The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (419900) Flight Sergeant Frank Burton Elliott, No. 122 Squadron, RAF, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2020.1.1.37
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 6 February 2020
Access Open
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
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 Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (419900) Flight Sergeant Frank Burton Elliott, No. 122 Squadron, RAF, Second World War.

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Speech transcript

419900 Flight Sergeant Frank Burton Elliott, No. 122 Squadron, RAF
Flying Battle 7 February 1945

Today we remember and pay tribute to Flight Sergeant Frank Burton Elliott.

Frank Elliott was born on 1 August 1922 in Mont Albert, Victoria, the only son of Kenyon, a local architect, and Dorothy Elliott. He had two younger sisters, Margaret and Lynette.

Frank Elliott grew up in Mont Albert and after attending the local primary school went to Mont Albert Central School for three years, Box Hill High School for one, and finally to Scotch College where he earned his leaving certificate in 1938. He was studious, but enjoyed sports, particularly tennis and cricket. He also competed in high jump for his school.

Frank and his father shared a love of trains; they built their own railway in the backyard of their home. Several train stations were added, named after family members.

After finishing school, Frank went to work for the Australasia Bank as a clerk. After working in the bank’s Melbourne branch, he was posted to the Albury branch and then the Tallangatta branch. While he was at Albury, he struck up a friendship with Miss Norma Rauber, a student at Albury High School.

On his first visit back home, his family noted that he had started smoking a pipe. The second time home, he had grown a moustache. He had also begun a course with Hemingway and Robertson’s Correspondence School, studying accountancy and secretaryship.

After the outbreak of the Second World War, Frank enlisted for service in the Militia at Tallangatta in 1941, joining the 44th Battery of the 22nd Field Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery. But he had his heart set on the Royal Australian Air Force, and in July 1942 he applied to join the RAAF and was accepted. On 8 October 1942, Burton, aged 20, travelled to the No. 1 Recruiting Centre in Melbourne where he enlisted in the RAAF.

After completing his initial training at Point Cook, Elliott was re-mustered for flying training and was sent to No. 1 Service Flying Training School at Uranquinty, New South Wales. This was Elliott’s introduction to the Empire Air Training Scheme, a Commonwealth-wide effort to train flying crew for the war in Europe.

Due to his lack of flying experience, his instructors thought that he might be too young to be a pilot, but he persevered and after two further postings to flight training schools, he was deemed ready for the next stage of his training.

Elliott was given pre-embarkation leave at the end of May and returned home to Mont Albert. As a parting gift, his parents presented him with a wristwatch which had a black watch face with luminous hands. They thought this might be useful for any flying their son would do at night.

Elliott embarked from Brisbane with other RAAF aircrew trainees on 15 June 1943, bound for Canada and further flight training. While in Canada, Elliott flew Harvard trainer and Hurricane fighter aircraft. He was awarded his flying badge on 29 October 1943 and was promoted to sergeant. He would be promoted to flight sergeant in late April 1944.

During one of his periods of leave, he met Miss J. Courtemanche of Jonquière, north of Quebec City, and they began a relationship. The couple became engaged before Elliott’s departure for England. He left on 29 May and reached his destination nine days later. He could not have failed to notice the build-up by the Allies for D-Day.

Elliott was initially posted to No. 57 Operational Training unit, where he flew Spitfire fighters. After this, he was posted to No. 3 Tactical Exercise Unit where he converted to the P51 Mustang fighter. He spent the rest of 1944 in training until, on the 14th of December, he joined No. 122 Squadron, RAF, which was equipped with Mark III P51 Mustang fighters.

No. 122 Squadron was involved in escort flights for bomber missions and Elliott had taken part in five of these flights before 7 February 1945.

As he was making ready to board his aircraft just before 2 pm on 7 January, the strap on Elliott’s watch broke. As he handed the watch to a member of his ground crew, others jokingly said, “What do we do with it if you don’t come back?” to which Elliott replied, “Hang onto it!”

Soon after, 13 Mustang fighters of No. 122 Squadron lifted off from RAF Andrews Field in Essex, England. Their mission was to rendezvous with 100 Lancaster bombers of No. 3 Group, RAF, over Belgium before escorting them into Germany. The bombers’ mission was to destroy a synthetic oil plant at the German city of Wanne-Eickel. Elliott was number six in his flight, flying a P51 Mustang Mark III, serial number FX989.

From the outset the weather was poor and when the fighters crossed the Belgian coast, they entered cloud cover at 800 feet, but climbed to over 25,000 feet where they broke cloud cover. Elliott radioed his flight leader and in a broken transmission said that he had to return to England, mentioning something about his fuel. His flight leader asked Elliott if he needed an escort, to which the Australian replied that he was all right.

Five minutes later his aircraft was heard in the clouds, apparently out of control in a spiral dive. It exploded before he broke cloud cover and pieces of the wreckage were scattered around the area of the Belgian town of Anzegem. Elliott’s body, still strapped into his seat, landed in a field nearby.

The villagers took Elliott’s body to the chapel of the Anzegem Communal Cemetery, and he was laid to rest three days later in the Kortrijk Communal Cemetery in Kortrijk, Belgium. He was 22 years old.

Three other Mustangs from different squadrons were also lost by the RAF that day in similar circumstances. One was flown by another Australian, Warrant Officer James Morgan Harris of Bathurst. Initially investigators at three crash sites thought that the aircraft had collided, but the distances between each incident ruled that out. Mechanical failure, combined with weather effects, were found to be the likely causes of each crash. The fourth crash site has never been located.

Elliott’s effects were sent home to Australia but his parents noticed that his watch was not among the items returned. But return it would. The man Elliott had handed the watch to before his fateful flight searched for Elliott’s parents’ contact details and sent the watch to them. One of Elliot’s sisters, Lynette, wore the watch in memory of her brother until her death in 2019.

In June 2019, after extensive research of Elliott’s story and archaeological searches of the main crash site and surrounds, the people of Anzegem unveiled a memorial stone to Frank Elliott in the field where his remains had been recovered in February 1945. The townspeople continue to tell the stories of Frank Elliott and other airmen who died in and around their town during the Second World War.

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 Sergeant Frank Burton Elliott, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

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