The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (14840) Leading Aircraftman Maxwell Dawson Raymond Berghouse, No. 11 Squadron, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.56
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 25 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 Gerard Pratt, the story for this day was on (14840) Leading Aircraftman Maxwell Dawson Raymond Berghouse, No. 11 Squadron, Second World War.

Speech transcript

14840 Leading Aircraftman Maxwell Dawson Raymond Berghouse, No. 11 Squadron
Flying Battle 24 February 1942

Today we remember and pay tribute to Leading Aircraftman Maxwell Dawson Raymond Berghouse.

Maxwell Berghouse, known as “Maxie” to his family and friends, was born on 24 December 1918 to Leon and Catherine Berghouse, in the Sydney suburb of Newtown. Maxwell had an older brother, John, and an identical twin brother, Raymond. Maxwell and Raymond were said to be so alike in looks that they were able to confuse friends, partners, and even family members as to their true identity. Prior to enlistment, Berghouse lived in the southern Sydney suburb of Como.

In November 1939, Maxwell Berghouse applied to join the Royal Australian Air Force, noting in a letter that he had qualifications in maths, physics, chemistry and English that would allow him to serve as a fitter or flying officer. In other records, he stated that he had served in a local militia force, worked as an electrical and mechanical fitter, obtained a certificate from Hurstville Central Tech, and played cricket, tennis, and golf.

There is some difficulty in ascertaining exactly what information Berghouse supplied while enlisting is entirely true, because Maxwell’s entrance tests to join the air force were actually sat by his twin brother Raymond, who the brothers considered to be better at exams. Raymond Berghouse sat the exams to join the air force, but the identical twin brothers were so alike that it was in fact Maxwell who eventually joined the force and fought in the war.

Maxwell Berghouse joined the Air Force in April 1940 and served under his brother’s name. He trained in Sydney, Ascot Vale, Amberley and Rathmines, and in November 1941 joined No. 11 Squadron.
When Berghouse joined No. 11 Squadron, the unit was based in Port Moresby, from where it would conduct patrols and attacks on Japanese bases off the coast of New Guinea. The squadron at the time used Catalina flying boats, an aircraft well suited to the long-range flights required in the South Pacific theatre.

On 24 February 1942, Berghouse was serving as 2nd Engineer on Catalina A24-13 when it took off from Port Moresby to attack Japanese aerodromes at Rabaul. While conducting this mission, the three Australian aircraft conducting the attack came under heavy anti-aircraft fire from Japanese warships in Rabaul Harbour. Two of the aircraft safely returned to Port Moresby, but in the chaos and confusion of the battle, Berghouse’s Catalina was not heard from again. All eight crew were reported at the time as missing in action. Berghouse was 23 years old.

It was not until 1946 that an air force inquiry officially declared the entire crew to have been killed in action, the aircraft likely to have crashed after being hit by the Japanese anti-aircraft defence.

It was also not until after the war that Maxwell Berghouse’s real name became officially recognised by the authorities, though circumstantial evidence suggests that he at least had admitted his ruse to his friends and comrades.

At the time of his death, Berghouse did not know that his fiancée Gloria was pregnant with their only child, Ray, who was born in July 1942 and would never meet his father. Despite many years of searching his flying log book was never returned to his family, seemingly lost in the confusion of that time – yet another mystery surrounding this airman.

Berghouse is commemorated on the Rabaul Memorial in Papua New Guinea, which lists of over 1,200 soldiers of the Second World War who have no known grave.
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 Leading Aircraftman Maxwell Dawson Raymond Berghouse, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

David Sutton
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (14840) Leading Aircraftman Maxwell Dawson Raymond Berghouse, No. 11 Squadron, Second World War. (video)