The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (6707) Corporal Donald Henry Nelson, No 455 Squadron, RAAF, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2017.1.248
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 05 September 2017
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Sharon Bown, the story for this day was on (6707) Corporal Donald Henry Nelson, No 455 Squadron, RAAF, Second World War.

Speech transcript

6707 Corporal Donald Henry Nelson, No 455 Squadron, RAAF
Flying Battle 5 September 1942
Photograph: SUK10121

Story delivered 5 September 2017

Today we remember and pay tribute to Corporal Donald Henry Nelson.

Donald Nelson was born on 5 November 1920, the youngest son of George and Ruby Maud Nelson of Brisbane, Queensland.

Nelson enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force on 8 January 1940 and after training joined 455 Squadron. This Australian bomber squadron became famous as part of the “Anzac Strike Wing” formed from Australian and New Zealand squadrons. Raised in early 1941, the squadron served over Europe, operating from various bases in the United Kingdom.

With the motto, “Strike and Strike Again”, 455 Squadron was the first Australian torpedo squadron, and the first Australian squadron to bomb Germany.

Throughout 1942 Allied convoys delivering vital lend-lease supplies to Soviet ports in Murmansk and Archangel came under attack from German forces in the North Sea. In June, PQ 17suffered 23 out of 34 ships lost.

455 Squadron were tasked with flying to the Soviet Union and protecting shipping convoys, patrolling the waterways, and looking for the infamous German ship, the Tirpitz.

The converted Hampden torpedo bombers of 455 Squadron assembled in the Shetland Islands off Scotland in preparation for the dangerous journey. Flying over vast tracts of unfamiliar occupied German territory in freezing conditions, their route would take them half an hour beyond the usual fuel endurance of their aircraft. Any diversions taken on account of enemy action or becoming lost could prove fatal.

The squadron took off on 4 September, headed to the northernmost tip of the Shetland Islands, and headed east to cross the border over occupied Norway, just south of the Arctic Circle.

On 5 November 1942, Donald Nelson’s aircraft was slightly north of its intended path when it crashed into Mount Arvestuottar in Swedish Lapland, probably as a result of icing. All five crew members died in the accident: Sergeant Edward John Smart, Flight Sergeant Thomas Graham Nicholls, Sergeant Louis Arthur Biggin, Sergeant John Mackenzie Oberlin Harris, and Corporal Donald Henry Nelson.

Donald Nelson was 21 years old.

He now lies in Kviberg Cemetery, in Gothenburg, Sweden, along with 46 Commonwealth soldiers of the Second World War.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among some 40,000 Australians who died while serving in the Second World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Corporal Donald Henry Nelson, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

David Sutton
Historian, Military History Section

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