The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (412898) Leading Aircraftman William Stanley Butler, No. 6 Service Flight Training School, Second World War

Place Oceania: Australia, South Australia, Mallala
Accession Number PAFU2014/186.01
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 3 June 2014
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 Craig Berelle, the story for this day was on (412898) Leading Aircraftman William Stanley Butler, No. 6 Service Flight Training School, Second World War.

Speech transcript

412898 Leading Aircraftman William Stanley Butler, No. 6 Service Flight Training School
Accidentally killed 3 June 1942
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 3 June 2014

Today we remember and pay tribute to Leading Aircraftman William Stanley Butler.

Bill Butler was born on 11 June 1949, the second of three sons born to Jack and Barbara Butler. He was born in Grenfell, New South Wales, where his father had a property, but grew up in Young. Bill was educated at the Christian Brothers’ College in Young, where he was an excellent student and passed his intermediate exams with good results. He was an enthusiastic sportsman, playing tennis, cricket, and golf, and was also active in establishing the Catholic Youth Movement in Young. After school he went on to work in the local branch of the Commonwealth Bank.

In December 1941 the Royal Australian Air Force recruiting train visited Young and inspired Butler to enlist. He was called up in August 1941 and began training to become a pilot. He was sent to a number of bases around Australia, completing training at Bradfield Park and Amberley before being sent to No. 6 Service Flight Training School at Mallala in South Australia.

On 3 June 1942 Leading Aircraftman Butler was one of four crew members flying Anson W2370 aircraft on a training flight from Mallala. He was not flying the plane and was listed as a passenger, although all four members of the crew were on air force duty for the flight. Their course took them over Lake Albert near the mouth of the Murray River, nearly 200 kilometres from their training base. The aircraft never returned.

It was later determined that the Anson had crashed into the lake while making a turn. It was believed that the local Volunteer Air Observers Corps station had been trying to assist the pilot of the aircraft to make a forced landing on the lake when a mistake was made during a turn, forcing the Anson down. The local Volunteer Air Observers Corps attempted to rescue the occupants but were unsuccessful and all four crewmembers, including Leading Aircraftman Butler, were killed.

The body of Bill Butler was recovered and sent home to Young to be buried by his family. The newspaper reported that “a wave of genuine and deep regret” swept over Grenfell and Young at the news that Bill Butler had been killed. He was the first young airman from the Grenfell district to give his life for his country during the Second World War. His loss was an extra blow to his father, whose brother had been killed in an accident weeks earlier. Jack Butler’s son had been killed eight days before his 22nd birthday.

Bill Butler’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, with around 40,000 others from the Second World War. There is no photograph in the Memorial's collection to display beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is but one of the many stories of courage and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Leading Aircraftman William Stanley Butler, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in the service of our nation.