The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (VX41607) Corporal John Joseph Flanagan, 2 Company Australian Army Service Corps, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.38
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 February 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 , the story for this day was on (VX41607) Corporal John Joseph Flanagan, 2 Company Australian Army Service Corps, Second World War.

Speech transcript

VX41607 Corporal John Joseph Flanagan, 2 Company Australian Army Service Corps
Died of Illness 15 August 1943

Today we remember and pay tribute to Corporal John Joseph Flanagan.

John Joseph Flanagan was born on 28 February 1910 in Cassilis, Victoria, one of six children born to Michael and Catherine Flanagan. Known as “Jack” to his family and friends, Flanagan grew up in Melbourne and worked as an investigator in the Tax Department. Flanagan’s father Michael passed away when Jack was only nine years old, and he was brought up by his mother and older siblings. At the time of his enlistment, he was living in Malvern in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. He was engaged to Mary Sheila Billings of Glen Iris, a nearby suburb.

Before the war, Flanagan gained valuable military service by serving in the 3rd Divisional Signals of the Citizens Military Force.

Flanagan enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 2 July 1940. He was following in the footsteps of his older brother, Matthew, who had enlisted into the Army in December 1939 and served in the Middle East.

Jack Flanagan began his initial training with the 6th Training Battalion at Mount Martha on the Mornington Peninsula, and in July 1940 transferred to the 8th Divisional Petrol Company at Seymour. He continued to train with this unit until July 1941, when he transferred once again to the 27th Brigade Australian Army Service Corps. His unit was later redesignated the 2nd Australian Army Service Corps Company of the 8th Division. Army Service Corps played a vital role in the war by providing much-needed supplies and logistical support to troops in the field.

Throughout his period of training, Flanagan showed himself to be a capable soldier: he was promoted to the rank of acting corporal in January 1941, and this rank was confirmed in August, the month that he sailed from Australia for service in Singapore.

Flanagan was one of thousands of Australian troops sent to Singapore and the Malay Peninsula throughout 1941 and early 1942 in anticipation of a Japanese attack. He served in support of troops of the 27th Brigade, and when the Japanese invasion came, he supported Australian troops as they made a fighting retreat south through Malaya and eventually onto Singapore Island.

Due to the chaotic nature of the fighting at the time, it is difficult to ascertain Flanagan’s exact movements during the fall of Singapore. He was likely either serving with an ammunition dump, or in a composite company of support soldiers brought together to bolster the Australian defences. Regardless of his exact role, he was one of 130,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers, including 15,000 Australians, taken as prisoners of war by the Japanese after the surrender of Singapore on 15 February 1942.

In the aftermath of the Allied surrender on Singapore, many families did not learn the fate of their loved ones fighting abroad. Flanagan was initially reported as missing, and it was not until many months later that his family received confirmation that he was a prisoner of war. Flanagan’s mother Catherine never found out what happened to her son. She had passed away on 27 February 1942, less than two weeks after the surrender. It is unlikely that Flanagan ever found out that his mother had died.

Flanagan was interred in the Changi prisoner of war camp in Singapore until May 1942. There he was assigned to “A Force”, a working party of approximately 6,000 Australian and British soldiers sent to work on the notorious Thai–Burma Railway.

Conditions for prisoners on the Thai–Burma Railway were terrible, and many Allied prisoners of war suffered from disease, starvation and mistreatment by Japanese guards.

After having endured the hardships on the Thai–Burma Railway for over a year, Flanagan needed treatment for tropical ulcers. On 15 August 1943, he died from septicaemia, a blood infection likely contracted from the operation, during which one of his legs had to be removed.
He was 33 years old.
He remains now lie in the Thanbyuzayat cemetery in Thailand, along with over 3,770 Allied soldiers of the Second World War.

His family did not learn of his death until 1945, and left this epitaph on his grave: “Dearly loved & sadly missed by his brothers and sisters … R.I.P.”

His fiancé Mary left messages in local newspapers declaring her grief at her lost love.

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 Corporal John Joseph Flanagan, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

David Sutton
Historian, Military History Section

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