The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (404104) Sergeant John Franklin James, No. 102 Squadron (RAF), Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.292
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 19 October 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 Joanne Smedley, the story for this day was on (404104) Sergeant John Franklin James, No. 102 Squadron (RAF), Second World War.

Speech transcript

404104 Sergeant John Franklin James, No. 102 Squadron (RAF)
Flying Battle 13 June 1941

Today we remember and pay tribute to Sergeant John Franklin James.

John James was born on 13 February 1916, the son of Edwin and Ellen James of the Brisbane suburb of Morningside.

James attended Morningside State School and Brisbane State High School, and later worked as a clerk at Messrs Howards Ltd, a leading motor and refrigeration firm. He enjoyed sports such as rowing, football, cricket, tennis, athletics swimming and gymnastics, and before the war gained valuable military experience by serving for three years in the Royal Corps of Signals, a Brisbane-based militia unit.

James enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force on 24 May 1940 at Brisbane and began training at various bases across New South Wales, including the No. 2 Initial Training School at Bradfield Park and the No. 5 Elementary Flying Training School at Narromine. On 3 October 1940, he embarked at Sydney for service overseas.

James sailed for Canada, where he would participate in the Empire Air Training Scheme, a program in which airmen from across the British Empire were brought together to train, and were then deployed to wherever they were needed most for the Allied war effort. As part of this program, James trained at the No. 3 Service Flying Training School in Calgary, Alberta.

Throughout his period of training, James received two promotions. In January 1941 he reached the rank of sergeant, and later that month sailed from Canada for the United Kingdom.

In April 1941, James joined RAF No. 102 Squadron, which at that time was based at Topcliffe in north Yorkshire. No. 102 Squadron was a night bombing squadron, which in 1941 flew Whitley Mark V medium bombers on raids over Germany and occupied Europe.

On 12 June 1941, James participated in a night time bombing raid intended to attack rail yards at Schwerte, a town in western Germany. The raid involved 36 Whitley bombers and six Wellington long range bombers.

James served as one of five crew members aboard aircraft Z6489, which took off from Topcliffe shortly after 11 pm on 12 June. No further communication from the aircraft was ever received by the Allied authorities. One report states that James’ aircraft was shot down during the early hours of 13 June by German ace night fighter Reinhold Knacke.

James was originally officially recorded as missing, and his family faced an agonising wait to find out his fate. They did not receive word that he was officially recorded as presumed killed until late November 1941. The official presumption was able to be made after an International Red Cross report stated that wreckage of the aircraft had been found to the south of Eindhoven in the Netherlands. All crew members were reported to have been killed, though only two bodies could be positively identified.
In a letter to the Department of Air, James’ mother wrote that the official presumption of her son’s death on account of the International Red Cross Report “has completely shattered the hope I had, that my son may be alive somewhere in enemy territory. Words fail me to express my thoughts and I can only thank you for your kindly expressed letters and sympathy in the loss of my precious son”. James was 25 years old.

James was initially buried in the grave of an unidentified airman in the Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery in the Netherlands. In 1948, his body was able to be positively identified and was moved. His remains now lie alongside those of his fellow crewmembers.

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 John Franklin James, 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 (404104) Sergeant John Franklin James, No. 102 Squadron (RAF), Second World War. (video)