The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (VX63100) Corporal Rodney Edward Breavington, Base Ordnance Workshops Malaya AAOC, Second World War.

Accession Number PAFU2013/153.01
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 4 December 2013
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 Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

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 Troy Clayton, the story for this day was on (VX63100) Corporal Rodney Edward Breavington, Base Ordnance Workshops Malaya AAOC, Second World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

VX63100 Corporal Rodney Edward Breavington, Australian Army Ordnance Corps, 8th Division, AIF.
Executed 2 September 1942
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 4 December 2013

Today we remember and pay tribute to Corporal Rodney Edward Breavington.

Born in Southend, England, on 14 April 1904, Rodney Edward Breavington was serving as a constable in the Victorian Police Force at the outbreak of the Second World War.

Following Japan's entry to the war in December 1941, Breavington enlisted in the Second Australian Imperial Force, aged 38. Joining the Australian Army Ordnance Corps, Breavington was sent to join the 8th Division, which was fighting a fierce campaign against Japanese forces on the Malayan peninsula.

By 8 February 1942 the Japanese had landed on Singapore, and a week later the country fell to the Japanese. Breavington was one of 45,000 Australian and British troops captured in the surrender.

On 12 May 1942, Breavington and 22-year-old Private Victor Lawrence Gale escaped from the prisoner of war camp at Bukit Timah in central Singapore. They managed to obtain a small rowing boat and had rowed a distance of 200 miles before being recaptured. By then the two men were starving and suffering from disease, and they spent some time recuperating in hospital before being returned to Changi in early July.

On 2 September Breavington and Gale were two of four prisoners taken to Changi Beach where they faced a firing squad as punishment for attempts to escape. The other two men were the British soldiers Private Harold Waters of the East Surrey Regiment and Private Eric Fletcher of the Royal Army Ordinance Corps. The execution was carried out in front of senior Australian and British officers who later wrote witness testimonies.

Facing the firing squad, Breavington addressed the Japanese officers, proclaiming that he, the older man and with a higher rank, had ordered Gale to escape with him and that Gale had only been following orders. He asserted that Gale was not guilty. "Shoot me," he said, "and let the others go." The appeal fell on deaf ears. The four prisoners shook hands, and as the firing squad knelt the British and Australian officers saluted. The four men each returned the salute. A Japanese officer offered the prisoners blindfolds, but they were refused. The order to fire was given but only
one of the three men was killed in the first volley. Breavington, hit in the arm, is reported to have yelled, "For God's sake shoot me through the heart." Several more volleys were then fired until all four men were dead.

The bodies were buried in shallow graves, and were later reinterred at the Kranji Commonwealth War Cemetery.

In a letter written to Breavington's wife, the Australian senior officer in Changi, Major-General Frederick "Black Jack" Galleghan, called Breavington "the bravest man I have ever seen".

For his escape attempt and brave stand to save his friend, Breavington was posthumously Mentioned in Dispatches.

After the war the Japanese officer responsible for the execution of the four Australian and British soldiers was tried and found guilty. He was shot by firing squad on the same piece of ground on Changi Beach on 13 April 1946.

Breavington's name is listed on the Roll of Honour on your right, along with the names of over 102,000 Australians killed in war.

This is but one of the many stories of honour, courage and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Corporal Rodney Breavington, and all of those Australians - as well as our Allies and brothers in arms - who gave their lives during the Second World War.

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (VX63100) Corporal Rodney Edward Breavington, Base Ordnance Workshops Malaya AAOC, Second World War. (video)