Aubrey George Ashley was born on 6 September 1917 to Roy and Rosa Ashley of Neutral Bay, Sydney.
He enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force on 12 September 1941 and commenced training as a pilot. After initial training in Australia, he embarked for overseas service.
As part of the Empire Air Training Scheme, Ashley 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.
After arriving in Britain, Ashley undertook further specialist training before being posted to No. 460 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force.
No. 460 Squadron would become the most highly decorated Australian squadron in Bomber Command, and the squadron that suffered the highest casualties.
Flying twin-engine Vickers Wellington medium bombers and then four-engine Avro Lancaster heavy bombers, the squadron lost over 1,000 men, including Australians, British, Canadians, New Zealanders, and South Africans. Almost 600 Australians from No. 460 Squadron are listed on the Australian War Memorial’s Roll of Honour.
On the night of 24 July 1943, 26 Lancasters from No. 460 Squadron were involved in a large bombing raid on the German city of Hamburg. The raid was part of a bombing offensive by the Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Force, known as Operation Gomorrah.
During the raid, Ashley’s Lancaster was shot down. He and all six of his fellow crewmates were killed in action: Australian Flight Sergeants Frederick Taylor, and Francis Forsyth, British Sergeants John Acheson, James Joyce, and Dennis Metcalfe, and Canadian Sergeant Antoine Perron.
The crew are buried side by side in a collective grave in the British and Commonwealth War Cemetery in Becklingen, Germany.
Aubrey Ashley was 25 years old.
Lachlan Grant, Historian, Military History Section