The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (420786) Warrant Officer Reginald John Peck, 86 Squadron, RAF, Second World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2020.1.1.334
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 29 November 2020
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 Joanne Smedley, the story for this day was on (420786) Warrant Officer Reginald John Peck, 86 Squadron, RAF, Second World War.

Speech transcript

420786 Warrant Officer Reginald John Peck, 86 Squadron, RAF
Accidental 18 November 1944

Today we remember and pay tribute to Warrant Officer Reginald John Peck.

Reginald Peck was born on 19 February 1920 in the Sydney suburb of Manly, one of five children born to John and Phyllis Peck. Known as “Reg” to his family and friends, Peck grew up in Grenfell in the central west of New South Wales. He attended the Intermediate High School in Grenfell, where he excelled at history and geography, and played cricket and tennis. After school he spent five years as an apprentice to his father, and later worked as a carpenter.

At the time of his enlistment he lived at the Metropole Hotel in Katoomba, in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.
From December 1940 Peck served in a local militia unit, and in November 1941 he joined the Royal Australian Air Force. His younger brother Harold also served in the air force, being awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross in 1945 while attached to No. 622 Squadron of the Royal Air Force.

Reginald Peck trained at bases at Bradfield Park and Temora in New South Wales, and in August 1942 sailed from Sydney for Canada, where he continued his training as part of the Empire Air Training Scheme. The Empire Air Training Scheme was a program in which airmen from across the British Empire were brought together for training, and then sent to units that required their service. In October 1943 Peck sailed from Canada for the United Kingdom, where he eventually joined No. 86 Squadron of the Royal Air Force.

No. 86 Squadron was a Coastal Command Squadron which flew anti-U-boat patrols over the North Atlantic Ocean. With this unit, Peck operated from bases at Ballykelly, in Northern Ireland, Reykjavik in Iceland, and Tain in Scotland.
Peck received several promotions throughout his training and service, and on 17 November 1944 he attained the rank of warrant officer.

A day after receiving this promotion, on 18 November 1944, Peck served as a wireless operator and air gunner on a night-time non-operational flight aboard Liberator aircraft BZ943. The flight was a training flight in which the crew were to practise operating a Leigh Light, a powerful searchlight attached to aircraft, used for spotting German U-boats at night. The aircraft took off from the base at Tain and headed in a westerly direction. Shortly before midnight, it crashed into the ocean about 18 kilometres north-east off the coast of Banff, Scotland.

All ten of the crew – six Australian, three British, and one New Zealand airmen – were killed.

The exact cause of the crash is unknown, and despite extensive searches by aircraft and rescue boat, the body of only one of the crew, Pilot Officer John Humphreys RAF, was ever found.

The commanding officer of No. 86 Squadron later wrote to Peck’s family that, “This crew was one of the very best and happiest in the unit and we here are going to feel their loss very keenly.”

Peck was 24 years old.

His name is listed in the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey, England, which records the names of over 20,000 Allied airmen of the Second World War who have no known grave.

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 Warrant Officer Reginald John Peck, 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 (420786) Warrant Officer Reginald John Peck, 86 Squadron, RAF, Second World War. (video)