The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (3791) Private Arthur Ellis, 56th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.107
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 17 April 2018
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 Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (3791) Private Arthur Ellis, 56th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

3791 Private Arthur Ellis, 56th Battalion, AIF
KIA 17 April 1918
Story delivered 17 April 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Arthur James Ellis.

Arthur Ellis was born in 1894, one of 12 children of Thomas and Ellen Ellis of Murtoa in Victoria. Arthur and his twin sister were the youngest of the Ellis family, they lived with another brother on a farm along the Murrumbidgee River at Willbriggee near Griffith in New South Wales.

In October 1915 Ellis travelled to the recruiting depot at Cootamundra and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. After several weeks training at Casula military camp near Sydney, he embarked with a reinforcement group for the 20th Battalion, bound for Egypt and the fighting in the Dardanelles.

By the time Ellis’s troopship had set sail, the fighting on Gallipoli had ended and Australian troops were returning to Egypt before redeploying to the Western Front. As he arrived in Egypt, Ellis was transferred to the 56th Battalion – a new unit raised as part of the expansion and reorganisation of the AIF. He spent several months training with his new unit, before embarking for the fighting on the Western Front in June 1916.

Ellis’s first major action on the Western Front was at Fromelles barely two weeks after he had arrived in France. In a costly and unsuccessful action, Ellis was one of 5,000 Australian casualties sustained in less than 24 hours of fighting on the night of 19–20 July 1916. Ellis was wounded in the left eye, after which he spent a short period recovering in a field hospital in France. He returned to the battalion several weeks later, and took part in the fighting at Louverval and Bullecourt in 1917. Later that year, the 56th Battalion was sent north to Belgium, where they fought a highly successful action at Polygon Wood on 26 September. In October, Ellis was briefly hospitalised, suffering from the effects of poison gas, but he recovered and returned to the battalion several weeks later.

In March 1918, the battalion was sent south to the Somme, where German troops had launched a major offensive, threatening the city of Amiens. The 56th Battalion was sent to Villers-Bretonneux, where the Germans were preparing to make another concerted effort to capture Amiens. On the morning of 17 April 1918, the Germans shelled the Australian positions, drenching the area with poison gas. The 56th battalion suffered a number of casualties, including Arthur Ellis. He was buried at Crucifix Corner Cemetery. He was just 23 years old.

Arthur Ellis’s death had a tremendous impact on his brothers and sisters. Ellis was the second member of the Ellis family killed in the war – his older brother Thomas having been killed at Flers in November 1916.

Arthur Ellis is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among almost 62,000 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 Private Arthur James Ellis, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Aaron Pegram
Historian, Military History Program

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (3791) Private Arthur Ellis, 56th Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)