The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (23771) Sergeant Melville Beckman Tyrrell, No. 11 Squadron, RAAF, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.245
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 2 September 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 Sharon Bown, the story for this day was on (23771) Sergeant Melville Beckman Tyrrell, No. 11 Squadron, RAAF, Second World War.

Speech transcript

23771 Sergeant Melville Beckman Tyrrell, No. 11 Squadron, RAAF
Flying battle 2 September 1943

Today we remember and pay tribute to Sergeant Melville Beckman Tyrrell.
Melville Tyrrell was born on 4 October 1921 in Hughenden, Queensland.

When his mother Anna was pregnant with Melville, her husband died suddenly. Melville would never get to know his real father, but his mother later remarried. Joseph Tyrrell loved Melville and his older brother Ken as if they were his own. He and Anna went on to have another three children, Maud, Joe, and Iris.

When Anna died, the five children were left in the care of Joseph, who was head stockman for the Townsville Ross River Meatworks. After Melville finished his education at St Joseph’s Convent School, he began an apprenticeship as a fitter and turner at the meatworks, attending technical college at the same time.

During the fourth year of his apprenticeship, on 8 November 1940, Melville Tyrrell enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force. Given his experience as a fitter and turner, he was mustered as a trainee armourer.

After attending armament school at Point Cook in January 1941, Tyrrell was appointed armourer in late February, and soon afterwards joined 24 Squadron at Townsville.

On 1 May 1942 he was promoted to corporal. Towards the end of the month he was found asleep while on sentry duty in the early hours of the morning by a squadron leader, and was confined to barracks for two weeks as punishment.

In August he transferred to 453 Squadron, which was located at Sembawang in Singapore. Tyrrell’s previous misdemeanour didn’t prevent his continued advancement through the ranks, however. On 1 April 1943 he was promoted to sergeant, and shortly afterwards he joined an operational training unit at Rathmines on the western shore of Lake Macquarie in New South Wales.

Towards the end of July 1943, Sergeant Tyrell joined 11 Squadron in Cairns. Initially sent to monitor Japanese shipping with Empire flying boats, 11 Squadron had been re-equipped with Catalinas when Japan entered the war in September 1940, and was now tasked with bombing operations, long-range patrol missions, and mine-laying.

On 2 September 1943, Tyrrell was on a Catalina that took off from Cairns on a sea-mining operation to Sorong, in what was then Dutch New Guinea. The aircraft landed at Groote Eylandt to refuel before taking off that afternoon. Nothing more was ever heard of it.

The ten crewmembers were reported missing, amid speculation that they had been captured and executed by Japanese soldiers. Although there were no records of capture, a wing commander of the squadron had obtained information from Kai Islanders about the capture and execution of seven Australians. Further investigation, however, revealed that the executed personnel were not Australian, but American.

The final report issued by the RAAF in 1946, three years after the aircraft’s disappearance, declared all ten crewmembers as officially presumed to have lost their lives on 2 September 1943: Flying Officer James Percival Oliver, Flying Officer Edward Carrington Smith, Flying Officer John Walker Bissett Amess, Pilot Officer Edward Matthew Howe, Pilot Officer Athol Stewart Boyd, Flight Sergeant Richard George Hobbs, Corporal Alexander Burns, Corporal Ian Lott Penrose, Leading Aircraftman Alexander Headley Crouch, and Sergeant Melville Beckman Tyrrell who was 21 years old.

With no known grave, Melville Tyrrell was commemorated at the Lae Memorial, which bears the inscription “Here are recorded the names of the officers and men who died in New Guinea, on land, at sea and in the air, but to whom the fortune of war denied the known and honoured burial given to their comrades in death.”

In 2018, a joint RAAF/Indonesia Air Force reconnaissance mission was conducted to locate aircraft wreckage that had been discovered near Fakfak in the province of West Papua. The ruins of a Catalina found on top of a small mountain in the midst of rainforest were identified and confirmed as being the missing aircraft.

Melville Tyrrell’s 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 Sergeant Melville Beckman Tyrrell, 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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