The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (422246) Flight Sergeant Ronald Mansfield Oakes, No. 115 Squadron (RAF), Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2020.1.1.333
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 28 November 2020
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 , the story for this day was on (422246) Flight Sergeant Ronald Mansfield Oakes, No. 115 Squadron (RAF), Second World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

422246 Flight Sergeant Ronald Mansfield Oakes, No. 115 Squadron (RAF)
Flying Battle 14 January 1944

Today we remember and pay tribute to Flight Sergeant Ronald Mansfield Oakes.

Ronald Oakes was born on 3 February 1923, the eldest of six children born to Kathleen Stoney Oakes and Dudley Sedgewick Mansfield Oakes, a veteran of the First World War.

Ronald Oakes, known as “Pon” to his family and friends, was born in Sydney. He attended Lane Cove Public School, and later went to North Sydney Chatswood High School. Oakes grew up in Willoughby until 1935, when he went to live with his aunt in Longueville following the death of his mother.

After school he worked as a warehouseman and salesman with D & W Murray Limited, a draper’s shop, and studied accountancy and salesmanship at the Metropolitan Business College in Sydney. He enjoyed playing football and tennis, and was a keen swimmer and cyclist.
Oakes enlisted in the Air Force reserves on 1 December 1941, a few months before his 19th birthday. His service in the reserves provided him with useful basic training, and prepared him for life in the military.

On Anzac Day 1942 he enlisted into the Royal Australian Air Force and began training at bases across New South Wales and Queensland, including the Number 3 Wireless Air Gunners’ School in Maryborough, and the Number 1 Bombing and Air Gunnery School at Evans Head.
On 6 March 1943 he sailed from Melbourne for England, where he would continue to train. Throughout his training, Oakes received a number of promotions, eventually reaching the rank of flight sergeant.

On 26 August 1943, Oakes joined No. 196 Squadron, Royal Air Force. With this unit he flew Wellington and Stirling bombers on missions over occupied Europe. He served as an air gunner, and provided vital defence for his aircraft on their missions.

On 17 November 1943 he transferred to No. 115 Squadron RAF. With this squadron, he continued to serve as an air gunner, though now flying Lancaster bombers.

On 14 January 1944, Oakes participated in an Allied raid on Brunswick in central Germany, about 200 kilometres west of Berlin. Nearly 500 Allied bombers took part in the raid, and 38 would not return to the United Kingdom.

Oakes’ Lancaster was one of them. It was originally reported as missing, and later investigations revealed it is likely to have crashed after exploding at around 7pm near the town of Halchter, 13 kilometres south of Brunswick. None of the eight crew survived.

Oakes was 20 years old, just a few weeks short of his 21st birthday.

His commanding officer wrote a letter of sympathy to Oakes’s father in which he said:
“Your son was a member of one of my best operations crews and was a really fine Air Gunner, who was always keen to get on with the job. He showed great enthusiasm for his work and was deservedly popular. His absence will be felt by all.”

Oakes is buried in the Hanover War Cemetery in Germany, where over 2,400 Commonwealth servicemen of the Second World War now lie. His gravestone reads: “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life.”
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 Flight Sergeant Ronald Mansfield Oakes, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

David Sutton
Historian, Military History Section

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