WILLIAM NEWTON VC

Flight Lieutenant W.E.(Bill) Newton completed his pilot training in 1941, and garnered such high recommendations that he was commissioned, and to his chagrin posted immediately to training duties. After much agitation on his own behalf, he was finally posted in 1942, to the newly formed 22 squadron to fly Boston's in New Guinea. Based at Ward strip the squadron had to negotiate the Owen Stanley range to reach its targets, and Newton soon earned a reputation as a skillful courageous pilot through his direct and unflinching attacks on heavily defended targets, often refusing to take evasive action, so that he could be sure of hitting the objective. This tactic proved to be very effective, and Newton’s targets were often left in flames.

In early March 1943 their targets were in the Salamua area, and enough sorties were carried out that the enemy gunners had become familiar with the machines of 22sqn, and they with the placement and accuracy of the various guns. The crews of the guns and the aircraft became so familiar with each other that it had almost become a personal duel between them. Because the attacks were often carried out a very low levels, the gun crews were able to recognise the pilots of the Bostons, especially Newton who habitually wore a blue cricketers cap.

On March 16, a sortie against the Salamua Isthmus was carried out by six aircraft from 22sqn, led by Fl. Lt. Newton. Their objective being to hit the supply dumps near Macdonald’s road, and the adjacent anti- aircraft battery. On arrival near the target, after flying over the Owen Stanley range, Newton commenced his run in through 800m of intensely heavy and accurate anti-aircraft fire. The battery protecting the target was directly in line with the line of attack required, so the aircraft had to fly straight towards the guns, presenting the best possible target. Despite four direct hits during the run in that holed fuel tanks, punctured the fuselage in a number of places, and ruptured a wing main spar, Newton continued undaunted and dropped his bombs directly on the target from minimum altitude, as his right engine was put out of action.

Newton made a climbing turn away from the target and was able to see the fires that he had started as he began the long 290km slog back over the Owen Stanleys to base. The fire would grow to send flames shooting as high as a thousand feet, and smoke to eight thousand, destroying in the process a number of buildings and store dumps, including two forty thousand gallon fuel tanks. The remainder of the flight was uneventful, but when Newton made his landing approach, he found to his dismay that one of the main tyres had been punctured in the attack. After appraising the crew of the situation, he made a very careful touchdown, but was unable to prevent the machine swinging violently off the runway, fortunately injuring no one. The aircraft, despite being severely damaged, was repaired and flew on until June 1944 when it was destroyed in a take off crash at Gurney Strip.


Two days later, on March 18, the squadron was briefed to attack the Salamua Isthmus again, this time aiming for a building which had not been destroyed in the previous attack, and was situated right next to the anti-aircraft battery . Even though he’d barely escaped with his crew intact on the 16th, Newton flew the mission, his fifty second, with no outward signs of uneasiness, and attacked from only fifty feet this time, to make sure that they wouldn’t have to come back. He scored a direct hit on the building, and the battery scored one on him, turning his Boston into a fireball. The remaining crews in the attack saw the crippled machine turn and fly low along the shoreline, trying to put distance between them and the enemy, finally ditching in the sea on a reef near the shore, (where the aircraft remained visible until the late sixties). Two crew members were seen to leave the aircraft and swim to shore, however the pilot’s hatch was not opened, and Newton was presumed to have perished in the crash. Neither of the crew members was seen alive again.

With these actions in mind, the CO recommended Newton for a Victoria Cross on July 10.
The crew members who escaped were in fact Newton and his radio operator Fl. Sgt. Lyon, and upon reaching the shore they were picked up by some natives who began to lead the men to the Coastwatchers. Unfortunately, Newton and Lyons became distrustful of the natives and soon struck out on their own only to quickly run into a Japanese search patrol. They were recognised as aircrew and interrogated, after which Lyons was bayoneted to death. Newton was recognised as the pilot of a Boston, because of the blue cricket cap which he was carrying. He was then returned to Salamua, and beheaded. The following September, (1943) Salamua was recaptured, and Newton's body found, along with some natives who gave testimony as to his demise. Fl.Sgt.Lyon's body was not found until 1948

Flight Lieutenant W.E.(Bill) Newton