The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (420215) Warrant Officer George William Liels, No. 454 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, Second World War

Place Europe: Greece, Crete
Accession Number PAFU2015/223.01
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 3 June 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 Copy provided for personal non-commercial use
Description

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 (420215) Warrant Officer George William Liels, No. 454 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, Second World War.

Speech transcript

420215 Warrant Officer George William Liels, No. 454 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force
KIA 1 June 1944
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 3 June 2015

Today we pay tribute to Warrant Officer George William Liels, who was killed on active service with the Royal Australian Air Force on 1 June 1944.

Born in the Sydney suburb of Leichardt on 13 May 1920, George William Liels was the son of Thomas and Clarice Liels. As a young man, he attended Central Technical College, and played soccer and tennis. After he left school, he worked as a clerk and grocer’s assistant. He served in the 36th Battalion of the Militia before enlisting in the Royal Australian Air Force in October 1941, at the age of 21. Once in the RAAF, Liels began training as a pilot.

In November 1942 he embarked in Sydney for overseas service. As part of the Empire Air Training Scheme, Liels was one of approximately 27,500 Royal Australian Air Force pilots, navigators, wireless operators, gunners, and engineers who joined squadrons in Britain throughout the course of the war. After further specialist training in Britain, Liels was posted in February 1944 to the Mediterranean, where he joined No. 454 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force.

At this stage the squadron was based in Egypt, where it was part of 201 Group of the Royal Air Force Middle East Command. 454 Squadron was equipped with the two-engined Martin Baltimore light attack bomber. During the period that Liels was with the squadron, it operated mostly as a maritime patrol squadron, targeting enemy submarines and shipping – as well as operating against targets in mainland Greece and the Greek islands.

On 1 June 1944 the Baltimore which Liels was piloting was part of a raid on a German convoy that had left Piraeus Harbour in Greece, bound for Crete. Liels’s Baltimore was shadowing the convoy and had been fighting off persistent attacks by the strong German fighter escort accompanying the convoy. His aircraft was last seen about 50 miles north of Crete, and was presumed to have been shot down by enemy fire.

Liels and his three Australian crewmates – Maxwell Schultz, Max Short and Edward Quinlan – were all killed. Liels was 24 years old. Their bodies were never recovered, but their names are commemorated on the Alamein Memorial at the British and Commonwealth War Cemetery at El Alamein.

Liels’s name – alongside those of Schultz, Short and Quinlan – is listed here on the Roll of Honour to my left, with around more than 40,000 other Australians killed 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 Warrant Officer George William Liels, and all those who gave their lives for their nation.

Dr Lachlan Grant
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (420215) Warrant Officer George William Liels, No. 454 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, Second World War (video)