Studio portrait of 411768 Sergeant John S. Freeth, No. 455 Squadron

Accession Number P02488.001
Collection type Photograph
Object type Colour - Print hand-coloured black & white
Maker Unknown
Date made c. 1943
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Item copyright: Copyright expired - public domain

Public Domain Mark This item is in the Public Domain


Studio portrait of 411768 Sergeant (Sgt) John Samuel Freeth, 455 Squadron RAAF of Coogee, NSW. A jewellery salesman with Angus and Coote prior to enlistment two days after his 21st birthday on 25 May 1941, Freeth trained with the Empire Air Training Scheme (EATS) in Canada prior to service in the United Kingdom. On 30 April 1943, he and his crew attacked and sank an enemy submarine with eight depth charges. It was considered to be an outstanding achievement as the crew were untrained in the difficult skill of anti-submarine attack. Less than a month later, the then promoted Flight Sergeant Freeth was killed when his Handley Page Hampden torpedo aircraft collided with a Bristol Beaufighter aircraft during a non-operational exercise off the coast of Fraserburgh, Scotland on 24 May 1943. According to records held in his casualty file at the National Archives of Australia, his mother repeatedly claimed her son survived the crash, going so far as to write to the Prime Minister, The Right Honourable Joseph Benedict (Ben) Chifley, in 1949. In a minute recorded in the RAAF casualty file dated 26 January 1950, it was recorded: "Mrs Freeth (mother) called. She is still of the opinion that her son is alive. I explained to her the details of the crash and endeavoured to convince her that there could be no doubt that her son was killed...She remained unconvinced but did not ask for any action to be taken and departed saying that God in his own time would reveal the true facts". This hand coloured photograph is set in a gold brooch (REL25225) that is inscribed on the back with "To dear John Freeth's mother with regard from his friends at Angus and Coote 1944". Mrs Freeth had refused to give up hope that her son had survived, and it was hoped that by giving her this brooch that she would come to accept his death.