The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (10119) Pilot Officer William John Lewis, No. 463 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, Second World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2021.1.1.4
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 4 January 2021
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 Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (10119) Pilot Officer William John Lewis, No. 463 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, Second World War.

Speech transcript

10119 Pilot Officer William John Lewis, No. 463 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force
KIA 10 May 1944

Today we remember and pay tribute to Pilot Officer William John Lewis.

William Lewis was born on the 29th of March 1912 in Geelong, Victoria, the son of William and Margaret Lewis. After William’s birth, the Lewis family moved to Bacchus Marsh. His father was gardener and curator of Maddingley Park.

After leaving school, William worked as a glass worker and then a fitter and mechanic. He also briefly served with the Militia’s 6th Battalion.

William Lewis enlisted with the Royal Australian Air Force on 1 April 1940, and began technical training. That July he married Edna Shea at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne.
On 13 June 1941 Lewis embarked from Sydney for overseas service, arriving in the United Kingdom at the end of August. As part of the Empire Air Training Scheme he was one of almost 27,000 RAAF pilots, navigators, wireless operators, gunners, and engineers, who joined Australian and British squadrons in Britain throughout the course of the war.

Lewis underwent thorough training in England, and in November 1942 was posted to No. 467 Squadron, RAAF. He was soon promoted to sergeant and flight engineer, and by December 1943 had been commissioned as a pilot officer and posted to No. 463 Squadron, RAAF.

On the night of 10 May, 31 Lancaster bombers from Nos 463 and 467 Squadrons, RAAF, departed as part of a major Royal Air Force raid from Waddington, England. Their target was the heavily defended railway yards at Lille in France. Pilot Officer Lewis was the flight engineer of Lancaster bomber “JO-E”, one of the squadron’s few aircraft carrying an all-Australian crew.

Twelve Lancasters were lost on the raid altogether, and 50 airmen were recorded as casualties of the mission. One of those killed was Pilot Officer William Lewis. His Lancaster failed to return to base and was presumed to have been shot down by enemy action. After the war it was determined that the aircraft had exploded, with the bulk of the wreckage falling onto a factory south of the target. Also on board were Flight Sergeants John Brown, Colin Eastgate, George Dann, and George Jones, Warrant Officer Lloyd McKenzie, and Flying Officer Dudley Ward.

The airmen who died in the raid were buried in the surrounding area. After the war the remains of Commonwealth servicemen buried in Europe were examined and identified where possible. Lewis’s remains were identified by his engineer’s brevet, in a common grave at the Forest-sur-Marque Communal Cemetery, about nine kilometres east of Lille. He was reinterred there under the inscription: “His duty fearlessly and nobly done. Ever remembered.”

Lewis left behind a daughter whom he had never met. He was 32 years old.

Pilot Officer William Lewis’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with some 40,000 others from 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 Pilot Officer William John Lewis, and all those Australians who have given their lives in service of our nation.

Christina Zissis
Editor, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (10119) Pilot Officer William John Lewis, No. 463 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, Second World War. (video)