The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (406028) Pilot Officer Alan Stewart Middleton, 223 Squadron RAF, Royal Australian Air Force, Second World War

Accession Number PAFU2013/096.01
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 21 October 2013
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 Copy provided for personal non-commercial use

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 Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (406028) Pilot Officer Alan Stewart Middleton, 223 Squadron RAF, Royal Australian Air Force, Second World War.

Speech transcript

406400 Pilot Officer Alan Stewart Middleton, No. 223 Squadron, RAF
KIA 17 July 1941
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 21 October 2013

Today we remember and pay tribute to Pilot Officer Alan Stewart Middleton, who died during the Second World War on 17 July 1941.

Australia was spared the worst of the destruction of the Second World War. From a population of about seven million, nearly a million Australians served in the military. Most Australians contributed to the war effort in some way, but for the Middleton family of Claremont, Western Australia, the burden was particularly heavy.

Four of Edward and Violet Middleton's five sons enlisted in the forces. Their two eldest sons were killed serving in the air force, while Corporal Raymond Middleton, serving in the 2/28th Battalion, was captured in July 1942 during the first battle of El Alamein. A veteran of the earlier siege of Tobruk, he spent three years as a prisoner of war in Italy and Germany. Maxwell Middleton, the youngest son to enlist, served in the Mediterranean as an ordinary seaman on the destroyer HMAS Stuart, and later in the Indian Ocean and in the Pacific. Their father, Sergeant Edward Middleton, remained in Australia with the army.

Born in 1915, Alan Middleton was the second son of the Middleton family. He attended Perth Modern School before working as a warehouse assistant and then as a commercial traveller. He was also a scoutmaster for a northern Perth troop. In January 1939, Middleton enlisted in the militia, serving as a sergeant in the 11th Battalion. Following the outbreak of war, he transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force in May 1940. After completing his initial training, he left Australia for the Middle East in April 1941, joining No. 211 Squadron, Royal Air Force, in Egypt in June. The following month, Middleton was posted to No. 223 Squadron, RAF. This squadron was employed as a training unit for converting crews to two-engine Blenhiem, Maryland, and Boston bombers.

On 17 July 1941, having been with the squadron for just over a week, Middleton was an observer in a Martin Maryland engaged in training exercises that included firing at ground targets. The pilot, who had about seven hours of solo flying experience in a Maryland, mistakenly dived the aircraft too steeply near the ground. He attempted to recover from this dive and the aircraft was power stalled, but at the low height it crashed near the Suez-Cairo road, some 50 kilometres north of Suez. The bomber burst into flames on impact and was completely burnt out. Middleton and the three other men on board, all South African, were killed instantly.

His father later commented: "When I last heard from him he was very bright, and happy at meeting in Egypt his brother, Ray [who was wounded at Tobruk]. And next we hear that he had been killed."

Middleton was buried in the Fayid War Cemetery in Egypt. He was 25 years old.

Nearly 18 months later, in November 1942, Flight Sergeant Leonard Middleton, Alan's older brother, was killed serving in the same squadron.

Pilot Officer Alan Middleton's name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with some 40,000 Australians who died during the Second World War.

We now remember Pilot Officer Alan Middleton, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in service of our nation.

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (406028) Pilot Officer Alan Stewart Middleton, 223 Squadron RAF, Royal Australian Air Force, Second World War (video)