The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (412945) Pilot Officer Kenneth James Godwin, No. 460 Squadron, RAAF World War Two

Place Europe: Germany, Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony
Accession Number PAFU2014/393.01
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 14 October 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 Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (412945) Pilot Officer Kenneth James Godwin, No. 460 Squadron, RAAF World War.

Speech transcript

412945 Pilot Officer Kenneth James Godwin, No. 460 Squadron, RAAF
KIA 20 February 1944
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 14 October 2014

Today we remember Pilot Officer Kenneth James Godwin, who died after being shot down over Germany while serving with No. 460 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force.

Ken Godwin was born in Bexley, in southern Sydney, on 14 October 1921. He was the only surviving son of James and Grace Godwin. Growing up in Sydney’s southern suburbs, on leaving school Ken Godwin first worked as a telegraph messenger, then as an assistant customer shipping clerk, before becoming a junior porter with the New South Wales Government Railways.

At the outbreak of war in September 1939 Godwin was initially hesitant to enlist, telling a sister he would wait until “the enemy comes along here”. But in August 1941, after the death of his father that March, the 19-year-old Godwin enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force. He spent the next 15 months in various training establishments. In the second half of 1942 he wrote to his mother about the joys of flying. There “is nothing to be compared with it, the thrills and spills” he wrote:

I simply love to do aerobatics at about 400 miles an hour, first your upside down, then on your head and the next thing you know you are on your ass again.

In July 1942 Godwin qualified as a pilot and four months later sailed to Britain. After several months in various units he was posted in October 1943 to No. 460 Squadron, stationed at Binbrook in Lincolnshire.

Later that month Godwin flew on his first bombing raid, attacking Kassel in central Germany. In December, during an attack on Berlin, Godwin piloted the Lancaster W4783 known as “G for George” – the aircraft on permanent display in the Memorial’s Anzac Hall.

During another night raid on Berlin, after bombing with one engine out, Godwin was low on fuel and could not see the runway through the clouds as he approached Binbrook. He proposed climbing to a higher altitude so his crew could bail out, but was told to descend to a break in the clouds at 500 feet. Instead, the Lancaster crashed into a nearby field. All but one of the crew were injured, and Godwin did not fly again until late January 1943, when he was commissioned as a pilot officer.

On the night of 19 February Godwin was flying his eighth raid, attacking the town of Leipzig in eastern Germany. In the early hours of the next morning his Lancaster was attacked by a German night fighter that riddled the bomber with cannon and machine-gun fire from tail to nose. Fires broke out inside the Lancaster, and as it went into a dive Godwin ordered the crew to bail out. The bomber aimer, Flight Sergeant Vern Dellit, managed to parachute safely and became a prisoner of war. He afterwards described his plane as “a mass of flames heading earthward”.

Witnesses on the ground later described seeing the Lancaster explode in the air, and again as it crashed into Steinhudermeer Lake, near the town of Altenhagen in Lower Saxony. Godwin and four of his crew were killed. Dellit and another sergeant were captured and spent the rest of the war as prisoners of the Germans.

Godwin’s body was never recovered. He was 22 years old.

Pilot Officer Kenneth James Godwin is remembered on the Runnymede Memorial in Surrey, England. He is also commemorated here, on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with some 40,000 Australians who died during 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 his service and all of those Australians, and those of our Allies, who have given their lives in the service of our nation.

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