The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (432668) Flight Sergeant Mervyn Walter Harrison, No. 463 Squadron, RAAF, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2021.1.1.86
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 27 March 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

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 (432668) Flight Sergeant Mervyn Walter Harrison, No. 463 Squadron, RAAF, Second World War.

Speech transcript

432668 Flight Sergeant Mervyn Walter Harrison, No. 463 Squadron, RAAF
Flying battle 29 July 1944

Today we remember and pay tribute to Flight Sergeant Mervyn Walter Harrison.
Mervyn Harrison was born on 24 November 1923, the son of Carlyle and Ivy Harrison of the Sydney suburb of Tempe.

He attended Tempe public school, Erskinneville special school, and then Canterbury high school, gaining his intermediate certificate before going on to studies accountancy and business management while he worked for W.D. Wood as clerk and acting manager of a sawmill.

Harrison applied for enlistment as an airman on 11 January 1943, and three days later joined the Royal Australian Air Force at the age of 19.

After initial training at Bradfield Park, and then further training at Narrandera, Evans Head, and Ascotvale, in late September he bid his family goodbye while he was on pre-embarkation leave before departing for England.

As part of the Empire Air Training Scheme, Harrison was one of almost 27,000 RAAF pilots, navigators, wireless operators, gunners, and engineers who joined Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force squadrons in Britain throughout the course of the war.

Following further training in England, Harrison joined an operational training unit as an air gunner. In early June 1944, he joined No. 463 Squadron, which had been formed from C Flight of 467 Squadron at Waddington in the United Kingdom in November 1943. 463 Squadron was equipped with Lancaster heavy bombers and formed part of the Royal Air Force Bomber Command. Its first commanding officer was Wing Commander Rollo Kingsford-Smith, the nephew of the famous Australian aviator Sir Charles Kingsford-Smith.

The squadron began operations the night after its formation with an attack on Berlin. Night raids on Germany became a focus of the squadron's activities.

In just under a year and a half of operations, 463 Squadron flew over 2,505 sorties, dropped around 11,500 tons of bombs, and its gunners destroyed six enemy aircraft. As was the case throughout Bomber Command, these results came at considerable cost. The squadron lost 546 aircrew, 225 of whom were Australian, sustaining the highest loss rate of any of the Australian bomber squadrons.

On the night of 28 July 1944, Harrison was a crewmember in a Lancaster that took off from an airfield near Waddington, on a night mission tasked with bombing targets in the German city of Stuttgart.

The aircraft never returned from its mission, and the cause of loss has never been established.

All crewmembers aboard the Lancaster were officially presumed dead:

Flight Sergeant Frank Fischer,
Flight Sergeant Bernard Reece,
Sergeant Ernest Starling,
Warrant Officer Norman Gelder,
Flight Lieutenant Brian Moorhead,
Flight Officer John Wilkinson,
and Flight Sergeant Mervyn Walter Harrison, who was 20 years old.

Today, they are commemorated at Choloy War Cemetery in France.

Mervyn Harrison’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 Flight Sergeant Mervyn Walter Harrison, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Duncan Beard
Editor, Military History Section