|Place||Europe: France, Normandy|
|Object type||Last Post film|
Australian War Memorial
|Place made||Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell|
|Date made||8 July 2015|
Second World War, 1939-1945
Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
|Copying Provisions||Copy provided for personal non-commercial use|
The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (422318) Pilot Officer Walter Vincent Thurston, No. 98 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Second World War
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 (422318) Pilot Officer Walter Vincent Thurston, No. 98 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Second World War.
422318 Pilot Officer Walter Vincent Thurston, No. 98 Squadron, Royal Air Force
KIA 12 June 1944
No photograph in collection
Story delivered 8 July 2015
Today we pay tribute to Pilot Officer Walter Vincent Thurston, who was killed on active service with the Royal Air Force in 1944.
Born in Coonamble in the rural central-western plains region of New South Wales on 3 July 1917, Walter Vincent Thurston was the son of Matthew and Sara Thurston.
Before his enlistment in the Royal Air Force on 26 April 1942, Thurston worked as an accounts clerk for the Vacuum Oil Company in Sydney. He also served for two years in the 30th Battalion of the Militia.
Upon enlistment Thurston began training as a pilot, and in November 1942 he embarked from Melbourne for overseas service. As part of the Empire Air Training Scheme Thurston was one of almost 16,000 RAAF pilots, navigators, wireless operators, gunners, and engineers who joined Royal Air Force squadrons in Britain throughout the course of the war.
Before arriving in Britain Thurston spent several months undertaking further specialist training in Canada. Arriving in Britain in September 1943, Thurston completed his training, and in March 1944 he was posted to No. 98 Squadron, Royal Air Force. A bomber squadron within the 2nd Tactical Air Force, No. 98 Squadron flew the twin-engine North American B-25 Mitchell medium bomber.
Following the D-Day Normandy landings on 6 June 1944, Thurston’s squadron operated in close support of the Allied ground forces. It was during this mission, in the very early hours of 12 June, that Thurston was killed in action.
Tasked with the job of dropping flares to assist other squadrons flying operations over the city of Caen in Normandy, the B-25 Mitchell in which Thurston was a pilot was shot down. Along with Thurston, two of the other three British and Canadian crewmembers were killed.
Thurston was 26 years old. His remains were recovered and he was buried with his fellow crewmembers in a common grave in the British and Commonwealth Banneville-la-Campagne War Cemetery in Normandy, France.
In a letter to Thurston’s father, the commander of No. 98 Squadron wrote that Walter Thurston:
was an extremely popular member of his squadron, and had earned the deepest respect and admiration of us all as a brave and efficient pilot. Both he and the other members of his crew were deeply missed.
Thurston’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among some 40,000 Australians who died serving in 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 Pilot Officer Walter Vincent Thurston, 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 (422318) Pilot Officer Walter Vincent Thurston, No. 98 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Second World War (video)