|Last Post film
Australian War Memorial
|Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
|10 December 2016
Second World War, 1939-1945
Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
|Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.
The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (411987) Flying Officer Stanley James Bethel, No. 460 Squadron, Royal Australian 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 (411987) Flying Officer Stanley James Bethel, No. 460 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, Second World War.Film order form
411987 Flying Officer Stanley James Bethel, No. 460 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force
KIA 12 December 1944
No photograph in collection
Story delivered 12 December 2016
Today we pay tribute to Flying Officer Stanley James Bethel, who was killed on active service with the Royal Air Force during the Second World War.
Stanley Bethel was born on 18 February 1920 to Thomas and Miriam Bethel of Rockdale, New South Wales. One of three children, Stanley had a brother, Robert, and a sister, Ann.
Stanley Bethel enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force on 21 June 1941. The following month, on 19 July, his brother also enlisted in the RAAF. Stanley began training as a bomb aimer, and before long had embarked for overseas service. As part of the Empire Air Training Scheme, he 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, Bethel undertook further specialist training before being posted to No. 460 Squadron. Flying twin-engine Vickers Wellington medium bombers and then four-engine Avro Lancaster heavy bombers, the squadron consisted of Australians, Britons, Canadians, New Zealanders, and South Africans. It was the most highly decorated Australian squadron in Bomber Command, and the squadron that suffered the highest casualties, losing more than 1,000 men. Almost 600 Australians from No. 460 Squadron are listed on the Roll of Honour.
On 10 June 1944 Robert Bethel, who was with No. 97 Squadron, Royal Air Force, was shot down during an operation over France. Robert survived, but spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of war.
In late 1944 Stanley Bethel married Kathleen Haines, a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force stationed at RAF Binbrook, where No. 460 Squadron was based. Together they had a daughter, Patricia Ann, born in 1945. He never met her.
Towards the end of his second tour, on 12 December 1944, the Lancaster in which Bethel was the bomb aimer was shot down by flak during a raid on Essen in Germany. Bethel and all six of his fellow crewmates were killed in action.
Flying Officer Bethel was buried near his fellow crewmates in the British and Commonwealth Reichswald Forest War Cemetery at Kleve, in Germany. He was 24.
In 1947 Bethel’s widow and young daughter travelled to Australia to meet his family, and became permanent residents.
Stanley Bethel’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among some 40,000 Australians who died while 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 Flying Officer Stanley James Bethel, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.
Dr Lachlan Grant
Historian, Military History Section
Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (411987) Flying Officer Stanley James Bethel, No. 460 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, Second World War. (video)