The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (VX11414) Brigadier Shirley Thomas William Goodwin, Headquarters 9 Division Royal Australian Artillery, Second World War.


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 Melanie Cassar, the story for this day was on (VX11414) Brigadier Shirley Thomas William Goodwin, Headquarters 9 Division Royal Australian Artillery, Second World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

VX11414 Brigadier Shirley Thomas William Goodwin, Headquarters 9 Division Royal Australian Artillery
KIA 25 October 1943

Today we remember and pay tribute to Brigadier Shirley Thomas William Goodwin.

Shirley Goodwin was born in Ballarat, Victoria, on 6 February 1894, the son of John and Harriet Goodwin.

His father, who held a commission in the Victorian Military Forces from 1891, was later known as “Colonel Goodwin”. Having trained as a surveyor, he became Commonwealth Surveyor-General and played a significant role in the development of Canberra, with periods serving as Officer-in-Charge of the Federal Capital Administration, chairman of the Canberra Advisory Council, as a local magistrate, an elected member of the Federal Capital Territory Advisory Council, a board member of the Canberra Community Hospital, and a member of the National Capital Planning and Development Committee. As the territory’s coroner, he would conduct the coronial inquest into the 1940 Canberra air disaster, which killed ten people including three cabinet members and the army’s Chief of the General Staff.

Shirley and his brothers John and Howard grew up in Victoria, where he attended Camberwell Grammar School in Melbourne’s east.

In 1911, Goodwin was a staff cadet in the first class to enter Royal Military College, Duntroon. While he was eventually discharged for unsatisfactory progress in his studies and physical exercises, he would go on to have an exceptional military career.

Goodwin was serving in the Australian Field Artillery when he joined the Australian Imperial Force in August 1914. Appointed second lieutenant, on 20 October he embarked for overseas service with the 2nd Field Artillery Brigade.

Having been promoted in Egypt, Lieutenant Goodwin landed at Gallipoli with the covering force on 25 April 1915, coming ashore at about 7.30 am to spot for the floating batteries of the Royal Navy.

In July, Goodwin was attached to the 8th and then 6th Battery of the 2nd Field Artillery Brigade. In September and early October he spent time at a rest camp on Lemnos Island, before rejoining the 6th Battery on Gallipoli. The following month he was mentioned in the brigade’s war diary, with a note that he and another officer “were specially mentioned in my report … their gallant service should receive recognition.”

On 19 November, Goodwin transferred to Imbros Island, where he was attached to the Royal Naval Air Service, acting as an aeroplane observer.

On 20 December, the morning following the evacuation of Anzac and Suvla, Goodwin and pilot, Flight Sub-Lieutenant Frank Besson made for the peninsula to look for troop movements. Goodwin later recalled:

Owing to heavy low clouds, we were unable to proceed over the lines and had to reconnoitre from the sea. At a distance of about a mile from the shore the engine failed … The pilot immediately turned towards Imbros, but we had not made more than a mile before we struck the water. We both had air belts, but that of my pilot deflated soon after descent. The aeroplane sank after about ten minutes. Though I had wirelessed for help, none appeared.

We made for the Turkish shore, hoping to be able to work down behind our lines at Helles. I soon found that as far as I was concerned, that course was impossible, and made for the nearest land. I then became unconscious. When I regained consciousness I found that I was being carefully tended by a Bavarian officer … he had organised a rescue party which swam out and brought me in, but were unable to find my pilot; … I had been six hours in the water and … when rescued I was absolutely stiff; … after two hours, by means of hypodermic injections and brandy, he had restored me to consciousness.

Goodwin joined a group of Australian prisoners who would be interned at Afion Karahisar in Turkey for the remainder of the war. As a newspaper report later detailed:

It took five weeks to reach Constantinople, and they were compelled to pay exorbitant prices for food. They were locked in a small room for a month, and had a continuous fight to get sufficient food. They were transferred to various camps, and were almost eaten alive by vermin ... The officers were robbed right and left, and were unanimous that Musloon Bey, the commandant at Afion Karahisar, should be hanged for his diabolical practices.

In the aftermath of the war, Goodwin arrived at Alexandria and made his way to England where he took a special course in gunnery before returning to Australia in December 1919.

Despite his ordeals as a prisoner of war, Goodwin continued his military career between the First and Second World War as a member of the Permanent Forces, holding appointments including camp adjutant at Enoggera for artillery trainees; brigade major in the 1st and 2nd Divisions of the New South Wales Artillery; OC, 1st Field Cadre, Royal Australian Artillery; and adjutant and quartermaster and instructor in administration and military law at Royal Military College, Duntroon.

On 9 December 1926 he married Cynthia Clarkson at St James’ Church in Sydney. Two children were born to the couple: James in 1927 and Mary in 1930.

With the advent of the Second World War, Lieutenant Colonel Goodwin, who had been acting as staff officer in Queenscliff, became part of the Second Australian Imperial Force.

He was given command of the 2/12th Field Regiment, which finished training at Puckapunyal in mid-November and deployed to the Middle East with an establishment of just over 700 personnel.

Arriving in Palestine in December 1940, the regiment undertook three major battles in the North African campaign, seeing action during the Siege of Tobruk – according to The Mercury newspaper spending “more days in action than any other Australian artillery unit” – and then the First and Second Battles of El Alamein.

Goodwin’s service in the Middle East gained him the Distinguished Service Order, with his citation noting that,

“His sound judgment, and imperturbability in action are reflected in the efficiency and reliability of his regiment. His success during operations last year in Tobruk … has been followed by splendid service in action in the El Alamein area. His skillful leadership has been of exceptional merit, while his bearing under fire has been an inspiration to all ranks.”

Goodwin had also acted as Commander, Royal Artillery of the 9th Division, and commander of an AIF Reinforcement Depot, handling an influx of large numbers of new recruits and rendering them fit for front line service as quickly as possible.

Having returned to Australia in early 1943, Goodwin continued to serve with the 9th Division. Now holding the rank of brigadier, in July he embarked for New Guinea, where he would take part in the struggle to retake New Guinea from Japanese forces.

After taking Lae in a joint operation with the 7th Division, the 9th Division advanced up the Huon Peninsula, capturing Finschhafen in early October before Japanese forces launched a counterattack that included air attacks.

On 25 October, divisional headquarters was straddled by a stick of bombs, and Brigadier Goodwin was killed.

Initially buried at Finschhafen, Shirley Goodwin’s remains were later reburied in Lae War Cemetery.

Survived by his wife, son and daughter, 49-year old Goodwin had been Mentioned in Despatches three times. The badge for his Distinguished Service Order was presented to his widow after his death.

He was memorialised by General MacArthur, who stated: “He was an exceptionally able officer who enjoyed the complete confidence both of those who served under him and those who served over him. His death is a severe loss and will be mourned by Americans equally with Australians.”

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 Brigadier Shirley Thomas William Goodwin, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Duncan Beard
Editor, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (VX11414) Brigadier Shirley Thomas William Goodwin, Headquarters 9 Division Royal Australian Artillery, Second World War. (video)