b. 08/06/1919 St Kilda, Australia. d. 29/03/1943 Salamulua, Papua New Guinea.
Born in the Melbourne suburb of St Kilda on 8 June 1919, Bill Newton was the youngest child of dentist Charles Ellis Newton and his second wife Minnie. His three older half-siblings from Charles' earlier marriage included two brothers, John and Lindsay, and a sister, Phyllis. Bill entered Melbourne Grammar School in 1929, but two years later switched to the nearby St Kilda Park Central School as the family income was reduced through the impact of the Great Depression. In 1934, aged fifteen, he was able to return to Melbourne Grammar where, despite struggling with his schoolwork, he completed his Intermediate Certificate. He gave up further study when his father died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of fifty-one, and began working in a silk warehouse.
Considered while at school to be a future leader in the community, Newton was also a talented all-round sportsman, playing cricket, Australian rules football, golf and water polo. A fast bowler in cricket, he was friends with Keith Miller, and collected the Victorian Cricket Association (VCA) Colts bowling trophy for 1937–38, while Miller collected the equivalent batting prize. In January 1938, Newton dismissed Test batsman Bill Ponsford—still the only Australian to twice score 400 in a first-class innings —for four in a Colts game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The following year, he gained selection in Victoria's Second XI. He opened the bowling against the New South Wales Second XI—his first and only match—taking a total of 3/113 including the wickets of Ron Saggers and Arthur Morris who, like Miller, went on to become members of the Invincibles.
Newton served with No 22 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force from May 1942 to March 1943, and completed 52 operational sorties. Throughout he showed great courage and iron determination to inflict the utmost damage to the enemy. His splendid offensive flying and fighting were attended with brilliant success. He carried out many daring machine gun attacks on enemy positions incolving low level 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 the Salamulua Isthmus. 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 16th March 1943, he dived through intense fire and was hit repeatedly. Nevertheless, he kept on course and bombed his target from a low level. Although his aircraft was severely crippled, he managed to fly back to base and land safely. The following day, he led another bombing raid, which saw his aircraft burst into flames. He managed to get the aircraft as far away from enemy position's as he could, before getting the crew to bail out. He was then last seen to crash into the water, where the last of the crew swam to the shore, but Newton was nowhere to be seen. He was captured by the Japanese. He was brought back to Salamulua where on 29th March 1943, he was ceremonially beheaded by the naval officer who had captured him.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL, CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA.
BURIAL PLACE: LAE WAR CEMETERY, LAE, PAPUA NEW GUINEA.
Bill Newton's medals at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra (Memorials to Valour)
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
SECTION S, ROW A, GRAVE 4.
Townsville, Queensland (Jason Daniels)