The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (401995) Flight Sergeant Robert Maxwell McLay, No. 611 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Second World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.226
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 14 August 2018
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use
Description

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Chris Widenbar, the story for this day was on, (401995) Flight Sergeant Robert Maxwell McLay, No. 611 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Second World War.

Speech transcript

401995 Flight Sergeant Robert Maxwell McLay, No. 611 Squadron, Royal Air Force
Killed in flying battle 14 March 1943

Story delivered 14 August 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Flight Sergeant Robert Maxwell McLay.

Robert McLay was born on 27 November 1919 in Wangaratta in north eastern Victoria, the son of Robert and Rose McLay.

Growing up, he attended Frankston High School, played tennis, was a keen golfer, and enjoyed ice skating.
Following his schooling he undertook further tuition at Swinburne Technical College in the Melbourne suburb of Hawthorn before being employed as a junior draughtsman and technical assistant at the State Electricity Commission.
On 26 April 1941, McLay enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force. He soon commenced training as a pilot and on 1 September 1941 left Australia for overseas service. As part of the Empire Air Training Scheme, Mackay was one of almost 27,500 RAAF pilots, navigators, wireless operators, gunners, and engineers, who, throughout the course of the war, joined squadrons based in Britain.

McLay arrived in Durban, South Africa, before travelling to Rhodesia where he undertook further training. Arriving in Britain on September 1942, he undertook further specialist training before his posting on 2 February 1943 to No. 611 Squadron, Royal Air Force. No. 611 Squadron was a Spitfire squadron which at that time was based at RAF station Biggin Hill.

On 14 March 1943, McLay was taking part in an offensive sweep over northern France with 11 other Spitfires from the squadron. Near Berck Bay, France, the group encountered a number of enemy fighters. McLay’s Spitfire was last seen diving steeply with two enemy aircraft on his tale.

Robert McLay was killed in action. He was 23 years of age.
His body was recovered and buried in the Etaples Military Cemetery in France.

McLay’s name is listed here on the Roll of Honour on my left, among almost 40,000 Australians who died while serving in the Second World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Flight Sergeant Robert Maxwell McLay, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Lachlan Grant
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (401995) Flight Sergeant Robert Maxwell McLay, No. 611 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Second World War. (video)