The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (403472) Flight Lieutenant Francis Walker Grosvenor, 3 Aircraft Depot Amberley, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.223
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 11 August 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 Jana Johnston, the story for this day was on (403472) Flight Lieutenant Francis Walker Grosvenor, 3 Aircraft Depot Amberley, Second World War.

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Speech transcript

403472 Flight Lieutenant Francis Walker Grosvenor, 3 Aircraft Depot Amberley
Accidental 11 August 1944

Today we remember and pay tribute to Flight Lieutenant Francis Walker Grosvenor.

Francis Grosvenor was born on 8 May 1922 in the Sydney suburb of Marrickville. The younger son of Cowley and Jeannie Grosvenor, he was known as “Frank” to his family and friends, and later lived in Manly. He worked as an insurance clerk at T & G Life Society in Sydney, and also served for 11 months in the 1st Machine Gun Regiment, a Sydney militia reserve.

Grosvenor enlisted in Royal Australian Air Force on 7 January 1941. His brother Douglas and sister June also served in Air Force during the Second World War. After enlisting, Grosvenor began training at Bradfield Park to the north of Sydney, and later at Narrandera in the New South Wales Riverina area.

In May 1941 he embarked from Sydney for Canada, where he participated in the Empire Air Training Scheme. In this program, airmen from across the British Empire were brought together to train in Canada, and then deployed for service in various Allied air force units as required.

In September 1941, he sailed from Canada for England, where after a brief period of further training, he joined RAF No. 118 Squadron, which at that time was based in Ibsley, Hampshire. No. 118 Squadron flew Spitfire fighter aircraft in support of anti-shipping raids over the English Channel, and on bombing raids over occupied France. Grosvenor flew his last flight with No. 118 Squadron in March 1942, and by May of that year was back in Australia, ready to serve in the war in the Pacific.

In June 1942, Grosvenor joined RAAF No. 76 Squadron, which flew P40 Kittyhawk fighter aircraft. He arrived just as the squadron was transferring from Townsville, Queensland, to Milne Bay, on the south-east tip of Papua. From Milne Bay, No. 76 Squadron, in unison with No. 75 Squadron, formed part of the defences of Port Moresby, which was expected as a likely target for Japanese attack.

On 24 August 1942, No. 75 and 76 Squadrons engaged Japanese aircraft attacking Allied positions in preparation for the large Japanese landing at Milne Bay, which began in the early hours of 25 August. From this date until 3 September, Grosvenor and his unit assisted Australian and American forces by strafing Japanese troops, barges and stores. The air fight over Milne Bay was a chaotic and dangerous time for pilots. During the battle, Grosvenor was lucky to survive after his P40 Kittyhawk was shot down and crashed into the jungle. The battle of Milne Bay was the first defeat of the Japanese on land in the Second World War, and Lieutenant General Sydney Rowell, commander of New Guinea Force, later commented that the air support provided by the Australian fighter squadrons in this battle was the “decisive factor”.

After the battle of Milne Bay, Grosvenor returned to Australia to take up an instructing role. This role was vital for the war effort, as experienced pilots such as Grosvenor were able to pass on their skills to train new airmen.

On 11 August 1944, Grosvenor conducted a flight to test the carburettor of a Kittyhawk aircraft at the No. 3 Aircraft Depot at Amberley, Queensland. During the test flight, he was performing a dive manoeuvre from the north-west side of the aerodrome, when, at a height of about 300 metres, the port side tail wing of his aircraft broke off. The plane began to disintegrate mid-air before striking the ground at high speed and bursting into flames. Flight Lieutenant Grosvenor was killed instantly. He was 22 years old.

Today his remains lie buried in Ipswich General Cemetery, where over 100 servicemen of the Second World War now lie.

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 Flight Lieutenant Francis Walker Grosvenor, 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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