The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (416241) Sergeant Reuben Henry Bates-Brownsword, No. 1 Operational Training Unit, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2022.1.1.4
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell, Australian War Memorial
Date made 4 January 2022
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC

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 Gerard Pratt, the story for this day was on (416241) Sergeant Reuben Henry Bates-Brownsword, No. 1 Operational Training Unit, Second World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

416241 Sergeant Reuben Henry Bates-Brownsword, No. 1 Operational Training Unit
Accidental 1 February 1943

Today we remember and pay tribute to Sergeant Reuben Henry Bates-Brownsword.

Reuben Bates-Brownsword was born in Adelaide on 12 September 1922 to Harold and Doris Bates-Brownsword.

He grew up in Blackwood and attended Blackwood School. In 1930, at the end of second grade, Bates-Brownsword was given a prize along with several other classmates for passing the qualifying certificate examination. He also gained special mention for receiving the most merit cards for the year.

He went on to attend Unley High School and represented the school Australian Rules Football, Cricket and Tennis teams. Having passed his leaving examination, he went to work as a lab assistant for F.H. Faulding and Co. Ltd in Adelaide while studying chemistry part-time at the School of Mines on North Terrace in the city.

On 13 September 1940, a little over a year after the start of the Second World War, Bates-Brownsword joined the Royal Australian Air Force Volunteer Reserve. By this time he had completed a 12-month training course in wireless telegraphy and telephony as part of the Commonwealth Defence Radio Scheme.

Bates-Brownsword enlisted in Adelaide for service in the Royal Australian Air Force on 28 April 1941. After completing his initial training he was re-mustered as aircrew and sent to No.1 Elementary Flying Training School at Parafield in South Australia, where he qualified as an observer.

Bates-Brownsword was next posted to No. 1 Operational Training Unit at Bairnsdale in Victoria.

On the morning of 1 February, Bates-Brownsword and two other trainee wireless air gunners, Sergeants Gordon Clyde Lloyd and Thomas Strayer, were detailed to carry out a gunnery training flight. Shortly after take-off, the pilot, Sergeant William White, began a left turn. Witnesses later recalled seeing the Beaufort begin the left turn which continued to become steeper until the aircraft stalled and spun into the ground, killing all four men.

The next day White, Lloyd and Strayer were laid to rest in the Bairnsdale Cemetery, and on the 3rd of February Bates-Brownsword was laid to rest next to his comrades. He was 20 years old.

The issue with Australian-built Beauforts, which had already caused a number of fatal accidents, was not discovered until January 1944 during another fatal crash, when faulty control rods to the tail elevators were seen by crews in other nearby aircraft to be unattached. All Beauforts were then grounded until the issue was corrected.

Bates-Brownsword’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 Sergeant Reuben Henry Bates-Brownsword and his crew mates, who gave their lives for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

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