The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (VX146518) Private Stanley Francis Walker, 2/31st Battalion, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2021.1.1.177
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 26 June 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 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 Craig Berelle, the story for this day was on (VX146518) Private Stanley Francis Walker, 2/31st Battalion, Second World War.

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Speech transcript

VX146518 Private Stanley Francis Walker, 2/31st Battalion
KIA 3 July 1945

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Stanley Walker.

Stanley Francis Walker was born in Stawell, in the Wimmera region of Victoria, on 17 March 1925, to William and Ruby Walker. His father had served in the First World War with the 21st Battalion.

Stanley attended Ararat High School. The family was living in Ararat when the Second World War broke out. Stanley was 14 years old, working as a bread carter. As his elder brothers William and Henry turned 21, they enlisted and served with the infantry. Stanley was allowed to enlist in the militia in April 1943 when he turned 18 and went to an infantry training battalion, first at Watsonia, then in Cowra, New South Wales. In 1943 he was granted two months leave without pay to go cane cutting.

By February of the following year Stanley was able to transfer to the Australian Imperial Force and at the end of May 1944 he arrived at the infantry training centre in Canungra, south-eastern Queensland. After completing his training, he was assigned to the 2/31st Battalion.

The 2/31st belonged to the 7th Division, and over the past years had seen some hard fighting, particularly in Syria, then Papua, then New Guinea. After its last campaign in the Ramu Valley and Finisterre Ranges of New Guinea, the 2/31st had returned to Australia to rest, refit and retrain. Arriving home in February 1944, the battalion moved to a camp at Strathpine, north of Brisbane. It was here that Stanley finally joined them on 1 August 1944. A week later the battalion was turned out, proudly marching through the streets of Brisbane, cheered on by a crowd estimated at 250,000 people.

Soon after the parade, along with many other battalions, the 2/31st moved north to the Atherton Tablelands for further training. In October 1944 it began training in Cairns for amphibious landings. The intensity and scale of the training increased with full divisional-size exercises with live firing. Some were wounded and even killed in these rehearsals.

In June 1945, after more than a year at home, the 2/31st returned to the war. On 9 June it sailed from Townsville to Morotai Island in the northern Moluccas, where a vast invasion fleet was assembling. This would be the biggest seaborne invasion the Australians had taken part in since Gallipoli, and their largest of this war. Codenamed Operation Oboe II, it would involve 100 ships and over 30,000 Allied troops – mostly Australian.

The objective was the town of Balikpapan on the south-eastern corner of Borneo. With one of the largest oil refining facilities in the region, a good deep water port and airfields, Balikpapan was clearly of value. The Japanese had held it for years and fortified it strongly.

After days of bombardment by sea and air, at 9 in the morning on 2 July, the second day of the invasion, the 2/31st Battalion landed on Green Beach. After establishing control in its sector, patrols were sent out to scout the area and probe for enemy resistance ahead of the following day’s push. Next morning, 3 July, the battalion set out northwards. Its objectives were about a kilometre inland – several low features among rough terrain with thick undergrowth. As the men advanced, enemy opposition grew stiffer and the battalion began taking casualties, mainly from isolated Japanese machine-gun posts and snipers.

The Australians took all their objectives but had to fight off several desperate Japanese counter-attacks. Stanley’s D Company took a feature named “Nurse” – a small but steep hill covered with very dense undergrowth – but were later forced off. The day had been mostly successful, but casualties were heavy. The 2/31st lost 13 killed and 37 wounded that day. Among the dead was Stanley Walker.

He was buried the next day at the junction of Valley and Chilton Roads. His remains were later reburied at a larger cemetery near Balikpapan, before finally being laid to rest at Labuan War Cemetery under the inscription “His Duty Nobly Done”. He was 20 years old.

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 Private Stanley Francis Walker, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Craig Tibbitts
Historian, Military History Section

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