The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (425606) Flight Lieutenant Ronald John Conley, No. 97 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Second World War

Place Europe: France, Normandy, Cherbourg
Accession Number PAFU2015/152.01
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 12 April 2015
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 Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

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 Craig Berelle, the story for this day was on (425606) Flight Lieutenant Ronald John Conley, No. 97 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Second World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

425606 Flight Lieutenant Ronald John Conley, No. 97 Squadron, Royal Air Force
KIA 6 June 1944

No photograph in collection

Today we pay tribute to Flight Lieutenant Ronald John Conley, who was killed on active service with the Royal Air Force on D-Day, 6 June 1944.

D-Day has become an iconic event not only in the history of the Second World War but also in the history of the Western world. On this tumultuous day, a multi-national Allied force landed on the shores of Normandy. It was the first major step in the liberation of Western Europe from the tyranny of Nazism and fascism.

Ronald John Conley was born in Brisbane on 25 October 1915. The son of David and Elizabeth Conley, Ronald worked as an inspector at a vacuum oil company before his enlistment in the Royal Australian Air Force on 25 April – Anzac Day – 1943.

After months of training as a navigator, Conley embarked in Melbourne for Britain in March 1943. As part of the Empire Air Training Scheme he was one of almost 16,000 RAAF pilots, navigators, wireless operators, gunners, and engineers who joined Royal Air Force squadrons in Britain throughout the course of the war.

After further specialist training in Pathfinder navigation, in October 1943 Conley was posted to No. 97 Squadron, Royal Air Force. Flying the Avro Lancaster bomber, No. 97 Squadron was part of the RAF’s Bomber Command.

Conley flew 33 operational sorties with the squadron – many against the major German targets such as Berlin and the Ruhr. His last sortie left on the night of 5 June 1944 in support of the D-Day landings in Normandy. No. 97 Squadron had been tasked with a raid on the port city of Cherbourg.

It was while performing this task that Conley was killed in action, aged just 20. He was one of the first Australians killed in the invasion of Europe.

It is uncertain what happened to Conley’s Lancaster, but it was presumed to have been shot down by an enemy fighter. No trace of the crash site was ever found, and Conley’s name and those of his six crewmates are listed upon the Air Forces Memorial overlooking the River Thames. The memorial lists all British and Commonwealth servicemen and servicewomen with no known grave.

For his “high skill, fortitude and devotion to duty”, Conley was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

In a letter to Conley’s parents, the commander of No. 97 Squadron wrote that the D-Day operation was an “extra special mission” for the squadron. Ronald Conley, he wrote:
had great capabilities and experience as a navigator, and was operating with one of our most outstanding crews … He was exceptionally well liked, and very keen in organising sport for the air crew in his spare time. He will be terribly missed by us all, and I would like to assure you that his gallant spirit and unselfishness is admired by all personnel of the Squadron.

Conley was one of thousands of Australians who served within the British and Commonwealth forces on D-Day and throughout the Normandy campaign. On this day of days, Ronald John Conley made the ultimate sacrifice.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, along with around 40,000 Australians who died 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 Lieutenant Ronald John Conley, and all of those Australians – as well as our Allies and brothers in arms – who gave their lives in the hope for a better world.

Dr Lachlan Grant
Historian, Military History Section

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