David Newlands was born in 1892 in Modsary Skerray, eldest son of Angus Newlands and Margaret Mackay. They were married 1885. In the 1911 Census he is at home in Modsary with his parents and brothers and sisters. He moved away from Skerray some time before the First World
War, to become a police officer with Edinburgh City Police.
Police records held by Edinburgh City
Council Archives show that he was promoted from constable 4 class
to 3 class, on the 4 of August 1914, he then resigned
from the police on the 3 of May 1915. (See also John D Mackay from
Torroy and John Angus Grant Mackay from Tubeg)
He enlisted into the Army in Edinburgh, once he had completed his military training he
was sent to the 2 Battalion Seaforth Highlanders serving with the
10 Brigade, 4th Infantry Division in France. The 2
Battalion decimated by gas attacks at Ypres in
May received many new replacements from the Highlands of Scotland into its
ranks. A total of five men from Skerray joined the battalion at this time to
serve together at the front.
On the 1 of July 1916 the 2
Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders was on the Somme, close to the River Ancre to
take part in the attack on the village
of Beaumont Hamel. (See
John Angus Mackay, Tubeg). The battalion
then fought at High Wood, close to Longueval but made little progress due to a
lack of artillery support, the battalion then moved back to receive
At zero hour (2:05pm) on Thursday 12
of October, the 10 Brigade were in reserve on the right flank of
the 168 Brigade, 56 Division as the 1
Royal Warwick Regiment advanced 500yards, then dug in south of Hazy Trench. An
enemy counterattack was repelled in the evening, from this new position called
Antelope Trench. On the left flank the 1 Royal Irish Fusiliers
failed to take Rainy and Dewdrop Trenches to northeast of the village of Lesboeufs.
On Friday the 13 the
Commanding Officer and Scout officer from the 2 Seaforths went
forward to take a look at the ground to the battalion front. The CO decided
that a surprise attack could be made on Dewdrop Trench through dead ground,
however before the attack could be launched he was ordered to relieve the Irish
Fusiliers in the front line.
The 2 Seaforths relieved the
Irish Fusiliers by placing two companies in the front line and two in support.
‘A’ Company was placed in Burnaby Trench, ‘C’ Company was in Foggy trench, ‘D’
Company in Thistle trench and ‘B’ Company was in support at Shamrock trench.
The companies found the trenches to be in a terrible state, badly blown in with
no overhead cover. As they entered their new positions they were shelled, two
men were killed and five wounded three fatally.
At 11am on Saturday the 14 of
October, the Seaforths Commanding Officer was informed to make a night attack
at 6pm on the trenches to his front, the attack was to be from a different
direction to that which he and the scout officer had seen the previous day. The
C.O then met all his company commanders at 2:15pm in battalion headquarters as
they went through the plan of attack.
The battalion task was to attack and
consolidate Rainy and Dewdrop trenches then move on and capture the North
Gun-pits, the 2 Royal Dublin Fusiliers would attack and take the
South Gun-pits. Once the objectives were taken the trenches were to be linked
up with the Warwicks
trench and held against any counter-attack. (As this briefing was taking place
the battalion came under heavy shellfire, ‘A’ Company suffered twenty-four
The battalion immediately drew attack
stores and after a quick briefing of the men by the commanders, began to move
off at 6pm to get into position. By zero hour (6:30pm) ‘A’ and ‘C’ Companies
were in place opposite their objectives, ‘B’ Company was behind them but ‘D’
Company was not yet in position.
6:38pm ‘A’ and ‘C’ Companies began to move forward towards the enemy lines,
however they were spotted one hundred yards from the objective as the enemy put
up a red light and an intense bombardment fell in front of the gun-pits. The
Officer Commanding ‘C’ Company, Captain Woods shouted at his men to charge and
the Company rushed into the enemy lines; Woods and several others were shot
before reaching the objective.
The companies in the rear were now hung up
by artillery fire, only two officers (Lt. Cooper and Lt. Brown) and nine men
from ‘C’ Company were actually in the gun-pits. The enemy trench was at first
full of German soldiers, who however seemed almost immediately to disappear.
The small party of Seaforths remained in enemy trench for about twenty minutes,
bombing dug-outs etc, Lt. Brown was badly wounded at this time and soon only
Lt. Cooper and five men were left.
Lt Cooper then decided to withdraw, as they
did the enemy opened fire from both sides with machine-guns and launched a
bombing attack from the front. The Seaforths pulled back from the gun-pits
taking the wounded men with them; Lt Brown was temporarily stunned but
recovered consciousness and got back to the British lines.
Meanwhile ‘A’ Company had got within fifty
yards of Rainy trench before the red light went up and the attack was
discovered. The Company rushed into the enemy line, killing all the Germans who
were there; they then carried on to Dewdrop trench but were driven back by
heavy machine-gun fire.
Rainy trench was held for the next five
hours by Captain Booth and thirty men from ‘A’ Company until the CO ordered
them to evacuate the trench and return to their previous positions. This order
was carried out just before daybreak on Sunday the 15.
The 2 Battalion Seaforth
Highlanders took heavy casualties, during the attack on Rainy trench, the
battalion war diary stays they were lucky not to lose more. Three out of the
four company Sergeant-Majors were wounded, Captain Wood who had been hit in the
head and body made his way back to the battalion lines after lying out in a
shell hole, a few yards from the gun-pits. Captain Wood and Captain Booth were
both awarded the Military Cross; Sergeant Proctor from ‘A’ Company was awarded
the Military Medal, for their gallant actions during this battle.
Private David Newlands was killed in
action during the attack on Rainy Trench; he was one of sixteen other ranks to
be killed that day fifty-three were wounded. David Newlands brother John served
in the 5th Seaforth Highlanders and was wounded, another brother
Donald served in the Scots Guards. Both brothers survived the war and came home
to their family in Skerray.
SCOTTISH NATIONAL WAR
David. S/40035. Corporal. Killed in Action. F&F. 14-10-16.
COMMONWEALTH WAR GRAVES COMMISSION
Corporal David. S/40035. 2nd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders. 14-10-16.
Corporal David Newlands S/40035, 2 Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders has no known grave and is remembered on the THIEPVAL MEMORIAL, FRANCE.
More information on David Newlands is available here