|Object type||Last Post film|
Australian War Memorial
|Place made||Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell|
|Date made||15 September 2020|
Second World War, 1939-1945
Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
|Copying Provisions||Copy provided for personal non-commercial use|
The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (257414) Squadron Leader Robert Wilton Bungey, 4 Embarkation Depot Adelaide, Second World War.
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 (257414) Squadron Leader Robert Wilton Bungey, 4 Embarkation Depot Adelaide, Second World War.
257414 Squadron Leader Robert Wilton Bungey, 4 Embarkation Depot Adelaide
Accidental 10 June 1943
Today we remember and pay tribute to Squadron Leader Robert Wilton Bungey.
Robert Bungey was born at Fullarton, South Australia, on 4 October 1914, the son of Ernest and Ada Bungey.
The family moved to the Adelaide suburb of Glenelg soon after Robert’s birth and he grew up there, attending Glenelg Primary School and Adelaide High School. Later he went to work for Ajax Insurance, training as an assessor and attending night school.
On 15 July 1936, at the age of 21, Robert Bungey joined the Royal Australian Air Force as a pilot trainee. After attending flying training school at Point Cook, he chose to go to Britain to enlist in the RAF on short service commissions. Shortly after his arrival in August 1937, Bungey joined the Royal Air Force as a pilot officer. After attending flying training school in Scotland, in November 1937 Bungey was posted to No. 226 Squadron, which was located in Oxfordshire, and equipped with Fairey Battle light bombers.
Towards the end of 1938 Bungey attended the school of air navigation, completing a navigation course while flying Avro Ansons.
After Germany’s invasion of Poland, Britain declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939.
Bungey’s squadron was deployed to France as part of the Advanced Air Striking Force. Because of fears of provoking German bombing against civilian targets, no operational sorties were flown – and what was known as the “Phoney War” began.
Bungey flew reconnaissance missions near the German lines, and on the 8th of December, he was one of several pilots honoured to provide an escort for King George VI during his visit to France.
By April 1940, Bungey’s squadron was busily engaged in training for night missions. The German invasion of France and the Low Countries began in mid-May 1940, and the unit’s aircraft were soon in action.
Despite the danger of an invasion of England, in late June No. 226 Squadron was sent to Northern Ireland. Bungey enjoyed a week’s leave yachting around the coast of Ireland and became engaged to Sibil Johnson.
With the beginning of the Battle of Britain in July 1940, there was a shortage of trained fighter pilots. Bungey volunteered for fighter duty and was posted to No. 145 Squadron in mid-August. This squadron was based at Tangmere near the English Channel, and equipped with Hurricanes.
The unit flew operational patrols every day in October; on some days three or four sorties were flown. On 7 November, Bungey was flying near the Isle of Wight when his patrol was attacked by Messerschmitts. Five Hurricanes were shot down. Bungey was able to force land his aircraft in shallow water and scramble out to safety, injuring his knee in the process.
The tempo of operations remained high throughout the end of 1940, but with the end of the Battle of Britain in mid-September, enemy operations were curtailed.
Bungey was promoted to flight lieutenant in January 1941, and the following month he took his last Hurricane flight. After that point, all of his fighter flying would take place in Spitfires. On 6 April, he had an operation on his knee which prevented him from flying for a few months.
In May, Bungey was promoted to squadron leader. He had been chosen to command No. 452 Squadron, the first Australian fighter unit to be formed in Britain, and the first Australian squadron equipped with Spitfires.
After taking command of the squadron on 10 June 1941, by late September Bungey had been recommended for the Distinguished Flying Cross. The recommendation for the award noted his earlier service, and added:
Bungey has been in command of 452 Squadron at this station since 21st July and he has led the squadron in an exemplary manner on many operational flights over France. He has also led the wing on several occasions. Due to his personal leadership the squadron has attained much success.
Bungey’s DFC was formally gazetted on 7 October. The following day, Bungey married Sibil Johnson. As the wedding took place during weekend leave, Bungey returned to flying duties a few days later.
At the end of November, Bungey farewelled his wife, Sibil, who set out from Liverpool for Australia, arriving in Adelaide in February 1942. On 20 March 1942, she gave birth to a son, Richard.
Bungey held a variety of administrative postings at air bases for the remainder of 1942. At the start of 1943, he undertook night fighter training with No. 51 Operational Training Unit. However, he was soon posted to Australia, taking up the position of Chief Flying Instructor with No. 2 Operational Training Unit at Mildura.
After sailing from Britain in mid-February, Bungey arrived home on 5 May 1943 and met his 14-month old son for the first time. His arrival was noted in the press and a luncheon in his honour was planned at Parliament House.
Before this event could take place, Bungey’s wife, Sibil, became ill with meningitis. On 27 May she died after being admitted to a private hospital in Glenelg.
Two weeks later, on 10 June 1943, Robert Bungey took his son for a walk to the beach, where he took his own life. His son was injured and recovered to be adopted by an uncle.
Bungey was buried with full military honours alongside his wife in St. Judes Cemetery, Brighton, South Australia.
He was 28 years old.
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 Squadron Leader Robert Wilton Bungey, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.
Editor, Military History Section
Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (257414) Squadron Leader Robert Wilton Bungey, 4 Embarkation Depot Adelaide, Second World War. (video)