The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (403564) Wing Commander John Keith Douglas, 467 Squadron, RAAF, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.142
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 22 May 2018
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 Gerard Pratt, the story for this day was on (403564) Wing Commander John Keith Douglas, 467 Squadron, RAAF, Second World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

403564 Wing Commander John Keith Douglas, 467 Squadron, RAAF
KIA 8 February 1945
Story delivered 22 May 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Wing Commander John Keith Douglas.

John Douglas was born to Thomas and Marion Douglas of the Sydney suburb of Manly on 17 June 1921. He attended Knox Grammar School and Scots College, and later became a salesman for David Jones.

Douglas enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force in February 1941 at the age of 19. He showed a great aptitude for flying in his training in Australia and in Canada, where he was sent as a part of the Empire Air Training Scheme. From Canada he went to the United Kingdom where he was seconded to the Royal Air Force for service in Europe.

Douglas was first posted to 103 Squadron, flying 25 sorties over Europe in Halifax and Lancaster bombers. He flew with great daring and skill. On one occasion he was on a mine-laying operation in heavy cloud. Although his blind flying instruments stopped working, he carried on and finished the mission. On another occasion he was approaching his target over Munich when his aircraft was attacked by an enemy night fighter. Douglas skilfully manoeuvred his plane into a position which enabled his gunners to destroy the fighter, after which he calmly flew over the target. For these exploits he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

In 1944 he switched to flying Lancaster bombers and was posted to 460 Squadron for six operations over Europe. During this time he was awarded the Air Force Cross. Displaying quiet confidence and a keen spirit, Douglas was a man who commanded respect. In October 1944 he was promoted to wing commander, one of the youngest squadron commanders in the Royal Australian Air Force. He flew a further seven successful operations over Europe with his new squadron in a Lancaster bomber.

On 8 February 1945, Wing Commander Douglas and his crew flew a sortie against the Dortmund-Ems Canal. Around 15 minutes after leaving the target, their Lancaster bomber gave a great lurch, having probably been hit by an enemy night fighter. Soon the port wing was on fire and Douglas gave the order to bail out. Four of his crew jumped successfully: three were made prisoners of war and one managed to escape capture, making his way to England. But three crew members, including Wing Commander John Douglas, who was holding the plane steady so that the others could get out, did not survive the accident. Their bodies were recovered by the Germans and buried. They now lie in the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.

John Douglas was 23 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 Wing Commander John Keith Douglas, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Meleah Hampton
Historian, Military History Section

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