Flight Lieutenant William Ellis NEWTON VC

Service No: 250748
Born: St Kilda VIC, 8 June 1919
Enlisted in the RAAF: 5 February 1940 (at Parafield SA)
Unit: No. 22 Squadron
Awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), 19 October 1943
Died: Prisoner of War (Executed) (from the loss of No. 22 Squadron Boston aircraft A28-3 on 18 March 1943), Salamaua, 29 March 1943, Aged 23 Years
Buried: Lae War Cemetery, Papua New Guinea
CWGC Additional Information: Son of Charles Ellis Newton and Minnie Newton, of St. Kilda, Victoria.
Roll of Honour: St Kilda VIC
Remembered: Panel 101, Commemorative Area, Australian War Memorial, Canberra ACT

VC Citation: “Flight Lieutenant Newton served with No. 22 Squadron, RAAF, in New Guinea, from May 1942 to March 1943, and completed 52 operational sorties. Throughout, he showed 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 defences. 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 his course and bombed his target from zero 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 wings torn, petrol tanks pierced, main-planes and engines seriously damaged, and one of the main tyres flat, 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 difficult but he again attacked with his usual courage and resolution, flying a steady course through a barrage of fire and 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 position. With great skill, he brought his burning 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 the other aircrews 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 men 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 15 October 1943)

Flight Lieutenant Newton is the twelfth Australian to win the Victoria Cross in the war and his was the third award in the New Guinea campaign. He was the only RAAF VC in the Pacific.

Flying at low level on 18 March 1943, Boston A29-3 attacked a building one mile south of McDonalds Junction, Salamaua, through a barrage of anti-aircraft fire. Having made a direct hit on the target, the aircraft burst into flames. Flight Lieutenant Newton turned the aircraft away and flew along the shore, landing the aircraft in the water about 500 yards from the shore line at 1005 hours. Other crews saw two survivors swimming towards the shore.

The crew members of A29-3 were:

Sergeant Basil Gilbert Eastwood (13055) (Wireless Air Gunner)
Flight Sergeant John Lyon (401706) (Wireless Air Gunner)
Flight Lieutenant William Ellis Newton VC (250748) (Pilot)

The two survivors from the crash were Flight Lieutenant Newton and Flight Sergeant Lyon. They managed to reach the shore, but were captured by a company of the Japanese Navy. Newton was taken from Salamaua to Lae for interrogation, but was returned to Salamaua as a trophy for the Company which captured him. Newton and Lyon were both executed by the Japanese. On 20 March 1943, Flight Sergeant Lyon was bayoneted in the back by the Japanese. On 29 March 1943, Flight Lieutenant Newton was beheaded by Lt Kumai – Kumai was subsequently killed in action in the Philippines. Vice-Admiral Fujita, who authorised the executions, cut his throat at the end of the war in order to avoid punishment by the Allies.


Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour On-Line Records
Commonwealth War Graves Commission On-Line Records
Department of Veterans’ Affairs On-Line WWII Nominal Roll
National Archives of Australia On-Line Record A9300, NEWTON W E; A9845, 216


Balfe, J.D. (John Donellan) (272371) And far From Home: Flying RAAF transports in the Pacific War and after, The MacMillan Company of Australia South Melbourne VIC 3205, 1985 – Chapter 5
RAAF Directorate of Public Relations, RAAF Log, Australian War Memorial Canberra, 1943 – Chapter: All That a Man Could Do

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