Alfred Lindsay Newland (Service No. 656)
(1894 - 1916)
Alfred Lindsay Newland was born at Pomborneit about 111 miles west of Melbourne on 13 September 1894 to William Anthony Newland and Louisa Jane Newland nee Wall. He was the third youngest of 11 children and the youngest of the four Newland brothers who served in WWI and the last of James Ernest William Andrew and Herbert Leslie to enlist but only by 6 months.
At the time he enlisted on 19 February 1915 his parents William and Louise had already relocated to Laverton and Alfred was working as a labourer, single and was aged just 20 years and 5 months when he volunteered for service.
After completing his training at Broadmeadows he was assigned to ‘C’ Company of the newly-formed 22nd Battalion and following a period of basic training at Broadmeadows Private Newland and his mates boarded the HMAT A38 Ulysses on 10 May 1915 bound for the Mediterranean. Joining him in ‘C’ Company and aboard the Ulysses were William Duncan Cameron and Ernest William Peacock.
Alfred and the 22nd Battalion were part of the reinforcements that landed at Gallipoli on 5 September 1915 between 2.30am and 6.00am. The battalion had left Alexandria in the early hours of 31 August 1915 bound for Lemnos an island near the northern part of Greece and then onto the Dardanelles. On arrival the battalion marched just over two miles inland to the front line near Lone Pine. It must have been a sobering if not horrific introduction for these men on their first taste of active service as they found themselves in trenches still littered with the bodies of dead soldiers a profusion of bones and the stench of rotting flesh.
The battle for Gallipoli had raged since 25 April 1915 and the human cost on both sides had been substantial if not to say horrific. The 22nd Battalion performed defensive duties in positions north of Anzac Cove and stayed on post until the final evacuation of Gallipoli in December 1915.
After Gallipoli the battalion went to Egypt to regather its strength before joining the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France. In March 1916 and whilst still in Egypt Private Alfred Newland was sent to the School of Instruction – the first steps in the pathway for promotion and the road to an eventual commission as an officer. During the same month he was promoted to sergeant and was taken on strength as an inaugural member of the 6th Australian Machine Gun Company part of the 2nd Australian Division along with Private E Peacock and was transferred to France.
For the next three months Sergeant Newland and his colleagues were either undergoing intensive training or serving in the front line mostly in the Somme region in Fleurbaix and Bois Grenier. On July 1 the BEF launched its Somme offensive with British troops suffering 58,000 casualties on the first day – around one third of whom were killed. Towards the end of July the Australians were called into action at Pozières Ridge – described by Charles Bean, journalist and official Australian war diarist and historian, as “more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth”. In the seven weeks of fighting at Pozières and Mouquet Farm Australia’s three divisions suffered 23,000 casualties with over one third of these being either killed or dying of their wounds. Sergeant Newland’s former battalion the 22nd lost 27 officers and 656 ‘other ranks’ within this battle.
The 6th Australian Machine Gun Company was sent to Ypres in Belgium for much of September and October but by October 25 they were back in the Somme region undertaking more training and preparing themselves and their equipment for the next action in the field. Meanwhile on 18 October 1916 Alfred Newland had been promoted in the field to second lieutenant. In November the company found itself in the front line near Buire at a place called Flers – around 60 miles due west of Peronne the southernmost point of the Somme offensive. By this time the Somme offensive had virtually ground to a halt along the entire front amidst the early onset of the bitter European winter.
The front line and what are known as the forward areas receive a great deal of shelling and were subjected to what were then known as ‘five-minute madnessess’ being when the enemy would concentrate heavily on selected positions. On 8 November when Second Lieutenant Newland was leading his men of No. 2 Section to relieve the men of No. 3 Section the enemy began one of its five-minute madnessess on the precise sector where the change-over was taking place. An enemy shell fell directly in the midst of the party killing Second Lieutenant Newland one other officer three other soldiers and wounding another. This was a sad loss to the company as both officers were well respected and trusted leaders and had earned their commissions by the leadership they had shown in the field and their ability. Some months later members of both No. 2 and No. 3 Sections of the 6th Machine Gun Company erected crosses over the joint grave of their comrades.
The unit’s diary notes this event as follows:
(Courtesy: Virtual War Memorial Australia, vwma.org.au/explore/people/245676)
Second Lieutenant Alfred Lindsay (Lin) Newland is remembered at the AIF Burial Grounds just north of Flers Grass Lane Gueudecourt in the Somme France (Plot 10, Row 1, Grave 1). Items found in his possession (some returned to family) included two sealed parcels containing photos, gum leaves, railway ticket, military books, holdall, four handkerchiefs, pair mittens, pair socks, notebooks, two devotional books, Arabic book and correspondence.
There’s an intriguing postscript to Second Lieutenant Alfred Newland’s military record. Dated 13 August 1918 almost two years after he was killed in action an entry reads: “Brought to the notice of the Secretary of War, for valuable services rendered.” The following were presented to his parents:
- 23/11/1918 Form of Commission received by William Anthony Newland (Father)
- 5/9/1921 Memorial Scroll and Kings Message received by William Anthony Newland
- 29/11/1922 Victory Medal received by Louisa Jane Newland (Mother)
- 16/1/1923 Memorial Plaque received by Louisa Jane Newland
Werribee Shire Banner, 30 November 1916, p.2
Mr. and Mrs. W. Newland, of Laverton, the proud parents of a self-sacrificing family of four soldier sons, all holding rank, have been officially in formed that their son on active service, Lieut. Lindsay A., has been killed in action. A glorious and honourable death has claimed a popular personality in “Lin,” as he was favourably called. Twenty-two years of age, of powerful physique, 6ft. 2in. in height, it was a typical Australian soldier that left here 20 months ago as a private. Favoured with a great personality and a slave to duty, he quickly gained distinction on the “never-to-be-forgotten: “battle fields of Gallipoli where he fought for four months, until the evacuation. Accompanying his battalion to France “Lin” received quick promotion from sergeant to sergeant-major to warrant officer, thence to stars, to wear which had been this young soldier’s ambition. Letters that have come to hand, written before Laverton’s soldier officer fell, speak in glowing terms of his work with his machine gun section. One comrade admirer in the rank “wrote of him as a “lion.” This eulogy was indeed characteristically short and to the point, but nevertheless, coming as it does from the field of operations, speaks volumes of Lieut. Newland’s worth. As an athlete, the lieutenant will be remembered by many as a brilliant road and track racing cyclist, and also a footballer of unusual merit. On the bicycle he won many prizes, and prior to joining the forces for service abroad, great doings was expected from him by those well qualified to speak on the ability of an athlete. Mr. and Mrs. Newland still have two sons on active service, Captain Ernest, and Sergeant Herbert, whilst Staff-sergeant William, who returned from Gallipoli badly wounded, after doing sterling service as recruiting sergeant in a district in Gippsland, has been declared medically unfit. An in memoriam service, very largely attended was held by the Rev. Laceby Cecil at Laverton last Sunday.