Bill Newton : biography
William Ellis (Bill) Newton VC (8 June 1919 – 29 March 1943) was an Australian recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest decoration for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to a member of the British and Commonwealth armed forces. He was honoured for his actions as a bomber pilot in Papua New Guinea during March 1943 when, despite intense anti-aircraft fire, he pressed home a series of attacks on the Salamaua Isthmus, the last of which saw him forced to ditch his aircraft in the sea. Newton was still officially posted as missing when the award was made in October 1943. It later emerged that he had been taken captive by the Japanese, and executed by beheading on 29 March.
Raised in Melbourne, Newton excelled at sport, playing cricket at youth state level. He joined the Citizen Military Forces in 1938, and enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in February 1940. Described as having the dash of "an Errol Flynn or a Keith Miller",Macklin, Bravest, pp. 195–197 Newton served as a flying instructor in Australia before being posted to No. 22 Squadron, which began operating Boston light bombers in New Guinea late in 1942. Having just taken part in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, he was on his fifty-second mission when he was shot down and captured. Newton was the only Australian airman to receive a Victoria Cross for action in the South West Pacific theatre of World War II, and the sole Australian to be so decorated while flying with an RAAF squadron.
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.Staunton, Victoria Cross, pp. 253–255Weate, Bill Newton VC, p. 15 Still employed in the silk warehouse when World War II broke out in September 1939, he resigned to join the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) on 5 February 1940. at Australian War Memorial. Retrieved on 27 February 2009. He had earlier attempted to enlist when he turned eighteen in 1937, but his mother refused to give her permission; with Australia now at war, she acquiesced.Weate, Bill Newton VC, p. 9 His brothers—dentists by profession, like their father—also enlisted in the armed forces, John as a surgeon lieutenant in the Royal Australian Navy and Lindsay as a Captain in the Army Medical Corps.Weate, Bill Newton VC, p. 17
Newton undertook his initial training with No. 1 Elementary Flying Training School in Parafield, South Australia, flying De Havilland Tiger Moths, and with No. 21 (City of Melbourne) Squadron at RAAF Station Laverton, Victoria, flying CAC Wirraways. He was awarded his wings and commissioned as a pilot officer on 28 June 1940. Following advanced training on Avro Ansons with No. 1 Service Flying Training School at RAAF Point Cook in September, he was selected to become a flight instructor. He completed the requisite course at Central Flying School in Camden, New South Wales, and was promoted to flying officer on 28 December.Weate, Bill Newton VC, pp. 19–22 He subsequently began training students under the Empire Air Training Scheme at No. 2 Service Flying Training School near Wagga Wagga, under the command of Group Captain Frederick Scherger.Bowyer, For Valour, pp. 306–312
In October 1941, Newton transferred to No. 5 Service Flying Training School at Uranquinty. He found instruction frustrating, as he longed for a combat assignment. His fortunes changed in February 1942, when he was selected for the navigation course on Ansons at the General Reconnaissance School based at Laverton. From there he was sent to No. 1 Operational Training Unit at Sale, Victoria, for conversion to Lockheed Hudson twin-engined light bombers during March and April.Weate, Bill Newton VC, pp. 26–28
Raised to flight lieutenant on 1 April 1942, Newton was posted the following month to No. 22 (City of Sydney) Squadron, based at RAAF Station Richmond, New South Wales. Previously equipped with Hudsons, the unit had just begun converting to the more advanced Douglas Boston when Newton arrived. A comrade described him as a "big brash, likeable man who could drink most of us under the table, was a good pilot, good at sports, and had a way with girls". No. 22 Squadron was engaged in convoy escort and anti-submarine patrols off Sydney from July to September, before moving north to Townsville, Queensland.Page, Wings of Destiny, pp. 152–155 In November, it was deployed to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, under the control of No. 9 Operational Group RAAF. at Australian War Memorial. Retrieved on 18 May 2010.Page, Wings of Destiny, p. 164
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