Louis Thomas (Silver) SPENCE DFC and Bar, MID

SPENCE, Louis Thomas

Service Number: O11315
Enlisted: 6 March 1940
Last Rank: Wing Commander
Last Unit: Royal Australian Air Force
Born: Bunderberg, Queensland, Australia , 4 April 1917
Home Town: Brisbane, Brisbane, Queensland
Schooling: Thornburgh College, Charters Towers, Queensland, Australia
Occupation: Air Force Officer, Pilot
Died: Flying Battle, Korea, 9 September 1950, aged 33 years
Cemetery: United Nations Memorial Cemetery, Busan, Korea
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Bundaberg Civic Centre Memorial Portico, Korea United Nations Memorial Cemetery Wall of Remembrance
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World War 2 Service

6 Mar 1940: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Wing Commander, No. 77 Squadron (RAAF)
6 Mar 1940: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force
6 Mar 1940: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Wing Commander, O11315, No. 77 Squadron (RAAF)

Korean War Service

27 Jan 1950: Involvement Wing Commander, O11315, Royal Australian Air Force
27 Jun 1950: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Wing Commander, O11315
Date unknown: Involvement O11315

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Biography contributed by Robert Kearney

Spence was born in Bundaberg, Queensland, on 4 April 1917. From an early age he excelled at sports, particularly tennis, and he represented his schoolas first teams in cricket and Rugby League.

He enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force in March 1940 and was accepted for flying training. Near the end of his course Spence was promoted to flying officer and, after gaining his wings, was sent to North Africa, where he joined No. 3 Squadron, RAAF, flying Kittyhawk fighters. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1942 for his skills in air combat. He returned to Australia later that year as an instructor and finished the war in command of No. 452 Squadron, flying Spitfire fighters.

He briefly returned to civilian life after the war, but returned to the RAAF in 1946. He was initially posted to Canberra and then to the RAAF College at Point Cook, Victoria, where he was commanding officer of the cadet squadron.

Spence was promoted to wing commander in February 1950 and was sent to Iwakuni, Japan, to take command of No. 77 Squadron, RAAF. Initially, his role was to ready the squadron for return to Australia, but when North Korea crossed the 38th Parallel on 25 June Spence readied his squadron for action. It was not long in coming. The North Koreans had great early success, driving South Korean and American forces back to what became known as the Pusan Perimeter.

Spence led his squadron from the front, flying many operations as well as maintaining the administrative duties and other functions of a unit commanding officer. In August 1950 he was awarded the American Legion of Merit by the commander of the American Far East Air Force, Lieutenant General George E. Stratemeyer, and in early September found out that he had been selected to attend Staff College in Britain in early 1951.

On 9 September he led a flight of four Mustangs over Korea, flying ground-attack missions against North Korean targets still trying to break the Pusan Perimeter. During a low-level ground attack on storage facilities at Anagang-ni, South Korea, Spenceas Mustang was seen attempting to pull out of a dive before hitting the ground at high speed and exploding. It was only after allied troops broke out from the Pusan Perimeter a little over a week later that Spenceas body was able to be recovered from the wreck.

Wing Commander Louis Thomas Spence was laid to rest in the United Nations Memorial Cemetery at Pusan, South Korea. He was posthumously awarded a bar to his Distinguished Flying Cross and was also awarded the American Air Medal.

Lieutenant General Stratemeyer remembered him as one of the noblest and finest officers of any servicea he had ever known.

Louis Spenceas name is listed on the Roll of Honour to my left, along with the 399 others killed in the Korean War, and his photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

Australian War Memorial  - https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P10679350