William Ellis Newton was born in the Melbourne suburb of St Kilda on June 8, 1919 and was
educated at Melbourne Grammar School. He showed himself to be an excellent all-round sportsman,
representing his school in cricket, football and swimming before being representing his state as a member
of the Victorian 2nd Cricket Team.
At the outbreak of war with Germany in 1939 Newton gave up his job in a Melbourne silk
warehouse and enlisted with the Royal Australian Air Force where he later served as an instructor.
After Japan's entry into the war Newton was sent to New Guinea in May 1942 as a member of No. 22 Squadron
which was operating Bostons (A-20 Havocs) at the time. He flew a total of 52 sorties with the unit.
On March 18, 1943, Newton took off piloting DB-7B Boston A28-3 as one of five Bostons from 22 Squadron on a mission
to attack Japanese positions at Salamaua. Newton flew through heavy anti-aircraft fire and scored a
direct hit on a building which had escaped damage in previous attacks. Though at about the same time,
Newton's aircraft caught fire, forcing him to ditch in the ocean. Newton and one
other crew member, John Lyon, survived and managed to get to shore. Newton's aircraft and the third
crew member, Basil Eastwood, have never been found.
After swimming ashore, both Newton and Lyon were captured by the Japanese and taken to Lae
for interrogation. Newton was later returned to Salamaua where it was decided he would be executed.
And so, on March 29, 1943, F/Lt William Ellis Newton was beheaded at the side of a bomb crater.
During September 1943, after the recapture of Salamaua, the remains of the crew were recovered and temporary
buried at the Salamaua War Cemetery before being permenantly buried Lae War Cemetery at S. A. 4.
Afterwards, Newton was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery throughout constant attacks on Japanese
positions at Salamaua. According to details listed in his service record, Newton preferred not to
take evasive action through anti-aircraft fire in an effort to bring home his attack.
On one such mission, that of March 16, 1943 (two days before being shot down), Newton's
aircraft was badly damaged - "Its fuselage and wings were badly torn, its petrol tanks pierced, its
engines seriously damaged and one of its tyres holed". However, Newton continued with the attack which
resulted in the destruction of numerous buildings and fuel supplies belonging to the Japanese. Having
led this attack, F/Lt Newton then managed somehow to fly the damaged aircraft back to base and land
safely without any injury to the crew.
The Victoria Cross was presented to William's mother, Mrs Minnie Newton, by the
Governor-General of Australia in October 1943. F/Lt Newton was recommended for the award before
the details of his death were discovered. His medals are on display in the Hall of Valour at the
Australian War Memorial.
F/Lt Newton was the twelfth Australian to be awarded the Victoria Cross during the Second
World War; the third for actions in New Guinea; and the only member of the RAAF to receive the award for
actions in the Pacific theatre.
|Victoria Cross Citation
"On 16 March, Flight Lt William Newton of 22 Squadron, RAAF
flew his Boston bomber through intense and accurate shell fire and although
his aircraft was repeatedly hit, he held to his course and bombed his target
from a low level. The attack resulted in the destruction of many buildings
and dumps including two 40,000 gallon fuel installations. Newton managed
to fly his crippled aircraft back to base and successfully land. Two days
later, he again attacked Salamaua at low level but this time was shot down
and captured. On 29 March he was executed by the Japanese. For his ten months
operational flying but particularly for his actions on 16 March he was posthumously
awarded the Victoria Cross.
The citations states that: Flight Lieutenant William
Ellis Newton served with No. 22 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, in
New Guinea from May 1942 to March 1943 and completed 52 operational sorties. Throughout,
he displayed great courage and an iron determination to inflict the utmost
damage on the enemy. His splendid offensive flying and fighting were attended
with brilliant success. Disdaining evasive tactics when under the heaviest
fire, he always went straight to his objective. He carried out many daring
machine-gun attacks on enemy positions involving low-flying over long distances
in the face of continuous fire at point-blank range. On three occasions,
he dived through intense anti-aircraft fire to release his bombs on important
targets on the Salamaua Isthmus. On one of these occasions, his starboard
engine failed over the target, but he succeeded in fiying back to an airfield
160 miles away.
When leading an attack on an objective on 16 March
1943, he dived through intense and accurate shell fire and his aircraft was
hit repeatedly. Nevertheless, he held to his course and bombed his target
from low level. The attack resulted in destruction of many buildings and
dumps, including two 40,000 gallon fuel installations. Although his aircraft
was crippled, with fuselage and wing sections torn, petrol tanks pierced,
main-planes and engines seriously damaged, and one of the main tyres fiat,
Flight Lieutenant Newton managed to fly back to base and make a successful
landing. Despite this harassing experience, he returned next day to the same
locality. His target, this time a single building, was even more di~icult
but he again attacked with his usual courage and resolution, flying a steady
course through a barrage of fire. He scored a hit on the building but at
the same moment his aircraft burst into flames.
Flight Lieutenant Newton maintained control and calmly turned
his air craft away and fiew along the shore. He saw it as his duty to keep
the aircraft in the air as long as he could so as to take his crew as far
away as possible from the enemy's positions. With great skill, he brought
his blazing aircraft down on the water. Two members of the crew were able
to extricate themselves and were seen swimming to the shore, but the gallant
pilot is missing. According to other air crews who witnessed the occurrence,
his escape hatch was not opened and his dinghy was not inflated. Without
regard to his own safety, he had done all that man could do to prevent his
crew from falling into enemy hands. Flight Lieutenant Newton's many examples
of conspicuous bravery have rarely been equalled and will serve as a shining
inspiration to all who follow him." (London Gazette: 19 October 1943)
AWM Biography F/Lt William Ellis Newton
WW2 Nominal Roll - William Ellis Newton
Do you have photos or additional information to add?