The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Flight Lieutenant Paul Martin Pardoel, No. 47 Squadron (RAF), RAAF, Iraq, 2003-2013.

Accession Number AWM2021.1.1.343
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 9 December 2021
Access Open
Conflict Afghanistan, 2001-2021
Iraq, 2003-2013
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 Sharon Bown, the story for this day was on Flight Lieutenant Paul Martin Pardoel, No. 47 Squadron (RAF), RAAF, Iraq, 2003-2013.

Film order form
Speech transcript

Flight Lieutenant Paul Martin Pardoel, No. 47 Squadron (RAF), RAAF
KIA 30 January 2005

Today we remember and pay tribute to Flight Lieutenant Paul Martin Pardoel.

Paul was born on 15 June 1969 in Colac, Victoria, the only son of John and Margaret Pardoel. John had emigrated from Rotterdam in the Netherlands as a young man and had met his future wife in Melbourne.

His father’s work selling European cars took the family to Malaysia during Paul’s early years where he attended a Chinese preschool and quickly picked up reading and speaking Mandarin. After returning to Victoria the family settled in the town of Clunes where they bought and ran the local pub. As a teenager, when not helping behind the bar, Paul attended St Patrick’s Catholic College in nearby Ballarat. His favourite subjects were history and English, and he avidly read classic literature. In sports and leisure Paul took to rowing and rugby, while he also enjoyed motorbike riding, playing guitar and participating in school musicals.

In 1988 Paul enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force and enrolled at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra. There he completed a Bachelor of Science degree in 1990. Next came a pilot’s course, which unfortunately Paul did not pass, however he quickly found his niche, completing the navigator’s course which suited him much better.

Qualifying as a navigator, Paul was posted to Number 36 and 37 Squadrons, part of the Air Lift Group based at RAAF Richmond, outside Sydney. Flying in C-130 Hercules aircraft, Paul served with distinction on operations around the world for several years. In 1999 he moved to Sale in Victoria where he became an instructor at the School of Air Navigation, where he was known as an exceptional instructor.

During this period Paul had met and fallen in love with a young woman at the RAAF Summer Ball. He and Kellie were married in November 1995 and soon began a family. Their son Jackson and two daughters, Jordan and India were born over the next few years. Kellie and the children were the centre of Paul’s world. Despite his busy air force job, he was very much a hands on and active father, possessing endless patience and time for his wife and children.

After 14 years in the RAAF, Paul was looking for a new challenge. This he found through transferring to the RAF, joining No. 47 Squadron in 2002. Based at RAF Lyneham, in Wiltshire, they flew the familiar C-130 Hercules.

Moving the family to England was a big step, but the family adapted and settled in well. Known to his friends and colleagues as unflappable, Paul was never fazed. He enjoyed the banter of being the only Australian in the squadron and was a good sport, especially while having to endure Australia’s loss of the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final to England.

Over the next three years Paul flew with No. 47 Squadron in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their Special Forces Flight was tasked with airlift and re-supply operations for UK Special Forces. It was a busy job and often dangerous. By 2003 they were operating in Iraq.

The 30th of January 2005 was election day in Iraq and Flight XV179, comprising Paul’s lone Hercules aircraft had work to do. Taking off just after 12 noon from Balad Air Base, some 75 kilometres north of the capital, they landed at Baghdad International Airport one hour later. Keeping their engines running their next mission was a return flight to Balad, transporting an RAF officer from Headquarters Strike Command. They took off again just 12 minutes later, at 1.24 p.m.

Following their standard tactics of flying low and fast above the main road they headed north. But just six minutes after take-off, without warning the C-130K was hit by ground fire. The fuel tank explosion literally ripped the wing off and the plane crashed into the ground just seconds later. The crash site, some 30 kilometres north of Baghdad was found 45 minutes later and Coalition forces arrived on the ground soon afterwards. The aircraft was destroyed and burnt out, none aboard having survived the crash. All nine RAF men and a British Army signaller had perished.

Two main factors had contributed to this tragedy. Firstly, intelligence that Coalition helicopters had been fired at along the same route earlier that day wasn’t passed on. But most importantly, RAF Hercules were not fitted with an important safety feature – ESF, a fire suppressant foam. This would have largely eliminated the threat of the catastrophic fire and explosion that brought the plane down. It is not known exactly what hit the aircraft – it may have merely been small arms fire. If so, that’s something that shouldn’t fell a Hercules.

The crew’s remains were recovered and repatriated. Paul Pardoel’s funeral service was held here in Canberra at St. Christopher’s Cathedral, Manuka, and he was buried in Woden Cemetery. His service and sacrifice is commemorated by the ACT Memorial and his name is also listed on the Commemorative Roll here at the Australian War Memorial. Paul is one of six Australians who died during or as a result of their service in the Iraq War. He was 35 years old.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Flight Lieutenant Paul Martin Pardoel, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Craig Tibbitts
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Flight Lieutenant Paul Martin Pardoel, No. 47 Squadron (RAF), RAAF, Iraq, 2003-2013. (video)