The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (421990) Flight Sergeant Ronald Lanham, No. 14 Squadron (RAF), Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2021.1.1.88
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 29 March 2021
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 Chris Widenbar, the story for this day was on (421990) Flight Sergeant Ronald Lanham, No. 14 Squadron (RAF), Second World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

421990 Flight Sergeant Ronald Lanham, No. 14 Squadron (RAF)
Flying Battle: 29 March 1944

Today we remember and pay tribute to Flight Sergeant Ronald Lanham.

Ronald Lanham was born on 15 August 1922, the eldest of three sons born to Timothy and Olinda Lanham of “The Wattles”, a farm near Cowra in New South Wales. Known as “Starchy” to his family and friends, he attended the local Battery Primary School, and later Cowra Public Intermediary High School, where he excelled at technical drawing and distinguished himself as an excellent footballer. After school, Lanham spent a brief period working in a mechanical engineers shop, and then took a position with the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney. With that company, he first worked in Cowra, and later the branch in Bombala, not far from the border with Victoria.

Lanham first applied to join the air force in 1941, and while waiting to enlist joined the air force reserve, with whom he began to learn essential skills, such as Morse code. In April 1942, he formally enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force and began training.

As part of the Empire Air Training Scheme, he was one of almost 27,500 RAAF pilots, navigators, wireless operators, gunners, and engineers who, throughout the course of the war, joined Royal Air Force squadrons or Australian squadrons based in Britain.

In March 1943, he sailed from Melbourne to Canada for training, where he remained for five months. In July he embarked for Britain, and in February 1944 was attached to No. 14 Squadron of the Royal Air Force.

Throughout his training he showed himself to be an excellent airman. He attained his wireless badge in January 1943 and his air gunners badge the following month. He was described by a superior officer as “above the average as an air operator” and “very keen and hardworking”. By August 1943, he had been promoted to the rank of flight sergeant.

With No. 14 Squadron, Lanham participated in reconnaissance sorties from bases across North Africa and the Mediterranean, and in early 1944 formed part of a detachment of Royal Air Force airmen based at Ghisonaccia, on the east coast of Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea. Lanham was part of the aircrew of a Marauder reconnaissance aircraft, tasked with patrolling and supplying information about ship movements off the Mediterranean coasts of Spain and France.

Shortly before eight in the morning on 29 March 1944, Lanham took off on a reconnaissance mission from Corsica aboard the Royal Air Force Marauder aircraft “T for Tare”. The crew of six was all Australian, four of whom, including Lanham, had served together since training in Canada. They were to fly from Corsica to the neutral Spanish coast south of Barcelona, then head north towards German-occupied France, reporting on any shipping sighted along the way.

Lanham served as wireless operator on the flight. Part of his role was to act as lookout for enemy aircraft, and if under attack, help to direct defensive fire.

At around 11 am, Lanham and the crew of “T for Tare” were flying roughly five kilometres off the coast of Mataro, north of Barcelona, when they spotted a small merchant vessel. Lanham’s aircraft, flying at extremely low altitude, made a lap of the ship, and as it completed its circle, crashed into the sea. All six were killed:
• Flying Officer William McDonald
• Flight Sergeant Charles Peedom
• Flight Sergeant Frank Lamond
• Flying Officer John Lewis
• Flight Sergeant Michael Woods
• and Flight Sergeant Ronald Lanham, who was 21 years old.

In the immediate aftermath, local fisherman from Mataro rowed out to look for survivors. None were found, and the bodies of five of the crew, Lanham included, were recovered. The following day they were buried at the Mataro Roman Catholic Cemetery. Hundreds of people, including the British Consul in Barcelona, attended the ceremony.

One of Lanham’s close childhood friends, Peter Dawson, devoted great energy to try to find out the exact cause of the crash after the war. Some reports state that the aircraft had an engine failure as it circled at low altitude; other reports suggest that the aircraft was fired on by the merchant vessel. The exact cause of the fatal crash remains unknown.

Ronald Lanham’s 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 Lanham, 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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