This week while talking to the Base WOD, (Warrant Officer Disciplinary), I was presented with a list of who the streets of RAAF Base Wagga were named after. Did you know they were all named after pilots who were awarded a Victoria Cross? Some of them are well known like Pilot Officer Rawdon Middleton, after whom the Middleton Club is named, but the majority were just “street names” to me! Take for instance the main drag, Newton Road, which is named after FLTLT William Newton, who while posted to 22 SQN based in Port Moresby, flew 52 operational missions in Boston dive bombers.
The Australian War Memorial tells the story like this:
“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 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.”
So, next time you drive down Newton Road, and look at the new Values signs, remember that this is not really a new idea, they were the same values that Newton himself displayed. What better way to be reminded of what Respect, Excellence, Agility, Dedication, Integrity and Teamwork looked like in real life! We are the proud custodians of that history, yet sadly, all too often we remain ignorant of these great stories and what they can teach us.
Chaplain Ian S Whitley