The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (437236) Pilot Officer David Underwood, No. 466 Squadron RAAF, Second World War.

Place Europe: Germany
Accession Number PAFU2015/479.01
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 29 November 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 Michael Kelly, the story for this day was on (437236) Pilot Officer David Underwood, No. 466 Squadron RAAF, Second World War.

Speech transcript

437236 Pilot Officer David Underwood, No. 466 Squadron RAAF
KIA 4 November 1944
No photograph in collection – family supplied image

Story delivered 29 November 2015

Today we remember and pay tribute to Pilot Officer David Underwood, of No. 466 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force.

David Underwood was born on 9 May 1923 to Ada and Hubert Underwood, in Henley Beach, Adelaide. He was younger brother to Grace and Ian. He attended Adelaide High School, where he excelled in rowing, winning the Adelaide Rowing Club Schools Race in 1941. He was also a keen hockey player and ice skater.

Underwood had planned to study architecture at Adelaide University in 1943, but in 1942 his brother, Ian, was taken prisoner by the Japanese. Underwood “as brothers do”, wanted to go and help rescue him, and enlisted in the RAAF in December 1942.

After completing training under the Empire Air Training Scheme in Canada in 1943, Underwood was posted to No. 466 Squadron Bomber Command in May 1944. The squadron comprised mostly Australian airmen and was based in Driffield, in the “flat, bleak, and cold East Riding of Yorkshire”. Underwood was the bomb aimer and forward gunner of his crew. By November 1944 they had flown on 18 operations together.

Bomber Command crews had an extremely high fatality rate: they were at constant risk of being shot down by German fighter planes or killed by enemy troops after landing.

Airmen had different ways of dealing with the constant tension of their operations: some attended parties and visited the Boomerang Club in London. Underwood found escape in spending time with his fiancée, Joyce, and in riding his motorbike.

On 4 November 1944 Underwood’s crew was briefed that its target was to be the city of Bochum in the industrial area of the Ruhr Valley. After successfully completing their bombing run Underwood and his crew were heading for home when their Halifax Handley Page bomber was hit by anti-aircraft fire. A few moments later both wings were hit and Underwood was last seen preparing to bail out through the escape hatch at the front of the aircraft. He was declared missing in action, after which he was commissioned pilot officer.

Underwood’s mother, Ada, waited in agony to find out what had happened to her “Davy”. She wrote to the RAAF regarding his motorbike: “I cannot bring myself to give you leave to sell my darling boy’s belongings for he will be back to get them.”

It was later established that Underwood was killed in the incident, but it wasn’t until January 1945 that his death was confirmed. At that time his mother wrote: “I have just lived for my boys and they for me, now nothing matters.” Her older son, Ian, died in 1943 as a prisoner of war in Burma.

David Underwood’s body was exhumed from a cemetery in Neviges and re-interred at Reichswald Forest War Cemetery in 1948.

Underwood’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with around 40,000 others from the Second World War. His photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is one of many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Pilot Officer David Underwood, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in the service of our nation.

Marian Mazey, Education Officer
Commemoration and Visitor Engagement

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (437236) Pilot Officer David Underwood, No. 466 Squadron RAAF, Second World War. (video)