The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (422801) Pilot Officer Frederick James Knight, No. 460 Squadron, RAAF, Second World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.152
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 1 June 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
Description

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 (422801) Pilot Officer Frederick James Knight, No. 460 Squadron, RAAF, Second World War.

Speech transcript

422801 Pilot Officer Frederick James Knight, No. 460 Squadron, RAAF
Flying Battle 7 June 1944

Today we remember and pay tribute to Pilot Officer Frederick James Knight.

Frederick Knight was born in the Sydney suburb of Haberfield on 8 August 1922, the son of Frederick and Margaret Knight. He grew up locally and was educated at The Scots College in Sydney. After completing school, he worked as a clerk with Mutual Life and Citizens’ Assurance Company in Sydney.

When the Second World War began, Knight was too young to enlist. Being keen to serve in the Royal Australian Air Force, he enlisted in the RAAF Reserve on 23 December 1941. Some months later, he was accepted for training as a pilot, formally enlisting on 23 May 1942.

Following his initial training, he was sent to Temora and then Point Cook where he qualified as a pilot, receiving his wings on 11 March 1943.

Knight embarked for overseas service in mid-April 1943 and arrived in England at the end of May, by which time he had been promoted to sergeant. He was posted to No. 28 Operational Training Unit, where he learned to fly Wellington, Halifax, and Lancaster bombers.

Knight was commissioned with the rank of pilot officer on 25 February 1944 and in early May was posted to No. 460 Squadron, RAAF, located at RAF Station Binbrook.

Here he met the other six members of his crew who were all Britons serving with the Royal Air Force Reserve. They were Flying Officer John James Reed, the navigator, Flying Officer William Lynam, bomb aimer, Sergeant Farewell Harrison, wireless operator, Sergeant Lionel Pearsey Croom, flight engineer, Sergeant Robert Elcombe, mid-upper turret gunner and Sergeant Leonard Wesley Hillman, rear gunner.

The operational tempo of the squadron was high, with preparations for the Allied invasion of France, known as D-Day, well underway.

No. 460 Squadron was involved in bombing targets on the night of 5/6 June 1944 as D-Day began. Further operations were conducted the following night. To assist Allied efforts and hamper those of the Germans, No. 460 Squadron was tasked with bombing a railway bridge at Vire on France’s Cotentin Peninsula.

Knight and his crew in Lancaster JB700 took off just after 10 pm on the night of 6 June. After forming up with the other 460 Squadron aircraft, they headed for France.

From one account of the flight path taken by the No. 460 Squadron formation, it appears that the bombers flew down past the Guernsey and Jersey Isles before crossing the French Coast near Coutances. As the Lancasters flew over the town, they came under heavy anti-aircraft fire and Knight’s aircraft was hit.

The damage caused to the Lancaster proved to be catastrophic. Soon after being hit the plane crashed and burst into flames just outside the town of Cerisy-la-Salle, killing all seven men on board. Of the 24 aircraft sent on this operation, only Knight’s failed to return.

The remains of Knight and his fellow crew were recovered and laid to rest in the Bayeux War Cemetery.

Frederick Knight was just 21 years old.

His grieving parents later added the following epitaph to his headstone:

He gave his tomorrows
for our todays.
Our only beloved son.

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 Pilot Officer Frederick James Knight, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (422801) Pilot Officer Frederick James Knight, No. 460 Squadron, RAAF, Second World War. (video)