54 Sqn Memorial Plaque
54 Squadron fighter pilots who died protecting northern Australia honoured 70 years after WWII.
Some of the brave young men who served on 54 Squadron during WWII and who died protecting northern Australia have been honoured in a ceremony in Darwin, Australia.
A memorial plaque unveiled at Darwin Military Museum on 24 August 2015 bears the names of 19 young men who died during 54 Squadrons service’s in Darwin between 1942 and 1945. Speaking to distinguished guests at the unveiling of the plaque Her Excellency Menna Rawlings, the High Commissioner to Australia said:
“We all owe our freedoms to the bravery of “the few” and that is why I am delighted to be able to remember some of them 70 years on”. For 54 Squadron the early days of WWII were spent patrolling the Kent coast before becoming heavily engaged in the Battle of Britain. It was following the Battle of Britain that Winston Churchill promised a fighter Squadron to Australia. 54 Squadron duly departed Liverpool on the 20th June 1942 arriving in Australia several weeks later. Following their arrival the Squadron was credited for numerous strikes on enemy aircraft. Sadly for the 19 men remembered on the plaque, 16 of whom were British, one American and one Australian; they would never make it home.
Some are buried in Adelaide River Cemetery or Richmond War Cemetery; others are commemorated on war memorials as missing presumed killed. Wing Commander Andy Ross, Officer Commanding 54(R) Sqn RAF Waddington said:
“The Commemoration Plaque unveiled by Her Excellency Mrs Menna Rawlings CMG at Darwin recognises the sacrifice made by 54 Squadron personnel whilst stationed in Australia during the Second World War. The Plaque was funded by current 54(R) Squadron members and Mr Ralph Murphy, a relative of one of those who served with the squadron in Australia.
“Thanks to the excellent incountry support provided by The British High Commission, Royal Australian Air Force, Wing Commander Hough as the senior RAF representative and Mr Cramp at the Darwin Military Museum, I could not have asked for a more fitting way to permanently recognise the contribution of 54 Squadron whilst based in Darwin.”
The roll call of the 19 brave young men is as follows:
• Sergeant William Kenneth Read,
• Sergeant Peter Frederick McCarthy,
• Sergeant Albert Edward Cooper
• Flight Sergeant Francis Leslie Varney
• Pilot Officer James Charles Wellsman
• Flying Officer William Torrens Hinds,
• Flight Sergeant John Hoyle Whalley
• Flight Sergeant James Basil Gibbs,
• Flight Lieutenant Frederick Meakin,
• Flying Officer Anthony Kingsmill Brook
• Flying Officer Peter George Fleming Brown,
• Pilot Officer Peter Fox,
• Pilot Officer George Ashurst,
• Flight Sergeant Kenneth Arthur Henry Biggs,
• Flying Officer Frederick Francis Thomas
• Flying Officer Granville Allen Mawer (Royal Australian Air Force)
• Warrant Officer Ronald Walter Posse
• Flight Sergeant William Alexander Cunningham (Royal Australian Air Force)
• Flying Officer John Yerby (United States Air Force)