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Captain James Newland VC

Captain James Newland VC
Captain James Newland VC

Date of birth: 22 August 1881
Place of birth: Highton Victoria
Date of death: 19 March 1949
Place of death: Caulfield, Victoria
Unit: 41st Battalion, 11th Brigade, 3rd Division
Date of Action: 7-9, 14 April 1917
Place of Action: Boursies and Lagnicourt, France

James Newland was born at Highton, Victoria on 22 August 1881. He enlisted with the 4th Battalion and served in the Boer War before becoming a regular soldier.

While Newland was stationed in Tasmania, World War One was declared. Newland joined the AIF on 22 August 1914 as a regimental quartermaster sergeant of the 12th Battalion. He was sent to Gallipoli but was wounded shortly after. On 22 May 1915 Newland was commissioned a second lieutenant, promoted to lieutenant on 15 October and in March 1916 was promoted to captain.

In France, the 12th Battalions first major battle was at Pozieres, for which Newland was mentioned in dispatches for conspicuous courage, leadership and organisation.  In December 1916 he left his Battalion to serve at Headquarters, but was reposted back to the 12th Battalion in February 1917 as commander of A Company. After an injury in February, Newland returned to the frontline where his action would see him receive a Victoria Cross.

In the initial advance on Boursies, which began at 3 am, Newland’s company was confronted by heavy fire and many casualties were sustained. Newland then successfully led a bombing attack on a ruined mill located about 400 meters short of the village. The attack dislodged the enemy and enabled the company to move on the objective. The Australians then came under heavy shell fire during the day and at 10 pm the Germans launched a violent counter-attack.

By his personal exertion, disregard of fire and judicious use of reserves, he succeeded in dispersing the counter-attack and holding their position. The Germans broke through the company to the Right of A Company and forced them back.

Newland consolidated his men and by personal example encouraged them to repel the attack. The 9th Battalion come to reinforce the 12th and the two units combined to counter-attack with the line being restored that day.