|Object type||Last Post film|
Australian War Memorial
|Place made||Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell|
|Date made||2 August 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 (427427) Flying Officer John Leslie Beeson, No. 158 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 Joanne Smedley, the story for this day was on (427427) Flying Officer John Leslie Beeson, No. 158 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Second World War.
427427 Flying Officer John Leslie Beeson, No. 158 Squadron, Royal Air Force
KIA 7 February 1945
Story delivered 2 August 2015
Today we pay tribute to Flying Officer John Leslie Beeson, who was killed on active service with the Royal Air Force during the Second World War.
Born on Christmas Day 1918 in Fremantle, Western Australia, John Leslie Beeson was the son of Sydney Arthur Beeson and Catherine Maud Mary Beeson of Mount Hawthorn. In 1938 John marred Nonie Teresa Beeson. Together they had two daughters: Lesley Mary and Isabel Anne.
Prior to his enlistment in the Royal Australian Air Force in July 1942, John Beeson worked as a chemist and lab assistant. He had previously served as a gunner in the 7th Heavy Battery of the Militia.
Once in the RAAF Beeson began training as a pilot, and in July 1943 he embarked for overseas service. As part of the Empire Air Training Scheme, Beeson was one of almost 27,500 RAAF pilots, navigators, wireless operators, gunners, and engineers who joined squadrons based in Britain throughout the course of the war.
After arriving in Britain in September 1943 Beeson undertook further specialist training before being posted in August 1944 to No. 158 Squadron, Royal Air Force. As part of RAF Bomber Command, the squadron was equipped with the four-engine Handley Page Halifax heavy bomber.
On 7 February the Halifax bombers of No. 158 Squadron were participating in a raid over Germany when the Halifax in which Beeson was the pilot collided with a Halifax of No. 77 Squadron and crashed near Geldern, Germany.
Beeson ordered the crew to bail out, but only three of his seven British and Australian crewmembers were able to do so safely. Those who survived became prisoners of war.
Beeson, fellow Australian Pilot Officer Leslie John Nichols, and two fellow British crewmates were all killed in the crash.
In a letter to Beeson’s wife, the commander of No. 158 Squadron wrote that John was an “excellent pilot of an exceedingly good crew”. He was 26 years old.
His body was recovered and he is buried in a communal grave with his crewmates at the British and Commonwealth Reichswald Forest War Cemetery in Kleve, Germany.
Beeson’s name is listed here on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with around some 40,000 other Australians who died in the Second World War. His picture is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.
This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Flying Officer John Leslie Beeson and all those Australians – as well as our Allies and brothers in arms – who gave their lives for their nation.
Dr Lachlan Grant
Historian, Military History Section
Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (427427) Flying Officer John Leslie Beeson, No. 158 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Second World War (video)