The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Lieutenant Norman William Wilkes, 2nd Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2017.1.276
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 03 October 2017
Access Open
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
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

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 Craig Berelle, the story for this day was on Lieutenant Norman William Wilkes, 2nd Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

Lieutenant Norman William Wilkes, 2nd Battalion, AIF
DOW 4 October 1917

Story delivered 3 October 2017

Today we remember and pay tribute to Lieutenant Norman William Wilkes.

Norman Wilkes was born on 21 January 1886 in Footscray, Victoria, the third child of William and Louisa Wilkes.

He grew up in Footscray and attended Footscray College Grammar School and later Footscray College. During his time at school, he spent five years serving in the junior cadets, reaching the rank of sergeant. Wilkes and his father were active members of the Footscray Rifle Club.

Following the death of his father in 1906, Wilkes moved to Sydney to work as an apprentice dentist at his older brother’s practice. Five years later, Wilkes qualified as a dentist and went into practice.
Following the outbreak of the First World War, Wilkes enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in Sydney on 9 July 1915. Following his initial training, he was promoted to sergeant, and in October he applied for a commission.

He was accepted for officer training and graduated at the beginning of December with the rank of second lieutenant. Allotted to reinforcements to the 2nd Battalion, he left Sydney on 3 June 1916 on the transport ship Kyarra, bound for England. After arriving in England, Wilkes underwent further training in preparation for conditions on the Western Front. He sailed for France in early February 1917 and joined the 2nd Battalion a few weeks later. On arrival, he was posted to command 2 Platoon, A Company.

Wilkes saw his first action in early April when the 2nd Battalion captured the village of Hermies, an outpost village in front of the formidable Hindenburg Line.

The 2nd Battalion initially played a supporting role during the second battle of Bullecourt before holding parts of the line threatened by German counter-attack. The following months were quiet for the battalion and Wilkes, recently promoted to lieutenant, was given a four-day leave pass to Paris in July.

After a supporting role during the battles of Menin Road and Polygon Wood, the 2nd Battalion re-entered the front line on 1 October in preparation for the impending attack on Broodseinde Ridge.

In the early hours of 4 October, before the attack had begun, Wilkes was talking with several officers and men in a front-line trench, when the battalion came under heavy German mortar fire. One shell burst amongst Wilkes and his comrades, killing one officer outright and wounding several other men, including Wilkes, who was hit in the chest and abdomen by shrapnel. He was carried to a nearby dressing station before being taken to 3rd Australian Field Ambulance near Ypres. His wounds were mortal and he died soon after arrival. He was laid to rest in the Menin Road South Military Cemetery the same day. He was 31 years old
His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among more than 60,000 Australians who died while serving in the First World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Lieutenant Norman William Wilkes, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Lieutenant Norman William Wilkes, 2nd Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)