarked as a private in the 4th Battalion, Australian Commonwealth Horse, for service in the South African War on 26 March 1903. His unit arrived at Durban shortly before the peace treaty was signed and was soon back in Australia. He served with the Royal Australian Artillery in Victoria from July 1903 until September 1907 and was a policeman in Tasmania from March 1909 until August 1910 when he rejoined the regular army there. He served with the Australian Instructional Corps until enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force on 17 August 1914 as regimental quartermaster sergeant, 12th Battalion. On 27 December 1913, at Sheffield, Tasmania, he had married Florence May Mitchell.

Newland embarked for Egypt on 20 October and landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 where he was wounded (probably on that day) and evacuated; he was commissioned second lieutenant on 22 May when he rejoined his unit. Leaving Gallipoli for Egypt on 9 June to take charge of 12th Battalion transport, he was promoted lieutenant on 15 October and captain on 1 March 1916. He was adjutant from 15 March, sailed for France that month and took command of 'A' Company in August. On 21 August, during the battle of the Somme, he led his company in a successful attack on trenches north-east of Mouquet Farm: though recommended for the Military Cross he was instead mentioned in dispatches. Late in February 1917 the Australians followed the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg line but found strong enemy posts at Le Barque. Newland led his company in the attack on the town on 27 February but was evacuated wounded. The advance continued and Newland rejoined the battalion in time to lead his company on 8 April in the attack on Boursies. Under heavy fire he led a bombing attack against a strong-point and secured the outskirts of the village. The Germans kept a sharp fire on the position during the day and after dusk counter-attacked, driving back most of the advanced posts. Newland, assisted by Sergeant J. W. Whittle and reinforcements, charged the Germans and regained the lost ground.

On 15 April a major German counter-attack was launched against the 1st Australian Division. Newland's company was south-east of Lagnicourt and held the Germans until outflanked. Forced back, the company made a stand at a sunken road where, despite repeated attacks, they held the position until reinforcements arrived. Newland's tenacity and disregard for his own safety while encouraging his men at Lagnicourt, as well as his courage in both the attack and counter-attack at Boursies, were recognized by award of the Victoria Cross. On 5 May, during the 2nd battle of Bullecourt, he was wounded for the third time and evacuated to England; his A.I.F. appointment ended in Victoria on 2 March 1918. He carried out full-time duty as a captain (Reserve of Officers) until 31 December 1921 but this service was not recognized until 1927 as continuous employment in the military forces in a permanent capacity.

Newland's wife died of tuberculosis in 1924 and on 30 April 1925, at St Paul's Anglican Church, Bendigo, he married Heather Vivienne Broughton. Newland was promoted quartermaster and honorary major in 1930 and was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal in 1935. He retired from the army in 1941 and from April to September was deputy commissioner of the Northern Territory division of the Australian Red Cross Society. On 2 January 1942 he joined the inspection staff at Ammunition Factory, Footscray, Melbourne. Survived by his wife and their daughter, he died suddenly of heart failure at Caulfield on 19 March 1949 and was buried in the Methodist section of Brighton cemetery. In 1984 his daughter presented his V.C. and medals to the Australian War Memorial.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Defence Department, Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa, P. L. Murray ed (Melb, 1911)
  • L. M. Newton, The Story of the Twelfth (Hob, 1925)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1916 (Syd, 1929), 1917 (Syd, 1933)
  • L. Wigmore, They Dared Mightily, second ed revised and condensed by J. Williams and A. Staunton (Canb, 1986)
  • Mufti, Sept 1949, p 34
  • Reveille (Sydney), Jan 1968, p 10
  • Sabretache, Jan-Mar 1985, p 21
  • 'Royal Pavilion, Aldershot Camp', Times (London), 23 July 1917, p 9
  • Age (Melbourne), 21 Mar 1949
  • Argus (Melbourne), 21 Mar 1949
  • war diary, 12th Battalion, AIF, Aug 1914–May 1918 (Australian War Memorial)
  • recommendation for MC and VC (Australian War Memorial)
  • correspondence with Australian Red Cross Society, (Melbourne)
  • Newland papers (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Anthony Staunton, 'Newland, James Ernest (1881–1949)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1988, accessed online 23 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (Melbourne University Press), 1988

View the front pages for Volume 11

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

James Ernest Newland (1881-1949), by unknown photographer

James Ernest Newland (1881-1949), by unknown photographer

Australian War Memorial, A02614

Life Summary [details]


22 August, 1881
Highton, Victoria, Australia


19 March, 1949 (aged 67)
Caulfield, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Military Service
Key Organisations