Farewelled eight decades later

Brought down in action in September 1943, the crew of 100 Squadron’s Beaufort Bomber A9-186 were farewelled during a combined funeral and memorial service at RAAF Base Amberley on April 26.

CAPTIONFlight Sergeant Gordan Hamilton’s portrait on display during the memorial service of four WW2 RAAF servicemen at RAAF Base Amberley. Story by Wing Commander Bruce Chalmers. Photos by Aircraftman Campbell Latch.

Warrant Officers Clement Batstone Wiggins and Russell Henry Grigg, and Flight Sergeants Albert Beckett and Gordon Lewis Hamilton were honoured in the service attended by families and the Beaufort Bomber Association, RSL and Defence representatives.

Believed to be the first time a funeral and memorial service has been jointly held by Air Force, the final committal of the remains of the two members recovered from the wreck is expected to take place at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site near Rabaul in Papua New Guinea in September.

Chief Mourner, Air Commander Australia Air Vice-Marshal Glen Braz, presented individual RAAF ensigns to representatives of the families during the service.

CAPTIONAir Commander Australia Air Vice-Marshal Glen Braz, far left, and the family of Warrant Officer Russell Grigg pay their respects during a memorial service for WW2 RAAF servicemen.

Following the presentation of a brief history of A9-186 by Historical Unrecovered War Casualties – Air Force (HUWC-AF) Director, Group Captain Grant Kelly, the service history of each member was presented by Commanding Officer 100 Squadron Wing Commander Jason Easthope.

Delivering the eulogy on behalf of the Grigg family, Warrant Officer Grigg’s daughter, Mary Peden, expressed gratitude to Andrew Forrest and his team for discovering A9-186, found in 43m of water off Gasmata in PNG while searching for A9-188, piloted by his uncle.

“Our family can only express our extreme gratitude to Andrew for this discovery of our dad, and sorrow for him with the disappointment of not finding the plane of his uncle before his dad died,” Ms Peden said.

CAPTIONPortrait of Warrant Officer Russell Grigg on display during the memorial service.

Similarly, all family representatives praised the work of Dr Forrest’s team and HUWC-AF in the recovery and subsequent actions that culminated in the memorial service.

“All that it means to lose him – only our sad hearts know,” said Mark Carter from the Hamilton family, describing the words of Flight Sergeant Hamilton’s mother, who was permitted only 66 characters for his epitaph.

The service was followed by a wake at the Sergeants’ Mess where family members were able to share memories with the other families.


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