The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (402717) Sergeant William Allan Beard, No. 3 Squadron, RAAF, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.302
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 29 October 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 Sharon Bown, the story for this day was on (402717) Sergeant William Allan Beard, No. 3 Squadron, RAAF, Second World War.

Speech transcript

402717 Sergeant William Allan Beard, No. 3 Squadron, RAAF
Killed in flying accident 16 April 1942
Story delivered 29 October 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Sergeant William Allan Beard.

William Beard was born in Sydney on 20 February 1920, the son of William and Catherine Beard of the Sydney suburb of Strathfield.

William junior’s father was English, and his mother was born in Ireland. The two separated, and his mother moved to Mittagong, where she became involved in dairy farming and took the surname Moore.

The young William Beard attended Bowral High School, where he represented the school in football and athletics, before going on to study at Sydney University.

While working in Leichardt as a ledger keeper and cashier, he paraded part-time with the 1st Heavy Battery, Royal Australian Artillery. He had been with the Militia reserve unit for almost a year when he applied to become an aircrew member of the Royal Australian Air Force in December 1939, obtaining his mother’s signature to do so.

In May the following year he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force reserve, and was finally called up in October 1940.

After attending initial training school at Bradfield Park, Beard left Australia on the 17th of February 1941 - three days before his 21st birthday – arriving in Southern Rhodesia (modern day Zimbabwe) in late March.

Southern Rhodesia was wild frontier country with few landmarks, so good dead reckoning navigation was vital. The veldt was alive with huge herds of game which the air crews shamelessly buzzed. Crews got lost, sometimes fatally, and survival training was taken seriously.

Beard attended No. 26 Elementary Flight Training School Guinea Fowl, and then No. 22 Special Flight Training School Thornhill, training to be a pilot. In August he was promoted to temporary sergeant.

Shortly afterwards, he was transferred to No. 71 Operational Training Unit at Ismailia Airfield in Egypt, where he completed his training before being posted to No. 3 Squadron in February 1942

One of the most active squadrons in the RAAF, No. 3 Squadron was a jack-of-all-trades. In addition to the conventional reconnaissance and ground attack roles of an army co-operation squadron, it defended ground forces and bombers from enemy aircraft, and conducted strikes against enemy shipping.

When Beard joined the squadron, it was involved in the see-sawing war in North Africa. In early April, the squadron began intensive training to prepare for a new campaign in which they had been ear-marked to fly their Kittyhawks as fighter-bombers. This meant learning the techniques of dive-bombing in order to counter the increasing numbers of enemy who were already experts.

On 16 April, Beard and two other pilots were taking three Kittyhawks to Geneifa for engine change. After taking off from Sidi Haneish at 4pm, Sergeant Beard’s engine failed. He tried to turn back, but the aircraft spun-in and burned.

His body was pulled from the wreckage, and he was later buried at El Alamein War Cemetery.

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 Sergeant William Allan Beard, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Duncan Beard
Editor, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (402717) Sergeant William Allan Beard, No. 3 Squadron, RAAF, Second World War. (video)