The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (416821) Warrant Officer Murray Alexander Baxter, No. 178 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Second World War

Place Europe: Poland
Accession Number PAFU2015/160.01
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 20 April 2015
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 (416821) Warrant Officer Murray Alexander Baxter, No. 178 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Second World War.

Speech transcript

416821 Warrant Officer Murray Alexander Baxter, No. 178 Squadron, Royal Air Force
KIA 15 August 1944
Photograph: P01405.012 (seated, fourth from right)

Story delivered 20 April 2015

Today we pay tribute to Warrant Officer Murray Alexander Baxter, who was killed on active service with the Royal Air Force in 1944.

Born on 17 October 1920 in Wallacedale, a small settlement in south-western Victoria, Murray Baxter was the son of Alexander and Winifred Baxter. Residing in the town of Edenhope, he attended Tabor Primary School during his formative years. A keen sportsman, he played football and cricket, and was fond of swimming.

After receiving his Merit Certificate upon finishing his schooling in 1934, Baxter worked as an orchardist. Through 1941 he served as a trooper in the 3rd Light Horse Regiment of the Militia.

On 11 October 1941, aged 20, Baxter enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force. Soon after, on 1 November 1941, he married Margaret Eileen Baxter, who gave birth to their son, Brian Kent Baxter, on 28 October 1942.

Baxter trained in the RAAF as a pilot, and in January 1943 he embarked for overseas service. As part of the Empire Air Training Scheme, Baxter 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.

Arriving in Britain in March 1943, Baxter undertook further training before being posted to No. 37 Squadron, RAF, a bomber squadron based in the Middle East. Following the completion of a tour with No. 37 Squadron, in July 1944 Baxter was posted to No. 178 Squadron, RAF. Operating successively from Egypt, Libya, and Italy, No. 178 Squadron was a four-engine heavy bomber squadron which flew the B-24 Liberator.

In August 1944 No. 178 Squadron was one of a number of Allied squadrons in Italy that was tasked with dropping supplies to the Polish Home Army and Polish insurgents, at that time engaged in desperate fighting against German forces during the Warsaw uprising.

It was a dangerous operation. Squadrons from airfields in Italy had to fly a 2,600-kilometre round-trip without fighter escort, much of it over occupied territory. Once over Warsaw they dropped their supplies at low altitudes at slow speeds. On his second such mission during this operation, Baxter was killed in action in the early hours of 15 August. He was 23 years old. His remains were recovered and buried in the Krakow Rakowicki Cemetery.

Casualties among Allied airmen involved in these operations were high, though these overall numbers were small in comparison to Polish casualties on the ground. Their uprising was eventually defeated by the Germans; more than 15,000 Polish fighters and around 200,000 Polish civilians were killed during the battle.

Baxter’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with some 40,000 Australians who died in the Second World War. His photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection. Baxter is seated fourth from the right with his No 4 Initial Training School RAAF course. He is one of seven men in the photograph that did not survive the Second World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Warrant Officer Murray Alexander Baxter, 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.

Dr Lachlan Grant
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (416821) Warrant Officer Murray Alexander Baxter, No. 178 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Second World War (video)