The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (255266) Flying Officer Stuart Patrick King, No. 20 Squadron, RAAF, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.30
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 30 January 2019
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 Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (255266) Flying Officer Stuart Patrick King, No. 20 Squadron, RAAF, Second World War.

Speech transcript

255266 Flying Officer Stuart Patrick King, No. 20 Squadron, RAAF
Flying battle 28 February 1943

Today we remember and pay tribute to Flying Officer Stuart Patrick King.

Patrick King was born in Ararat, about 200 kilometres west of Melbourne, on 22 April 1906, the son of David and Emily King.

Following his matriculation from Xavier College, he studied law at the University of Melbourne. Here he also served the usual term as a member of citizen forces, becoming part of the Melbourne University Rifles. After graduating in 1930 with a Bachelor of Laws, he was admitted to the bar in 1931.

As well as being academically gifted, King was an all-round sportsman who played first-class cricket for Victoria and Australian Rules football for St Kilda. At one point he was captain of the St Kilda cricket and football teams at the same time.

King started his cricket career first, debuting for Victoria in the 1926/27 Sheffield Shield season at the Melbourne Cricket Ground against Queensland. A right-handed wicket-keeper who batted in the middle order, his claim to fame was scoring seven of Victoria’s world record 1,107 runs against New South Wales in his debut summer. He played 12 first-class matches for Victoria, seven of which were in the Sheffield Shield.

King had also been recruited from the University Blacks Australian Rules team to play for St Kilda. In 1932 he was appointed club captain. He played mostly as a defender, but also scored 14 goals.

On 14 January 1935, King married Kathleen Patricia Lightfoot (daughter of Gerald Lightfoot, secretary of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, today known as the CSIRO) at Newman College's chapel in Melbourne. The couple went on to have two children – Gerald and Diana – with the family living in East Malvern.

When King retired from cricket in 1940, the Sporting Globe read that “cricket has lost one of its most popular players … As a batsman he was always a tough nut for bowlers to crack, as a wicketkeeper he held a high place, while he could also obtain wickets occasionally with his slow spinning deliveries.”

While King continued to use his wide knowledge and experience of cricket and Australian Rules as a contributor to the Argus and the Star newspapers, he also took up golf.

King enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force on 30 March 1942 as an intelligence officer, and in July 1942 was posted to 20 Squadron. In November, about a week after King gained the rank of flying officer, 20 Squadron relocated to Cairns. From here it conducted reconnaissance, anti-submarine and occasional bombing operations over the waters around New Guinea using Catalina flying boats.

On 28 February 1943, King was one of an 11-man crew of a Catalina for a 17-hour mission providing anti-submarine cover to a convoy heading for Milne Bay in New Guinea. After taking off at dusk, by about noon the aircraft had finished its initial duty, and headed back to Cairns. It was returning later that night when a thunderstorm developed. Just before 11 pm the aircraft sent out a garbled signal that referred to a “forced landing”. The Catalina was seen circling Fitzroy Island, rounding Cape Grafton, and disappearing to the north-east.

An extensive three-day search for the aircraft was unsuccessful. It was reported that it probably had gone into the sea after running out of fuel, and the crew members were presumed dead: Wing Commander John Daniell; Squadron Leader Eric Barkley; Flying Officer Lewis Dunham; Sergeant Norman Moore; Sergeant Keith Watson; Sergeant John O'Grady; Sergeant Allen Eather; Sergeant Alexander Elsbury; Corporal Douglas Russell; Corporal John Stain, 2437; and Flying Officer Stuart King.

King’s daughter Diana recalled that she was playing with her brother when they received the telegram containing the news: “a telegram boy came to the front gate and gave us the telegram. We ran inside to mum and said ‘Look what we’ve got’. Mum came to the front door with my grandmother, and she opened the telegram and simply collapsed. I remember the doctor came.”

With no grave but the sea, the crew’s names appear on the Port Moresby Memorial, which commemorates over 700 men of the Australian Army, the Australian Merchant Navy, and the Royal Australian Air Force who lost their lives during operations and have no known grave.

The location of the missing aircraft remained a mystery until 2013, when it was found by a diver about 50 kilometres south of Cairns. Weather and planning challenges delayed the final dives to complete the investigation until 2015, when the decision was made to leave the aircraft where it was found as a mark of respect to the crew.

As a mark of the regard in which Stuart King was held, a Pavilion at Albert Park in Melbourne was named in his honour. Today the Stuart King Pavilion is home of the Powerhouse Amateur Football Club.

His name is 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 Flying Officer Stuart Patrick King, 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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