The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (400175) Sergeant William Bernard Turley Godly, No. 14 Squadron (RAF), RAAF, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2021.1.1.90
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 31 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 Gerard Pratt, the story for this day was on (400175) Sergeant William Bernard Turley Godly, No. 14 Squadron (RAF), RAAF, Second World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

400175 Sergeant William Bernard Turley Godly, No. 14 Squadron (RAF), RAAF
KIA 17 March 1942

Today we remember and pay tribute to William Bernard Turley Godly.

On 31 March 1921 the Australian Air Corps was separated from the army to form the Australian Air Force. A few months later, in August, the new force was given Royal assent, becoming the Royal Australian Air Force.

That same 31 March 1921, William Bernard Godly was born in Lucknow, northern India, the second child of Bernard and May Godly. His father had served during the First World War with the 1/4th Battalion of the Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment, a territorial unit sent to India. After the war his unit took part in the Third Anglo–Afghan War on India’s north–west Frontier.

Looking for a fresh start, the family left the sub-continent, arriving in Fremantle, Western Australia, aboard the passenger ship Naldera on 7 December 1922. William was just 20 months old and had two sisters, one aged three years and the other four months old. The Godlys soon moved to Victoria where they put down roots. They worked the land in Western Victoria near Coleraine, where William attended Melville Forest State School. By 1935 they had moved to Melbourne. William went to Beaumaris State School, then Castleton College in Black Rock when the family settled at nearby Sandringham.

After failing to obtain an intermediate certificate with the University of Melbourne, in early 1939 William got a job as a clerk with the Olympic Tyre and Rubber Company. In June he joined the local Militia, marching part-time with the 46th Battalion.

War broke out in September that year, but being under 18 years of age, William would have to wait. His father, Bernard, who had been working as an insurance agent for AMP, joined the Australian Imperial Force and was sent overseas with the Australian Army Service Corps. With written permission from his mother, William joined the Royal Australian Air Force on 23 June 1940.

After attending Initial Training School at Bradfield Park in Sydney, he began training as a wireless operator/air gunner. This took him to No. 1 Wireless Ooperator/Air Gunner School in Ballarat. In early 1941 he attended No. 1 Bombing and Air Gunnery School at Evans Head. After seven months intensive training there, William, now a sergeant, headed overseas.

On 9 April 1941 William embarked in Sydney and within a month had crossed the Indian Ocean, stepping ashore in Egypt. In June he was attached to the Royal Air Force and posted to No. 211 Squadron, a medium bomber unit equipped with Blenheim bombers. No. 211 was based at Heliopolis in Egypt as a reserve training squadron; there, Godly undertook further training in gunnery, Morse and wireless transmitting.

After a brief stint with No. 71 Operational Training Unit – on the 10th of December 1941, William was posted to No. 14 Squadron, RAF, a combat-operational Blenheim squadron. Made up mostly of Australian personnel, No. 14 Squadron had been fighting in the skies above the Sudan, Egypt, the Western Desert and Crete. After sojourns to Palestine and Iraq they returned to Egypt in November 1941. As William joined the squadron, it was pursuing German and Italian forces falling back into Western Cyrenaica.

In late January 1942, No. 14 Squadron was in action again, attacking Rommel’s advancing columns as they pushed back Eighth Army. Eventually both sides settled on the Gazala Line, west of Tobruk, as they prepared for the next phase of the campaign. From early February the squadron was based well inside Egypt, about 50 kilometres east of Mersa Matruh, but maintained forward bases, including one at Bir El Baheira, near Bardia. Fighting in the air continued at a hectic pace, and the Blenheims were highly vulnerable to German fighters when they lacked adequate fighter cover. The aircraft were operational most days, raiding enemy supply convoys, airfields and shipping.

On the morning of 17 March 1942 eight aircraft took off from Bir El Baheira for an anti-shipping patrol, looking for an enemy convoy reported to be north–east of Benghazi. As the aircraft tried to form up, two collided. The crews of both were killed as the planes crashed to the ground and burst into flames. Among the dead was William Godly, who was 20 years old, just 14 days short of his 21st birthday. The RAAF itself was also not yet 21.

Godly’s remains were recovered and buried alongside those of his comrades in the Tobruk War Cemetery.
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 Sergeant William Bernard Godly, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Craig Tibbitts
Historian, Military History Section

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