The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Gunner John William Crane, 2/15th Field Regiment, Second World War

Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.41
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 10 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 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 , the story for this day was on Gunner John William Crane, 2/15th Field Regiment, Second World War.

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Speech transcript

QX21709 Gunner John William Crane, 2/15th Field Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery
DOD 29 May 1943

Today we remember and pay tribute to Gunner John Crane.
Popularly known as “Jack”, John William Crane was born on 5 May 1917 in Nanango, Queensland, to Edwin and Lilley Crane.

The Crane family had moved to Australia from England in the years before John’s birth, coming to reside in Nanango, where John worked as a farm hand.

On 24 June 1941, John and his older brother, Albert, enlisted together in the Second Australian Imperial Force at Maryborough.

After spending time training at Enoggera, on 10 January 1942 the brothers left from Sydney for overseas service. After travelling through Singapore, they arrived in Batavia (present-day Jakarta) in early February and marched in to Johore to be taken on strength of the 2/15th Field Regiment.

By the start of January 1942 the Japanese had advanced through Thailand and most of Malaya. The regiment’s gunners were in almost constant action, providing artillery support for the infantry withdrawal along the Malayan Peninsula towards Singapore.

The Japanese, meanwhile, were preparing their forces for the invasion of the island.

The attack on Singapore began at 10.30 pm on 8 February, when two Japanese divisions crossed the Johore Strait and attacked along the front of the 22nd Brigade. The brigade and the 2/15th inflicted heavy casualties on the attackers, and the artillery sank some barges. But with communications cut, heavily outnumbered, and the Japanese infiltrating between positions, the brigade and the 2/15th withdrew. The regiment continued to move back towards Singapore, providing artillery support when needed.

By 13 February the battle for Singapore Island was all but over and on 15 February, British forces surrendered. Two days later, the Crane brothers’ regiment began moving into the sprawling Changi prisoner-of-war camp.

After a few months in Changi the Crane brothers were allocated to F Force, one of the last labour forces to leave in mid-April of 1943, consisting of 3,662 Australians and 3,400 British.

F Force’s hardships began when they were sent to Thailand by train. Packed into suffocating metal railway trucks with little food and water, on reaching Ban Pong in Thailand, the prisoners were marched over 300 kilometres to half a dozen camps progressing toward the Burma border.

To avoid the heat, which was at its most intense in April, the prisoners marched at night, for as much as 12 to 15 hours. When the monsoonal rains began in May, paths became impossibly slippery and treacherous. Many of the men collapsed and had to drop out.

The bulk of F Force arrived utterly exhausted in mid-May at remote and primitive camps where acute supply problems aggravated widespread outbreaks of cholera, dysentery, malaria, beri beri, and diarrhoea.

Many of the men, particularly the British, were unwell even before they left. Isolated in up-country Thailand, remote from food and medical supplies, and drenched by monsoonal rains, a third of the Australians and almost two-thirds of the British prisoners died.

It wasn’t until 1945 that the Crane family received news that John died of cholera on 25 May 1943. His brother, Albert, died of dysentery seven months later.

The graves of those who died during the construction and maintenance of the Thai-Burma railway were later transferred from camp burial grounds and isolated sites along the railway into cemeteries in Thailand and Burma.

Today John Crane’s body lies at Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery, at the foot of the hills which separate Burma from Thailand, under the words: “His duty fearlessly and nobly done. Ever remembered.”
He was 26 years old.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among some 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 Gunner John William Crane, 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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