The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (34759) Corporal William Joseph Carlyon Maxwell, No.2 Squadron, RAAF, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2017.1.227
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 15 August 2017
Access Open
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions 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 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 (34759) Corporal William Joseph Carlyon Maxwell, No.2 Squadron, RAAF, Second World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

34759 Corporal William Joseph Carlyon Maxwell, No.2 Squadron, RAAF
KIA 14 August 1945

Story delivered 15 August 2017

Today we remember and pay tribute to Corporal William Joseph Carlyon Maxwell.

William Maxwell was born on 27 February 1910 to Albert and Emma Maxwell. The young William Maxwell grew up in Albury and attended the local school.

In early December 1923, William’s father, Albert, contracted pneumonia and was hospitalised. Two days later, Maxwell’s mother, Emma, went into labour and was taken to the same hospital, where she gave birth to twin boys. Sadly, Albert’s health deteriorated and he died on 9 December.

After leaving school, Maxwell worked as a wool classer and mechanic. In early 1939 he enlisted for service in the militia, but it appears he did not undergo any training or join a unit.

Following the outbreak of the Second World War, Maxwell joined the Royal Australian Air Force on 6 November 1940. With his experience as a motor mechanic, he was accepted for training as an aircraft engine mechanic.

During his training and postings to several operational training units Maxwell achieved good grades. The only blemish on an otherwise spotless service record was a reprimand for failing to properly fit an oil cap to a Kittyhawk fighter plane.

Maxwell was promoted to acting corporal in 1943 but briefly relinquished his rank in April 1944 when he was posted to No. 2 Squadron, RAAF.

He joined No. 2 Squadron at Hughes Field, near Darwin, in mid-June 1944. It had recently re-equipped from Bristol Beaufort bombers to North American B-25 Mitchell bombers, and was involved in attacking Japanese airfields and other targets in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia).

As the war drew to a close, No. 2 Squadron was ordered to move to a new base at Balikpapan. On 14 August 1945, the day before the Japanese surrender ended the Second World War, Maxwell joined the crew of B-25D Mitchell Bomber, serial number A47-37, captained by Flight Lieutenant Eric White. The aircraft was part of a flight of four Mitchells detailed to travel via Biak and Morotai to Balikpapan.

After reaching the New Guinea coastline, the aircraft encountered cloudy conditions and the flight leader took his aircraft below cloud height. During a turn, the flight leader noticed Flight Lieutenant White’s aircraft turn away and disappear into a cloud. The aircraft and its crew were not seen again.

After the remaining planes reached Biak, emergency procedures were initiated and extensive air searches were carried out over several days. But no trace of Mitchell A47-37 or its crew were found. Maxwell and his crewmates were initially listed as missing. A later investigation determined that the crew had been killed when their aircraft crashed into the sea.

William Maxwell was 35 years old.

Today he and his fellow crew members are commemorated alongside the missing on the Lae Memorial in Papua New Guinea.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among some 40,000 Australians who died as a result of their service during 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 Corporal William Joseph Carlyon Maxwell, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (34759) Corporal William Joseph Carlyon Maxwell, No.2 Squadron, RAAF, Second World War. (video)