Thomas (Tom) BURROWES


Service Number: 409504
Enlisted: 12 September 1941
Last Rank: Flight Sergeant
Last Unit: No. 100 Squadron (RAAF)
Born: South Melbourne Australia , 29 March 1923
Home Town: Middle Park, Port Phillip, Victoria
Schooling: Middle Park Central School, Victoria, Australia
Occupation: Insurance Assessor
Died: Flying Battle, New Guinea, 14 December 1943, aged 20 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Local Roll of Honour- Melbourne Victoria
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Lae Memorial
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World War 2 Service

12 Sep 1941: Involvement Flight Sergeant, 409504
12 Sep 1941: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Aircraftman 2 (WW2), 409504, No. 4 Initial Training School Victor Harbor
12 Sep 1941: Enlisted Royal Australian Air Force, Flight Sergeant, 409504, No. 100 Squadron (RAAF)
1 May 1943: Promoted Royal Australian Air Force, Flight Sergeant
19 Nov 1943: Involvement Royal Australian Air Force, Flight Sergeant, 409504, No. 100 Squadron (RAAF)

Tom's Final Letter

This letter was written the night before Tom flew his first – and final – mission. The final paragraph and postscripts were written on the morning of the day he was killed.


409504 F/Sgt Burrowes T.


Dear Helen [1]

Received your very welcome letter yesterday – I received about 7 in two days but none at all for the four previous days. By the way, your letter was censored, not that it matters any, as you did not have anything in it bar personal news.

No Helen this little boy has not yet been in combat but most of my cobbers have. So far we have missed out on the fun but I guess it won't be for long. By the way Bob is quite handy to our camp and I have been going to go across and see him a few times now, each time I've been going to, something unforeseen crops up, and I have to put it off. However, will be seeing him before very long. I saw him in the distance last week but I could not go over and talk to him as I was on a job at the time. He seemed to be happy enough. [2]

I have now visited all the groups of islands that Jim visited but of course I didn't take so long over it. Perhaps I'll be seeing Jim shortly. Does he know my address. I won't be changing it for a long time now. Hope he gets his two stripes. It was tough luck Ces getting Malaria.

This Southport seems to be a popular sort of place to spend a weekend. Jim, you and a few of our boys have all spent some time there and enjoyed it.

We received a comforts fund issue of 2 cakes of soap, a few sheets of writing paper and a few envelopes. Not nearly a sufficient quantity. I wish they would have some on sale in the canteen. I now have envelopes to see me through for a while.

Tuesday. No more news Helen, no time to write any more. Will remember you to Bob tonight after tea. I will be seeing him. [3] Till next time.

Lots of love

Tom XX

P.S. Don't say anything to Mum about me seeing Bob tonight Helen as you know what she thinks of him. [4]

P.P.S. We have experienced an air raid but can't tell you when.

P.P.S. Buy Pat a Xmas present – something you can decide on yourself – about one pound.



[1] Helen was the younger of our two older sisters.

[2] Tom was obviously not allowed to reveal military plans in case his letter fell into Japanese hands. However, he and the family knew that Bob had been posted to Rabaul, so when he mentions that 'Bob is quite handy to our camp', he is telling the family that he is not far from Rabaul. Thus, all references to Bob in this paragraph are really telling the family things in relation to Rabaul.

[3] Note by Pat, the older of our two older sisters: Indicates they were going to bomb Rabaul.

[4] Note by Pat: Mum adored Bob, perhaps the most. (The reason for the comment is that Tom didn't want his mother to know, and worry, about the fact that he would be in combat.)

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Biography contributed by Ned Young

Infomation complied by Tom's brother Jim on his website 'The Last Coastwatcher'.

Tom joined the RAAF Cadet Corp (for those under 18-years-old), and was then called up into the RAAF when the Pacific war was declared in December 1941. He wanted to be a pilot but was rejected because he had rheumatic fever as a child. Instead, he became a WAG (Wireless/Air Gunner). He was originally going to England via Canada but was redeployed to Vivigani (Goodenough) Island after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

Tom thus became the WAG on a Beaufort Bomber (popularly but irreverently known as ‘flying coffins’) in the RAAF’s 100 Squadron. Together with his fellow crew members – Flt. Sgt. John Eardley Kenny 415663 (pilot), Flt. Sgt. John Arthur Davies 427446 and Flt. Sgt. Murray Fairbairn 409528 – Tom took off for his first bombing mission over Rabaul on 14 December 1943, in adverse weather conditions. He was in one of five planes that did not return. At the age of 20, Tom would never celebrate his 21st birthday.

After the war, Tom was declared KIA by ‘flying battle’.

Read more about Tom's service here (