Photos: Australian War Memorial

Warrant Officer William ‘Bill’ Wallace Collens was just 29 years old when he made the ultimate sacrifice during the Second World War, but his name and his story is one that will live on forever.

The incredible story of WO Collens’ service was recited during the Last Post Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial on August 22.

He enlisted for service with the Royal Australian Air Force in January 1941 when he was 26, after spending a year-and-a-half serving in the militia.

He joined No. 464 Squadron RAAF in 1942, and only seven months after the squadron formed, he met his fate.

On April 4, 1943, 12 Venturas left to bomb the docks at Rotterdam in Holland, despite much opposition over the target area.

Several aircrafts were damaged, including Collens’.

The aircraft was hit over the target area but continued in formation until they were close to the Dutch Coast, when it eventually lost height and ditched.

It is believed the aircraft was “finished off” by enemy fighters and a search was later deemed unsuccessful.

All the crew, including WO Collens, were presumed dead.

The story of WO Collens was read out to a congregation at the ceremony in Canberra, which included 13 members of the Cobram Barooga RSL Sub-Branch and seven of WO Collens’ relatives.

The Cobram Barooga Sub-Branch has a special connection to the story of WO Collens.

In 1949 WO Collens was commemorated with a plaque beneath a tree at the Cobram Memorial Avenue.

The Sub-Branch reconnected with the family of WO Collens in the lead up to the dedication of our Hay Avenue Memorial in 2018.

During each Ceremony, held every day at 4:45pm on the Shrine's northern forecourt, the story of one person on the Honour Roll at the Australian War Memorial is recited, and patrons are invited to lay wreaths and floral tributes by the Pool of Reflection.

At the August 22 service wreaths were laid by WO Collens’ family and Cobram Barooga RSL Sub-Branch President, Glenn Murphy.

The AWM's Last Post ceremonies are made possible by donations from RSL Victoria, and many of its Sub-Branches including:

  • Altona RSL
  • Ararat RSL
  • Bairnsdale RSL
  • Beaumaris RSL
  • Bendigo District RSL
  • Bentleigh RSL
  • Box Hill RSL
  • Caulfield RSL
  • Longbeach RSL
  • Cheltenham-Moorabbin RSL
  • Clayton RSL
  • Colac RSL
  • Cranbourne RSL
  • Dandenong RSL
  • Darebin RSL
  • East Malvern RSL
  • Epping RSL
  • Fairfield-Alphington RSL
  • Fawkner RSL
  • Frankston RSL
  • Geelong RSL
  • Glenroy RSL
  • Greensborough RSL
  • Healesville RSL
  • Highett RSL
  • Horsham RSL
  • Keilor East RSL
  • Kyneton RSL
  • Lakes Entrance RSL
  • Lara Sub Branch RSL
  • Leongatha RSL
  • Mentone RSL
  • Mildura RSL
  • Moe RSL
  • Montmorency-Eltham RSL Inc.
  • Morwell RSL
  • Noble Park RSL
  • Pascoe Vale RSL
  • Phillip Island RSL
  • Reservoir RSL
  • Ringwood RSL
  • Rosebud RSL
  • Rye RSL
  • Sale RSL
  • Seaford RSL
  • Shepparton RSL
  • Springvale RSL
  • St Kilda RSL
  • Sunshine RSL
  • Swan Hill RSL
  • Traralgon RSL
  • Upper Yarra RSL
  • Wangaratta RSL
  • Warrnambool RSL
  • Watsonia RSL
  • Waverley RSL
  • Werribee RSL
  • West Heidelberg RSL
  • Williamstown RSL

Click here for more information on the RSL’s involvement in the Last Post Ceremonies.