The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (QX46939) Lieutenant Norman James Liles, 2/10th Commando Squadron, AIF, Second World War

Place Oceania: Territory of Papua and New Guinea, New Guinea
Accession Number PAFU2014/417.01
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 4 November 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 Meredith Duncan, the story for this day was on (QX46939) Lieutenant Norman James Liles, 2/10th Commando Squadron, AIF, Second World War.

Speech transcript

QX46939 Lieutenant Norman James Liles, 2/10th Commando Squadron, AIF
KIA 20 February 1945
Photograph: 083055 (second from left)

Story delivered 4 November 2014

Today we remember Lieutenant Norman James Liles, who was killed in New Guinea in 1945.

Norman Liles was born in Esk in south-east Queensland on 7 November 1917, the youngest son of John and Mary Liles. Leaving school early, Norman Liles was a 20-year-old engine driver when he joined the Militia in August 1940.

Despite his limited formal education, Liles possessed natural leadership ability and was prepared to take on responsibility. Serving with the 51st Battalion, in just three months he was promoted from private to acting sergeant. In December 1942 he was promoted to sergeant shortly before volunteering for the Australian Imperial Force. Selected for officer training, Liles was commissioned as a lieutenant the following August.

Five months later, in January 1944, Liles joined the 6th Division’s 2/6th Cavalry (Commando) Regiment, then in camp near Ravenshoe on the Atherton Tablelands.

Serving as an armoured unit earlier in the war, by 1944 the regiment was acting as administrative headquarters for the 2/7th and the newly raised 2/9th and 2/10th commando squadrons. In May Liles became a platoon commander in the 2/10th Commando Squadron.

For most soldiers, the monotony of training and waiting on the Atherton Tablelands seem endless. Liles may have shared these sentiments, but he also enjoyed some romance. In July he became engaged to 21-year-old Marjorie Pryor, a private in the Australia Women’s Army Service who worked in an officers’ club. The couple married later that month. Their time together, however, was all too brief.

In October the 2/10th Commando Squadron embarked for overseas service as the 6th Division began relieving American forces garrisoning Aitape, on New Guinea’s north coast. The 2/10th’s war diarist noted how after months of training “spirits were high” as everyone “eagerly awaited their first action” against the Japanese.

Advancing eastwards from Aitape, the 6th Division began pushing towards Wewak and the final concentration of Japanese soldiers in New Guinea.

In February 1945 the squadron was patrolling aggressively in the Torricelli Mountains with the aim of clearing the Japanese from the villages around Ami. On 20 February, troopers from the squadron attacked Kualigem. Liles and another officer were killed and five other Australians were wounded.

Liles was 25 years old. He is buried in the Lae War Cemetery in New Guinea, and 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. His photograph is displayed by the Pool of Reflection. Liles stands second from the left.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Lieutenant Norman James Liles and all those Australians who have given their lives in the service of our nation.

Karl James
Historian, Military History Section