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    Posthumous Gallantry Decorations for WW2 Aviators 82 Years Later

    Military Voice
    Posted by Military Voice on May 13, 2024 2:00:52 PM

    Their mission, fraught with peril akin to any during World War 2, remains etched in history's annals. Over 80 years after their Hudson Bomber plunged into the waters off Papua New Guinea, the valorous crew is being commemorated and lauded for their unwavering heroism. 

    On July 22, 1942, while undertaking a solo reconnaissance mission, the four Air Force members aboard a Lockheed Hudson A16-201 met their tragic end, shot down by Japanese forces near Popondetta in PNG. 

    In 2023, Governor-General David Hurley posthumously bestowed Gallantry Decorations upon six aviators lost in WW2, among them the valiant quartet of 32 Squadron who perished almost 82 years prior on that fateful flight. 

    Pilot Officer Warren Cowan, Sergeant Russell Polack, Sergeant Laurie Sheard, and Pilot Officer David Taylor were honoured with the Medal for Gallantry for their courageous service aboard the Lockheed Hudson A16-201. 

    Their final resting place is at Bomana War Cemetery in PNG, where they lie in eternal remembrance. 

    A ceremony unfolded on April 19 at Government House in Melbourne. The family of Pilot Officer Taylor received his Medal for Gallantry, a profound symbol of his heroism and extraordinary dedication to country. Margaret Ekberg, Pilot Officer Taylor’s daughter, was solemnly bestowed with the medal, embodying her father's legacy of valour and sacrifice. 

    “My family was very proud to receive the medal on behalf of my father, as recognition of the service and ultimate sacrifice of him and the other crew members on their mission 82 years ago,” Margaret Ekberg said. 

    “We are amazed that this has been acknowledged after such a long time, and very pleased that it has been awarded while I am still here as the last member of the family to have intimately known my father, although I was only eight at the time he left for the war. 

    “Our family only received a brief telegram in 1942 advising of the missing aircraft, and another in 1945 advising of the discovery of the crash site, and we were never given any further official information.  

    “It was extraordinary when we became aware of the research surrounding this action, in particular the amazing advocacy of Saburo Sakai who was seeking recognition for his adversary. 

    “We are so grateful to finally learn the full story behind my father’s last moments and for the Australian Government’s continued advocacy of the RAAF and 32 Squadron.” 

    As part of the Anzac Day dawn service at Bomana Cemetery, located just outside Port Moresby in PNG, Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Robert Chipman, alongside Warrant Officer of the Air Force Ralph Clifton, paid homage to the gravesite of the four fallen aviators. 

    This sacred cemetery holds profound historical significance for Australia, serving as the final resting place for over 3000 known Commonwealth soldiers and approximately 237 unidentified Australians who bravely fought in and around New Guinea during WW2. 

    BN41995-WW2-1939-45-Lapel-PinLearn more about Australia in World War II


    “The Anzac legend was forged on the shores of Gallipoli in 1915. But the qualities of character displayed there – courage, audacity, mateship – were as much at home here in Papua New Guinea,” Air Marshal Chipman said. 

    “Among them were four brave aviators from 32 Squadron, Pilot Officer Warren Frank Cowan, Pilot Officer David Reid Taylor, Sergeant Russell Bradburn Polack, and Sergeant Laurie Edwin Sheard, who lay at rest here in Bomana War Cemetery.  

    “On July 22, 1942, they were flying their Hudson aircraft on a reconnaissance mission, when they were engaged by six Japanese Zeros.  

    “Instead of fleeing, they turned their aircraft to dogfight with the enemy, but were eventually shot down near Popondetta. They are all being awarded posthumous Medals for Gallantry for their heroism and sacrifice for our country. 

    The Battle of Milne Bay followed the next month, an important turning point in the war in the Pacific. 

    Battle of Milne Bay Limited EditionThe Battle of Milne Bay was a pivotal moment in the war in the Pacific

    “Together, they stood united against a common foe. We stand together now to honour their service and sacrifice.” 

    Later this year, ceremonies honouring the Medals for Gallantry for the remaining three members of the Lockheed Hudson A16-201 from 32 Squadron will take place in South Australia and New South Wales.

     Customisable Medal Display Frames from The Military Shop, Australia are designed to help  preserve and pass on your family's legacy to future generations. Discover these here today. 


    Topics: Media Release, Air Force

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