Newton, william ellis (1919-1943)

Discussion in 'Biographies' started by spidge, Sep 12, 2008.

  1. spidge

    spidge Active Member

    NEWTON, WILLIAM ELLIS (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. Six ft 3 ins (191 cm) tall and 16 stone (102 kg) in weight, he was a fine all-round sportsman who played cricket for the Victorian second XI. He worked in the silk-warehouse of Makower, McBeath & Co. Pty Ltd before enlisting in the Royal Australian Air Force on 5 February 1940. Newton qualified as a pilot and was commissioned in June. After serving as a flying instructor, he was posted in May 1942 to No.22 Squadron which was based in Port Moresby and equipped with Boston light bombers.
    In fifty-two operational sorties—90 per cent of them flown through anti-aircraft fire—Flight Lieutenant Newton displayed exceptional courage and a remarkable determination to inflict the utmost damage on the enemy. Disdaining evasive tactics, he always 'went straight at his objective' to achieve maximum accuracy with his weapons. On one occasion his aircraft's starboard engine failed over the target, but he completed the attack and then flew 160 nautical miles (296 km) to a safe airfield. His exploits earned him the nickname of 'The Firebug': 'Wherever he flew he left a big fire behind him'.
    On 16 March 1943, while leading an attack on an enemy base near Salamaua, New Guinea, Newton dived through intense and accurate shell-fire. 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.
    Newton was one of the survivors captured by the Japanese. 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. 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.
    Select Bibliography

    J. C. Waters, Valiant Youth (Syd, 1945); D. Gillison, Royal Australian Air Force 1939-1942 (Canb, 1962); A. Stephens, High Fliers (Canb, 1996); Australian Women's Weekly, 30 Oct 1943; RAAF News, Mar 1996; Sunday Sun, 29 Mar 1953; Guardian, 29 Mar 1953. More on the resources
    Author: Alan Stephens
    Print Publication Details: Alan Stephens, 'Newton, William Ellis (Bill) (1919 - 1943)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, Melbourne University Press, 2000, pp 470-471.
  2. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Newton, William Ellis (1919-1943), an Australian airman, was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest award for valor in the British armed services, after his death in World War II (1939-1945). From May 1942 to March 1943, he completed 52 operational sorties (combat missions) flying Boston bombers in New Guinea, at all times displaying outstanding courage and tenacity. While attacking a target on Salamua Isthmus on March 18, 1943, Newton's aircraft was shot down. The Japanese captured him and his gunner and, on March 29, executed both men.

    HowStuffWorks "Newton, William Ellis"

  3. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

    Have been reading a lot about him in Wings of Destiny by Charles Page as he, of course, flew Bostons with Charles Learmonth. He was quite a character but knowing what happens to him adds a touch of sadness when reading about his adventures. He was always out on the town and promising to have a "quiet night" but would be round at the Learmonths the next morning (before 22 Sqn headed to NG) borrowing a few pound. "His" aircraft was named Spirit of Sport and outlasted him as he was not flying her when he and his crew were shot down. Two crew members were seen by the other Bostons on the raid swimming to shore after Newton had angled the aircraft as far away as possible from the Japanese. For a while after the loss, it was not known whether one of the swimmers was Newton as his mates were unable to ID them.

    Charles Page's book is excellent and really fills a hole regarding The Boston Boys. I haven't been able to get hold of Newton's biography for a reasonable price yet but the Page book certainly makes up for it.
  4. liverpool annie

    liverpool annie New Member

    Flight Lieutenant William Ellis Newton
    Unit: No 22 Squadron, RAAF
    Action: 16 March 1943, Salamaua Isthmus, New Guinea (now Papua New Guinea)

    Of the four Australian airmen to be awarded a VC, Newton, 23, was the only one serving in a RAAF squadron at the time. His award was given for great courage during 10 months of operations, but particularly for his actions on 16 March 1943 when he, on three occasions, dived his Boston bomber through heavy anti-aircraft fire to hit his targets. Although his aircraft was badly damaged he flew more than 250km to make a safe landing. He returned two days later to the same location, flying again through heavy fire to hit his target, a single building. The bomb hit at the same moment his aircraft burst into flames. He flew the aircraft away from the enemy and with great skill landed the blazing plane on the water. Newton and Flight Sergeant Lyon got out of the wreck but were captured on shore. Lyon was executed on 20 March and Newton executed nine days later by the Japanese naval sub-lieutenant who captured him.

    Biography: Newton was a keen cricketer before the war, playing one game with the Victorian 2nd XI against NSW. Born on 8 June 1919 at St Kilda, he was a sergeant in the Melbourne Grammar School cadets and later found work in a Melbourne city warehouse. He joined the militia in 1938 and transferred to the RAAF on 5 February 1940. He earned his wings in June 1940 and was in training squadrons until May 1942 when he was sent to an operational squadron. He flew 52 operations in Boston dive bombers, with his fellow pilots calling him ``the firebug'' because he always left a fire burning behind him. His body was recovered when the Australians captured Salamaua six months after his death and he was buried in the Lae War Cemetery. For many years a photograph showing the execution of Australian Len Stiffleet was mistakenly thought to have shown Newton's death. While there are no known photos of the death, the story was widely circulated in Australian newspapers after it was translated from the captured diary of a Japanese soldier who witnessed it. The officer who killed Newton died in the Philippines, while Rear Admiral Fujita who ordered Lyon's death committed suicide at the end of the war.

    Our WWII VC legends | PerthNow

  5. Nostalgair

    Nostalgair New Member

    Hi All,

    Thanks for this post. Bill Newton's story is a very interesting one.

    His cricketing prowess was also of note, in fact I perused his biography at the library of the Bradman Museum.


  6. Nostalgair

    Nostalgair New Member

  7. Antipodean Andy

    Antipodean Andy New Member

    One day, I'll find that at a justafiable price. :)
  8. Kyt

    Kyt Άρης

    Strewth, even I would baulk at paying so much fo a 100 page book (seems to be some discrepancies between diffeent sellers on the web as to how many pages there are). But the cheapest retail price I could find was £20 (AUS $40ish?)
  9. Nostalgair

    Nostalgair New Member

    Luckily there's a copy in the local library here. :)

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