The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (410208) Warrant Officer Thomas Francis Beecher, No. 57 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Second World War

Place Europe: Belgium
Accession Number PAFU2014/206.01
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 23 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
Description

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 Charis May, the story for this day was on (410208) Warrant Officer Thomas Francis Beecher, No. 57 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Second World War.

Speech transcript

410208 Warrant Officer Thomas Francis Beecher, No. 57 Squadron, Royal Air Force.
KIA 22 June 1944
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 23 June 2014

Today we pay tribute to Warrant Officer Thomas Francis Beecher, who was killed on active service with the Royal Air Force on 22 June 1944.

Born in Buchan in eastern Victoria on 17 June 1914, Thomas Francis Beecher was the son of Henry and Annie Beecher. The seventh of ten children, he attended Bairnsdale Tech School and was a keen sportsman who played football and cricket. Following school, he became grocery assistant at John Cook & Co in Bairnsdale.

On 26 June 1941 Beecher enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force and began training as an air gunner. During 1942 he was married to Brenda Joyce Ross.

In January 1943 Beecher embarked for overseas service. As part of the Empire Air Training Scheme he was one of almost 16,000 RAAF pilots, navigators, wireless operators, gunners, and engineers who joined Royal Air Force squadrons throughout the course of the war.

Once in Britain he undertook further specialist training before being posted in February 1944 to No. 57 Squadron, Royal Air Force. A heavy-bomber squadron within Bomber Command, No. 57 Squadron flew the four-engined Avro Lancaster. While with the squadron Beecher flew numerous operations on targets in Germany and occupied Europe.

It was on the night of 21/22 June 1944 that Beecher was killed in action. The Lancaster in which he was flying – with a mixed crew of Britons, Australians, and Canadians – was shot down over Belgium while returning from a bombing raid on Wesseling, Germany. The captain ordered the crew to bail out, but Beecher was one of three crewmembers who did not survive. Two of the crew became prisoners of war and two others evaded capture.

Beecher’s remains were recovered and he is now buried, side by side with his British crewmates, in Schoonselhof Cemetery, Antwerp, Belgium.

He was 30 years old.

Beecher’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with around 40,000 Australians killed in 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 Warrant Officer Thomas Francis Beecher, and all of those Australians – as well as our Allies and brothers in arms – who gave their lives in the hope for a better world.

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (410208) Warrant Officer Thomas Francis Beecher, No. 57 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Second World War (video)