The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (415610) Flying Officer John Leonard Breed, No. 196 Squadron RAF, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.127
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 7 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 Chris Widenbar, the story for this day was on (415610) Flying Officer John Leonard Breed, No. 196 Squadron RAF, Second World War.

Speech transcript

415610 Flying Officer John Leonard Breed, No. 196 Squadron RAF
Died in flying accident 10 May 1945
Story delivered 7 May 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Flying Officer John Leonard Breed.

Fondly known as “Jack”, John Breed was born at West Midland Junction, Western Australia, on 6 January 1921, the son of Leonard and Lila Breed. He grew up in Midland Junction and attended Midland Junction High School.

After leaving school, he attended Stott’s Business College in Perth and attained his junior certificate. By the time the Second World War began, Breed was working as a junior pay clerk for the Western Australian Government Railways at Midland Junction.

After briefly serving in the Royal Australian Air Force Reserve, Breed enlisted for full-time duty in the RAAF on 7 December 1941. He completed his initial training and was posted for pilot training, spending the next year in training schools in Western Australia.

Breed embarked for England from Melbourne on 6 March 1943. Further training followed, including a conversion course to fly the four-engine Short Stirling bomber.

While training, he met Hugh Kilday, a qualified aircraft navigator who hailed from Victoria. The two became crew mates and were soon firm friends. Breed and Kilday were joined by four British servicemen from the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve which completed their crew.

In late April 1944 Breed and his crewmates were posted to No. 196 Squadron, RAF, at Keevil in Wiltshire. They found their new home a hive of activity as 196 Squadron was heavily involved in training with British paratroopers and glider troops for the impending invasion of France.

On 4 June the men of No. 196 Squadron posed for photographs as take off for the invasion of Normandy was scheduled for later that night.

While bad weather delayed the invasion, at 11.20 pm on 5 June 1944, 23 Stirlings of 196 Squadron, including one flown by Breed, took off from Keevil bound for Normandy. Aboard each aircraft were up to 20 paratroopers and their equipment.

As the aircraft crossed the Normandy coastline, German anti-aircraft fire lit up the sky. On reaching their jump point near Ranville, the paratroopers exited the aircraft. Their job done, the aircraft of 196 Squadron turned for home. The squadron lost one aircraft when it was shot down, but the remaining 22 Stirlings, including Breed’s, returned to England.

While he was in England, Breed met Joyce Mason and the pair began a relationship. They were married on 8 July 1944 in Yorkshire. Hugh Kilday attended as Breed’s best man.

On 24 July 1944 Breed was commissioned with the rank of pilot officer. He continued to fly training missions and resupply operations to resistance forces in Norway and France.

Breed’s next big operation was Market Garden in September. He flew British airborne forces to Arnhem, Holland, on 17 September and over the ensuing days flew several resupply operations to assist the besieged British paratroopers.

Breed was promoted to Flying Officer in late January 1945 and in March he took part in Operation Varsity, the Allied airborne operation which captured key bridges and towns across the Rhine River.

In April Joyce gave birth to a baby boy. The news was received with great joy by Breed’s parents in Western Australia. It would be all-too brief a time the family would spend together.

When Germany surrendered on 8 May, the British began Operation Doomsday, which saw 196 Squadron taking British troops to Norway to disarm the large number of German troops still there. In the early hours of 10 May, which was also Ascension Day, Breed and his crew took off for Norway carrying 14 British paratroopers.

They encountered heavy weather over the North Sea, and low clouds obscured visibility on the approach to Gardemoen Airport, north of Oslo. The landing was aborted, and most of the Stirlings returned to England, but for an unknown reason, several of the aircraft continued.

Around 1,500 metres from the runway, the Stirling piloted by Breed emerged from the low cloud some 300 feet from the ground. The aircraft attempted to climb, but lost power, plunged into the ground and burst into flames. Nearby locals rushed to the scene but there were no survivors.

Two more Stirlings crashed that morning and 44 men were killed. Breed was posthumously awarded a Mention in despatches.

Breed, Kilday and their crewmates were buried with the paratroopers near the scene of the crash. Their bodies were later reinterred in the Oslo Western Civil Cemetery in November 1945.

Jack Breed was 24 years old.

His name is 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 Flying Officer John Leonard Breed, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

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