The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (402140) Squadron Leader Arthur John Sharp DFC, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.126
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 6 May 2018
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

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 Dennis Stockman, the story for this day was on (402140) Squadron Leader Arthur John Sharp DFC, Second World War.

Speech transcript

402140 Squadron Leader Arthur John Sharp DFC
Accidental death 11 March 1945
Story delivered 6 May 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Squadron Leader Arthur John Sharp.

Arthur Sharp was born on 21 February 1916, the only child of Allan and Alice Sharp of Forbes. He grew up on the family property “Pine Park” near Forbes, and went on to work as a farmer and grazier.

Sharp enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force as an aircrew trainee on 27 May 1940. He was promoted to temporary sergeant in January 1941, and the following July received his commission as a pilot officer.

On 15 August 1941, Arthur Sharp married Margaret Hufton in St. Stephen’s church, Sydney. Arthur and his best man, pilot John Venn, had to fly in for the occasion. Arthur and Margaret later had two children, Diane and Brian.

By early 1942, Sharp was a member of No. 7 Squadron, flying Hudsons on anti-submarine patrols and convoy escorts off Australia’s east coast. In March he was transferred to No. 2 Squadron.

During 1942, No. 2 Squadron maintained an intense bombing campaign against Japanese shipping and installations on islands including Timor and Ambon from May to October. The squadron was eventually awarded a United States Presidential Unit Citation.

On 15 June 1942, Sharp was part of a strike on enemy targets at Koepang, the administrative centre of Dutch Timor. When he reached the target area, his port engine failed. After dumping his bombs and some fuel, he discovered that his starboard engine would not make full power. Rather than attempting a forced landing in Timor and risking capture, he attempted to reach base – which was over 700 kilometres away, across open seas, in bad weather. He had to jettison every movable object from the plane and use his considerable skill to reach Australia and make a forced landing in three feet of water at Point Keats in the Northern Territory.

He continued flying with distinction. At Ambon he enabled six Hudsons to outshoot six Japanese Zeroes, destroying as many as three enemy aircraft. For his work here and at Koepang¬, Sharp was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

In mid-1942 Sharp was promoted to Flight Lieutenant, and six months later was posted to No. 1 Operational Training Unit as an instructor. Sharp was reported to be “one of the most popular officers”at the Royal Australian Air Force Base East at Sale, Victoria, and was heavily involved in sport, including basketball, badminton, and rowing. He was later promoted to squadron leader.

In early 1944 Sharp was transferred to No. 15 Squadron, operating out of MadangAirfield in New Guinea. Its role was to conduct anti-submarine patrols and attack Japanese positions, as well as to transport supplies and carry out reconnaissance patrols. The squadron, although based at Madang, had detachments based in Cairns and Townville, among other places.

At around 1.30 pm on 11 March 1945, Squadron Leader Sharp and his crew departed for Townsville from Amberley airfield near Ipswich in Queensland. Before getting flight clearance, Sharp was told that the weather was not good, particularly in the Townsville region – but he wanted to try anyway, on the understanding that he would go to Rockhampton if the weather worsened. The NCO in charge of flight control that day gave final clearances for takeoff, which Sharp acknowledged before taking off in Beaufort A9-566. The aircraft was never seen again.

Later that evening the alarm was raised, but none of the local airfields had received any news of Sharp’s Beaufort. Searches proved fruitless. Five days later the news that Squadron Leader Arthur Sharp and his crew were missing reached Forbes. It was not until the end of the year that Arthur Sharp’s widow and two children could be told that their husband and father was presumed to have been killed in an air accident.

The other four crew members – Flying Officer Tristram Williams, Warrant Officers John Mossop and Ernest Thompson, and Leading Aircraftman Douglas Finley – were similarly presumed to have lost their lives.

Flags were flown at half-mast at Forbes Town Hall when the news was heard, and Sharp was posthumously awarded a King’s Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air for his “courage, skill and coolness as flying instructor”.

The crash site has still not been found, and today the names of Squadron Leader Sharp and his crewmates appear on the Sydney Memorial at Rookwood.

They are also listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among almost 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 Squadron Leader Arthur John Sharp, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Duncan Beard
Editor, Military History Section

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