Biography

Birth date: 08 June 1919
Birth place: Australia: Victoria, Melbourne, St Kilda
Death date: 29 March 1943
Death place: New Guinea: Mubo Salamaua Area, Salamaua
Final rank: Flight Lieutenant
Service number: 748 - Second World War, 1939-1945
250748 - Second World War, 1939-1945
Unit: No. 22 Squadron

William Newton was born on 8 June 1919 at St Kilda, Melbourne. He attended the Melbourne Church of England Grammar School, becoming a keen sportsman who played cricket for the Victorian second eleven. He was working in a Melbourne silk warehouse when the Second World War began and he enlisted in the RAAF on 5 February 1940.

Having been commissioned and qualified as a pilot, Newton became a flight instructor before being posted to 22 Squadron, based in Port Moresby, in May 1942. He flew 52 operations in Boston dive bombers, consistently displaying a determination to destroy his target. Fellow airmen dubbed him "the firebug", claiming that wherever Newton flew he left a fire burning behind him.

On 16 March 1943, Newton was leading an attack against Japanese positions at Salamaua in New Guinea. As he dived through heavy anti-aircraft fire his aircraft was hit, although he was able to bomb before pulling away and coaxing his badly damaged aircraft safely back to Port Moresby. Two days later he returned to Salamaua again hitting his target and again being hit by heavy ground-fire. This time Newton's aircraft caught fire but he managed to ditch the burning aircraft in the sea, about 900 metres offshore. Two of the Boston's three crew members were seen to make it ashore by other squadron members.

Newton was one of them. He was captured by the Japanese along with Flight Sergeant J. Lyon. Both men were sent to Lae where Lyon was later executed. Newton was returned to Salamaua and on 29 March 1943 he too was executed. His death became linked with that of another Australian, Len Siffleet, a special operations sergeant who had also been captured in New Guinea. A photograph of Siffleet's beheading was found by American soldiers in April 1944 and was believed for many years to have shown Newton's execution. While no photograph of his death is known to exist, the story of Newton's execution circulated in Australian newspapers after it was translated from the captured diary of a Japanese soldier who had witnessed the incident.

His fearless approach to operational flying and the manner in which he attempted to save his crew by piloting their burning aircraft as far from Japanese positions as possible earned Newton the Victoria Cross, the only such award made to a member of the RAAF in the Pacific theatre. After the war, Newton's body was located and buried in the Lae war cemetery.

Rolls and Awards

Roll of Honour

  • Rank: Flight Lieutenant
  • Date of Death: 29 March 1943
  • Unit: No. 22 Squadron

Honours and Awards (Recommendation) : Victoria Cross

  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945

Honours and Awards : Victoria Cross

  • Unit: No. 22 Squadron
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945

Collection Items

Photograph

044535

FLIGHT LIEUTENANT WILLIAM ELLIS NEWTON, V.C. WHO SERVED WITH NO. 22 SQUADRON RAAF IN NEW GUINEA UNTIL HIS CAPTURE AND EXECUTION BY THE JAPANESE AT SALAMAUA ISTHMUS ON 1943-03-29.

044535

100644

FLIGHT LIEUTENANT WILLIAM ELLIS NEWTON VC OF NO. 22 SQUADRON RAAF BESIDE HIS AIRCRAFT, WITH AMMUNITION BELT DRAPED AROUND HIS NECK. HE WAS AWARDED THE VICTORIA CROSS POSTHUMOUSLY FOLLOWING HIS EXECUTION BY BEING BEHEADED AT SALAMAUA BY THE JAPANESE ON 1943-03-29, AFTER BEING SHOT DOWN OVER SALAMAUA...

100644

106584

PORTRAIT OF FLIGHT LIEUTENANT WILLIAM ELLIS NEWTON VC OF NO. 22 SQUADRON RAAF. NEWTON WAS AWARDED THE VICTORIA CROSS POSTHUMOUSLY. HE WAS EXECUTED BY BEING BEHEADED BY THE JAPANESE ON 29 MARCH 1943 AFTER BEING SHOT DOWN OVER SALAMAUA.

106584

106584A

Portrait of Flight Lieutenant William Ellis Newton VC of No. 22 Squadron RAAF. Newton was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously. He was executed by being beheaded by the Japanese on 29 March 1943 after being shot down over Salamaua.

106584A

121943

MELBOURNE, VIC 1945-11-30. AN INVESTITURE CEREMONY WAS HELD AT GOVERNMENT HOUSE WHERE SERVICE PERSONNEL RECEIVED AWARDS FROM THE GOVERNOR GENERAL, THE DUKE OF GLOUCESTER. MRS NEWTON WHO RECEIVED THE VC AWARDED TO HER LATE SON, FLIGHT LIEUTENANT W. E. NEWTON RAAF, CHATTING WITH THE DUKE AND DUCHESS...

121943

140898

Melbourne, Vic. 1944-04-25. A card with the words "Flight Lieutenant W. E. Newton VC, Salamaua 1943-03-29. Mother" inscribed on it, is pinned to the back of a chair holding a wreath at the Shrine of Remembrance.

140898

AC0033

DOUGLAS BOSTON AIRCRAFT OF NO. 22 SQUADRON RAAF, IN NEW GUINEA AREA. IT IS WIDELY ACCEPTED THAT BOSTON CLOSEST TO CAMERA WAS FLOWN BY 250748, THE LATE FLIGHT LIEUTENANT W.E. NEWTON, POSTHUMOUSLY AWARDED V.C.

AC0033

CNB/70/48/5

FLIGHT LIEUTENANT W.E. NEWTON, VC.

CNB/70/48/5

OG0382

SALAMAUA, NEW GUINEA. 1943-03-16. AERIAL VIEW OF ONE OF TWO ATTACKS BY BOSTON BOMBER AIRCRAFT OF NO. 22 SQUADRON RAAF CARRIED OUT AT LOW LEVEL. FLIGHT LIEUTENANT W. E. NEWTON LED THE ATTACK AGAINST STORES BUILDINGS, GUN EMPLACEMENTS AND TWO NEWLY INSTALLED 40,000 GALLON FUEL TANKS WHICH CAN BE SEEN...

OG0382

OG1149

NADZAB, NEW GUINEA. 1944-05-09. SERGEANT B. N. NALTY, GLANDORE, SA AND WARRANT OFFICER I. ARMSTRONG, SYDNEY, NSW AT THE ENTRANCE TO NEWTON FIELD, NAMED AFTER THE LATE FLIGHT LIEUTENANT W. E. NEWTON VC, ST KILDA, VIC. NOTE THE MANY SIGNS POINTING TO OTHER AREAS INCLUDING THE BOMB DUMPS AND HOSPITAL.

OG1149

OG1150

NADZAB, NEW GUINEA. 1944-05-09. SERGEANT B. N. NALTY, RAAF OF GLANDORE, SA AND WARRANT OFFICER I. ARMSTRONG, SYDNEY OF NSW AT THE ENTRANCE SIGN TO NEWTON FIELD, NAMED AFTER THE LATE FLIGHT LIEUTENANT B. NEWTON VC, RAAF OF ST KILDA, VIC.

OG1150

P00619.001

STUDIO PORTRAIT, C.1940, POSSIBLY FOR RECRUITING PURPOSES, OF THREE OFFICERS REPRESENTING THE ARMY, NAVY AND AIRFORCE. THE RAAF REPRESENTATIVE IS FLIGHT-LIEUTENANT W.E. NEWTON, LATER TO EARN A V.C., OTHERS NOT KNOWN. (DONOR: L.C. NEWTON)

P00619.001

P02134.001

Studio portrait of 250748 Flight Lieutenant (Flt Lt) William Ellis Newton VC. Flt Lt Newton was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his extraordinary courage during ten months of operational flying in Boston bomber aircraft with No. 22 Squadron RAAF. He was particularly cited for his...

P02134.001

P07175.004

Group portrait of members of No. 2 Course, No. 1 Elementary Flying Training School, Parafield, SA. Back row, left to right: 250700 Aircraftman (AC) (later Squadron Leader (Sqn Ldr)) George Lancelot Brown; 290749 AC Donald Paramor (later Sqn Ldr); 713 AC Bruce Aitken Evans, lost on operations in the...

P07175.004

Art

Flight Lieutenant William Newton

Portrait of Flight Lieutenant William Ellis Newton, VC, 22 Squadron RAAF. He was awarded the VC in 1943. During the Second World War Freedman enlisted in the RAAF and was appointed as a war artist attached to the RAAF Historical War Records Section and he worked here from 1944 to 1945, in Borneo,...

ART26991

Flight Lieutenant William Newton

This posthumous portrait of Newton in his flight gear was based on a photograph provided by the VC's brother Lindsay, and was the result of extensive research by the artist. While Cook reported the photograph was 'most valuable' in assisting him to create the work, he also carefully listened to...

ART27536

Film

Interview with Dr Newton (By the seats of their pants)

Interview with Dr Newton conducted for documentary 'By the seats of their pants'.

F00245

The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (250748) Flight Lieutenant William Ellis Newton VC, No. 22, Second World War.

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind...

PAFU2015/345.01

Private Record

Heraldry

Pacific Star : Flight Lieutenant W E Newton, 22 Squadron, RAAF

Pacific Star. Impressed reverse with recipient's details.

RELAWM32316.002

1939-45 Star : Flight Lieutenant W E Newton, 22 Squadron, RAAF

1939-45 Star. Impressed reverse with recipient's details.

RELAWM32316.001

Australia Service Medal : Flight Lieutenant W E Newton, 22 Squadron, RAAF

Australia Service Medal. Impressed around edge with recipient's details.

RELAWM32316.004

British War Medal 1939-45 : Flight Lieutenant W E Newton, 22 Squadron, RAAF

British War Medal 1939-45. Impressed around edge with recipient's details.

RELAWM32316.003

Victoria Cross : Flight Lieutenant W E Newton, 22 Squadron, RAAF

Victoria Cross. Engraved reverse suspender with recipient's details; reverse cross with date of the royal assent to the award.

RELAWM32315.001

Timeline

Date of birth 1919-06-08 St Kilda, VIC.
Date and unit at enlistment (ORs) 1940-02-05 Joined RAAF.
Date commissioned 1940-06 Commissioned as a pilot officer.
Other 1942-05 Newton appointed to his first operational squadron, No 22 Attack Squadron, based in Port Morseby.
Date of honour or award 1943-03-16 Awarded Victoria Cross for action at Salamaua Isthumus, New Guinea whilst serving with No 22 Squadron, RAAF as a flight lieutenant. When leading an attack Newton flew through heavy fire and was hit repeatedly, but in spite of this he completed he continued dropping bombs from low level on buildings and fuel dumps. He managed to get his damaged aircraft back to base. Newton returned to the target two days later and bombed a single building, but this time the aircraft was shot down. Newton was forced to crash land at sea.
Date captured 1943-03-18 Having escaped from the plane wreck Newton was captured by the troops of No 5 Special Naval Landing Force.
Date of death 1943-03-29 Newton was executed by his Japanese captors in Salamaua.