The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (403985) Flying Officer Clifton Stuart Dunn, No. 11 Squadron, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.347
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 13 December 2019
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

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 , the story for this day was on (403985) Flying Officer Clifton Stuart Dunn, No. 11 Squadron, Second World War.

Speech transcript

403985 Flying Officer Clifton Stuart Dunn, No. 11 Squadron
KIA 16 June 1943

Today we remember and pay tribute to Flying Officer Clifton Stuart Dunn.

Clifton Dunn was born on 17 August 1908 in Rylstone, south¬-east of Mudgee in New South Wales, one of ten children born to Emily and Athelstane Dunn. Known as “Cliff” to his family and friends, Dunn grew up on the family sheep farm, and attended Bogie Primary School and Mudgee High School. After school, he worked as a wool-classer. He also gained military experience by serving in a local militia force.

While living in Rylstone, Dunn met Florence Bushman, the daughter of a local publican, and the pair began a relationship. In the 1930s, the couple moved to Sydney, where Dunn began working as a barman at the Prince of Wales pub in Woollahra. They married on 11 December 1939.

Clifton Dunn was the eldest of four Dunn brothers to serve for Australia in the Second World War, only two of whom would return home. Reginald and Andrew enlisted in the Army in May 1941 and became prisoners of war after the Fall of Singapore. They both worked in the terrible conditions on the Thai-Burma railway. Reginald returned to Australia in 1945; Andrew died of illness in September 1943. The youngest of the four brothers, Lloyd, joined the Royal Australian Air Force in October 1941 and survived the war.

Clifton Dunn enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force on 31 March 1941. After completing his initial training at Bradfield Park in Sydney, he sailed to Canada to participate in the Empire Air Training Scheme.

While in Canada, Dunn visited Niagara Falls, watched ice hockey games, and spent time with a local family with whom he became close friends. He trained at several bases in Canada and took courses in air gunnery, bombing, and navigation.

Many of the Australians who participated in the Empire Air Training Scheme went on the serve in the European and Mediterranean theatres of the war. In early 1942, however, Dunn was one of a small number of Australians selected to return to Australia to serve in the Pacific theatre. Dunn was elated when he heard that he would be returning to Australia and his wife.

Dunn embarked on the long and perilous journey across the Pacific, heading home to Australia. After several stops, he arrived in Brisbane in March 1942.

Dunn then served in No. 22 Squadron in Richmond and Port Moresby. During this period, he was promoted to the rank of flying officer. In December 1942, he transferred to No. 11 Squadron RAAF, which was operating from Cairns, flying Catalina aircraft on surveillance, mine-laying, patrolling, and supply missions across the south Pacific.

At 3.12 pm on 26 April 1943, Dunn took off from Cairns on Catalina PBY 5 (A24-43) on a secret supply mission to the island of Bougainville. The aircraft had a crew of nine, and Dunn served as the navigator. Their mission was to drop vital supplies for Australian commandos, known as Coastwatchers, operating behind the lines in Japanese held territory.

On the night of 26/27 April, Dunn’s Catalina made two successful supply drops at the designated area, near the village of Aita. As it came to make its third drop, it veered to the right and crashed into the ridge of a nearby mountain. The pilot, co-pilot and engineer died on impact. The remaining crew survived but were badly injured. Unable to move, they remained in the aircraft for five hours in the pitch blackness of the dense jungle at night. The commandos they were making the supply drop for searched desperately for the wreckage, and found Dunn and his crewmates in the early hours of 27 April.

The Australian commandos helped the injured crew to their camp in order to receive rudimentary medical assistance. None of the survivors were capable of walking, Dunn had a badly injured leg, so the commandos salvaged bunks from the wreckage and used branches and vines to make improvised stretchers.

Dunn and the survivors spent the next six weeks recovering in the difficult jungle conditions behind enemy lines. They were waiting for the right time to be able to be evacuated from Bougainville Island by American submarine.

In May, they had to move from their camp at Dariai after receiving intelligence that they were under threat from a Japanese attack. By this time, Dunn made a slow recovery and was able to walk with the assistance of two walking sticks. He moved to the commando camp at Sikoripiaia.

On the morning of 16 June 1943, the camp where Dunn was recovering was attacked by an ambush of about 80 Japanese troops and 40 local guides. In the fight, Dunn was shot in the chest and died. He was 34 years, and survived by his young wife. Only two crew members of Dunn’s Catalina made it home to Australia.

Today Dunn’s remains lie buried in the Port Moresby (Bomana) War Cemetery, where over 3,800 casualties of the Second World War now lie.

His name is listed 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 Flying Officer Clifton Stuart Dunn, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

David Sutton
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (403985) Flying Officer Clifton Stuart Dunn, No. 11 Squadron, Second World War. (video)