The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (404433) Sergeant Hedley Maurice Hawkins, No. 101 Squadron RAF, Second World War

Accession Number PAFU2014/301.01
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 17 August 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 Andrew Smith, the story for this day was on (404433) Sergeant Hedley Maurice Hawkins, No. 101 Squadron RAF, Second World War.

Speech transcript

404433 Sergeant Hedley Maurice Hawkins, No. 101 Squadron RAF
KIA 21 September 1942
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 17 August 2014

Today we remember and pay tribute to Sergeant Hedley Maurice Hawkins.

Hedley Hawkins was the son of Samuel and Vera Hawkins of Brisbane, Queensland. He was born on 9 August 1920. Hedley went to Virginia State School, and then on to the Brisbane State High School. He was an able student, and played cricket and football, and went on to become a clerk for the Shell Company.

In January 1939 Hedley enlisted in the Royal Australian Artillery in the Citizens’ Militia as part of his national service. Later that year hostilities broke out in Europe, and Australia was at war. In August 1940, a week after his 20th birthday, Hawkins was successful in transferring to the Royal Australian Air Force after 15 months in the Militia.

Hawkins then underwent an extended period of training in Australia and the United Kingdom. He completed his training as a pilot in mid-1942 and was posted to No. 101 Squadron of the British Royal Air Force. This squadron had been flying Wellington bombers against enemy targets in Italy and Germany. Just before Hawkins joined the squadron it took part in the celebrated “1,000 bomber raids” on targets like Cologne, Essen, and Bremen. No. 101 Squadron was preparing for a change to Lancaster bombers in October 1942, but in the meantime was flying operations in the North Sea.

On 21 September, Hawkins was piloting Wellington number X.3457 with a crew of four. It took off from RAF Station Stradishall, Suffolk, at 7.45 pm with a full load of mines. Its mission was to drop these mines in specified areas in the North Sea to disrupt shipping, and return to base shortly before 3 am the following morning. It never returned.

Hawkins’s father requested that the air force put off an official presumption of death until the end of the war. He wrote that “presumption of his death would be entirely against his interests, and furthermore, I have not abandoned hope that he is still alive”. But it was no good – Hedley Hawkins was never heard of again, and eventually it was ruled that he was killed on his last bombing run. Whether this was as a result of enemy action or an accident will never be known.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along 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 Sergeant Hedley Maurice Hawkins, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in the service of our nation.

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (404433) Sergeant Hedley Maurice Hawkins, No. 101 Squadron RAF, Second World War (video)