The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (O11315) Wing Commander Louis Thomas Spence DFC & Bar, US Air Medal, No. 77 Squadron, RAAF, Korean War

Place Asia: Korea, Pusan
Accession Number PAFU2014/405.01
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 26 October 2014
Access Open
Conflict Korea, 1950-1953
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 Andrew Smith, the story for this day was on (O11315) Wing Commander Louis Thomas Spence DFC & Bar, US Air Medal, No. 77 Squadron, RAAF, Korean War.

Speech transcript

O11315 Wing Commander Louis Thomas Spence DFC & Bar, US Air Medal, No. 77 Squadron, RAAF
KIA 9 September 1950
Photograph: 148927

Story delivered 26 October 2014

Today we remember and pay tribute to Wing Commander Louis Thomas Spence, Royal Australian Air Force.

Spence was born in Bundaberg, Queensland, on 4 April 1917. From an early age he excelled at sports, particularly tennis, and he represented his school’s first teams in cricket and Rugby League.

He enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force in March 1940 and was accepted for flying training. Near the end of his course Spence was promoted to flying officer and, after gaining his wings, was sent to North Africa, where he joined No. 3 Squadron, RAAF, flying Kittyhawk fighters. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1942 for his skills in air combat. He returned to Australia later that year as an instructor and finished the war in command of No. 452 Squadron, flying Spitfire fighters.

He briefly returned to civilian life after the war, but returned to the RAAF in 1946. He was initially posted to Canberra and then to the RAAF College at Point Cook, Victoria, where he was commanding officer of the cadet squadron.

Spence was promoted to wing commander in February 1950 and was sent to Iwakuni, Japan, to take command of No. 77 Squadron, RAAF. Initially, his role was to ready the squadron for return to Australia, but when North Korea crossed the 38th Parallel on 25 June Spence readied his squadron for action. It was not long in coming. The North Koreans had great early success, driving South Korean and American forces back to what became known as the Pusan Perimeter.

Spence led his squadron from the front, flying many operations as well as maintaining the administrative duties and other functions of a unit commanding officer. In August 1950 he was awarded the American Legion of Merit by the commander of the American Far East Air Force, Lieutenant General George E. Stratemeyer, and in early September found out that he had been selected to attend Staff College in Britain in early 1951.

On 9 September he led a flight of four Mustangs over Korea, flying ground-attack missions against North Korean targets still trying to break the Pusan Perimeter. During a low-level ground attack on storage facilities at An’gang-ni, South Korea, Spence’s Mustang was seen attempting to pull out of a dive before hitting the ground at high speed and exploding. It was only after allied troops broke out from the Pusan Perimeter a little over a week later that Spence’s body was able to be recovered from the wreck.

Wing Commander Louis Thomas Spence was laid to rest in the United Nations Memorial Cemetery at Pusan, South Korea. He was posthumously awarded a bar to his Distinguished Flying Cross and was also awarded the American Air Medal.

Lieutenant General Stratemeyer remembered him as “one of the noblest and finest officers of any service” he had ever known.

Louis Spence’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour to my left, along with the 399 others killed in the Korean War, and his photograph is displayed today 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 Wing Commander Louis Thomas Spence, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in service of our nation.

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (O11315) Wing Commander Louis Thomas Spence DFC & Bar, US Air Medal, No. 77 Squadron, RAAF, Korean War (video)