The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (411227) Flying Officer Ronald Leslie Neal, No. 460 Squadron, RAAF, Second World War

Accession Number PAFU2014/097.01
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 27 March 2014
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 Gerard Pratt, the story for this day was on (411227) Flying Officer Ronald Leslie Neal, No. 460 Squadron, RAAF, Second World War.

Speech transcript

411227 Flying Officer Ronald Leslie Neal, No. 460 Squadron, RAAF
KIA 28 April 1944
Photograph: 081317; 081318 (second from right) and ART26265 (top right)

Story delivered 27 March 2014

Today we pay tribute to Flying Officer Ronald Leslie Neal, whose photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

The son of Frederick and Ethel Neal, Ronald Neal was born in Grenfell, New South Wales, in 1910. Growing up in nearby Greenethorpe, Neal was educated at the local school and represented the local football club. Like many young men who grew up amidst the Great Depression, Neal had a variety of casual jobs and variously as a telephone operator, clerk, labourer, and engine driver. In September 1937 he married Hazel, and the following year they celebrated the birth of a son, Gary.

In April 1941, at the age of 30, Neal enlisted the Royal Australian Air Force. He was sent to the No. 1 Bombing and Air Gunnery School at Evans Head and after months of training qualified as an air gunner.

In March 1942 Neal embarked for Britain. As part of the Empire Air Training Scheme, Neal was one of almost 27,500 RAAF pilots, navigators, wireless operators, gunners, and engineers who joined squadrons based in Britain throughout the course of the war.

Joining No. 159 Squadron, Neal serving as mid-upper gunner on a B-24 Liberator Bomber and flew with the new squadron from England to its posting in the Middle East, where he served with squadrons 159, 160, and 178. The B-24 Liberators of these squadrons mined harbours, and attacked airfields in Crete, shipping in the Mediterranean, and enemy garrison towns in North Africa. Neal flew 39 sorties before joining No. 148 Squadron in May 1943. This was a special-duties squadron which flew Halifaxes in support of resistance movements in occupied Europe.

In June Neal returned to Britain, where he served briefly as an instructor training younger recruits before joining Bomber Command to undertake further specialist training in Lancasters. By the end of the year Neal had been commissioned to flying officer and in March 1944 was posted to the highly decorated Australian No. 460 Squadron. Now a mid-upper gunner in a Lancaster crew, Neal flew a number of sorties against targets in Germany. Within weeks he had taken part in raids on Berlin, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Essen, Frankfurt, and Nuremburg.

Neal had been a member of the squadron for a matter of weeks when on 27 April 1944 Australian official war artist Stella Bowen, captivated by the crew's bravery and youth, began a series of sketches of the squadron members. That night, they conducted a raid on the industrial centre of Friedrichshafen, Germany. The Lancaster carrying Flying Officer Ronald Neal failed to return to base. They were shot down over the target, the only survivor the severely wounded Pilot Officer Thomas Lynch.

Neal was 33 years old. His body was recovered and he is buried in the Durnbach War Cemetery in Bavaria.

Stella Bowen continued work on her painting of the Lancaster crew. She wrote that it was "horrible having to finish the picture after the men were lost". It was, she said, "like painting ghosts".

Stella Bowen's painting Bomber Command is one of the most well-known items within the Australian War Memorial's collection. It provides a moving and lasting tribute to not only Neal's crew and the men of No. 460 Squadron but also all of the young men who served in Bomber Command.

Following his death, Ronald Neal's commanding officer wrote to his family that Neal's "characteristic skill and courage" were "an inspiration" to all in No. 460 Squadron.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with around 40,000 Australians who were killed in the Second World War.

This is but one of the many stories of courage and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Flying Officer Ronald Leslie Neal, and all of those Australians - as well as our Allies and brothers in arms - who gave their lives during the Second World War.

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (411227) Flying Officer Ronald Leslie Neal, No. 460 Squadron, RAAF, Second World War (video)