The only 2 words on the medal are “For Valour”.

Flight Lieutenant Newton VC

William Ellis (Bill) Newton (1919-1943), air force officer, was born on 8 June 1919 at St Kilda, Melbourne, son of Australian-born parents Charles Ellis Newton, dentist, and his second wife Minnie, née Miller. Bill was educated to Intermediate certificate level at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School, where his masters regarded him as having qualities of leadership. 191 cm tall and 102 kg in weight.

Considered while at school to be a future leader in the community, Newton was also a talented all-round sportsman, playing cricket, Australian rules football, golf and water polo. A fast bowler in cricket, he was friends with Keith Miller, and collected the Victorian Cricket Association Colts bowling trophy for 1937–38, while Miller collected the equivalent batting prize. In January 1938, Newton dismissed Test batsman Bill Ponsford—still the only Australian to twice score 400 in a first-class innings —for 4 in a Colts game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The following year, he gained selection in the Victorian Second XI. He opened the bowling against the New South Wales Second XI—his first and only match—taking a total of 3/113 including the wickets of Ron Saggers and Arthur Morris who, like Miller, went on to become members of the Invincibles.

Newton had been a sergeant in his cadet corps at school, and joined the Citizens Military Force on 28 November 1938, serving as a private in the machine-gun section of the 6th Battalion, Royal Melbourne Regiment. Still employed in the silk warehouse when World War II broke out in September 1939, he resigned to join the Royal Australian Air Force on 5 February 1940.

Flight Lieutenant Newton served in New Guinea from May 1942 to March 1943 and completed 52 sorties. When leading an attack on March 16, 1943

Although his aircraft was repeatedly hit, he held his course and bombed the target from low level, destroying numerous buildings and supply-dumps. The plane was severely damaged—its fuselage and wings torn, engines hit, fuel tanks pierced, and one tyre punctured—but he managed to nurse the machine back home and land it safely.

Despite that harrowing experience, two days later Newton returned to the same locality for another strike. This time his target was a single building, which he attacked through a barrage of fire. At the instant his bombs scored a direct hit on the building, his aircraft burst into flames. With great skill, he brought the aeroplane down in the sea about 1000 yards (914 m) offshore. From the air his squadron colleagues saw two of the Boston’s three crew members swim ashore.

He was captured and later they beheaded him on 29 March 1943 at Salamaua. For his extraordinary fearlessness and leadership, he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. He was the only member of the R.A.A.F. to win the decoration in the Pacific theatre.

It was without regard to his own safety; he had done all that man could do to prevent his crew 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. His body was recovered when Salamaua was recaptured by Australian troops.

Details of his murder, recorded in a captured Japanese diary, shocked Australians when newspapers reported the atrocity in October 1943. After the war, Newton’s remains were recovered and buried in Lae War Cemetery.

His citation for the Victoria Cross reads:

“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 objectives. 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 flying 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 a low level. The attack resulted in the 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 flat, Flight Lieutenant Newton managed to fly it back to base and make a successful landing.

Despite this harassing experience, he returned the next day to the same locality. His target, this time a single building, was even more difficult 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 aircraft away and flew 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. Without regard to his own safety, he had done all that a 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”.

One of the 3 images depicts the intrepid low-level attacks which were an outstanding feature of Boston operations, New Guinea.

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One comment

  • Dave McDonald December 10, 2021   Reply →

    A personal dislike, the man did not “win” the Victoria Cross he was AWARDED it for his unstinting bravery and devotion to duty and his men. And deservedly so. You win races or Lotto not medals for heroism.

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