|Last Post film
Australian War Memorial
|Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
|17 July 2013
First World War, 1914-1918
Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
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The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Second Lieutenant William Thomas Piddington, 55th Battalion (Infantry), First World War
The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial every 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 Robyn Siers the story for this day was on Second Lieutenant William Thomas Piddington, 55th Battalion (Infantry), First World War.
**Due to technical issues this recording is of poor quality and not for public display.**
Second Lieutenant William Thomas Piddington, 55th Battalion
KIA 4 July 1918
No photograph in collection
Story delivered 17 July 2013
Today, we remember and pay tribute to Second Lieutenant William Thomas Piddington.
William Piddington was one of seven sons born to Henry and Emma Piddington, farmers from Molong in New South Wales. He enlisted in February 1916 at the age of 21. He was a tall man, and was referred to as "one of Australia's soldier-giants" in the local newspaper, although according to his enlistment papers he was three inches short of the six-foot-four the paper claimed. Two of his brothers, Cecil and Gladstone, also over six feet tall, enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force as well. Both those brothers returned to Australia at the end of the war.
William was posted to the 55th Battalion and went to France. Within ten months he was promoted to corporal, and was then selected to go to the Officers Cadet Battalion at Balliol College in Oxford. He was commissioned in early 1917 after an extended period of training, becoming a lieutenant. He returned to the 55th Battalion in April 1918.
On 4 July 1918 the Australian Corps conducted an operation to take the French village of Hamel. As a part of the preparation for this battle, the 55th Battalion organised a large-scale raid on the German lines to be led by four officers. Lieutenant Piddington volunteered to take part as soon as he heard of the proposed operation, and was given command of the left half of the first wave of the raiding party. They were ordered to take the first objective in a bayonet attack and secure the new position.
The raiding party was in place 20 minutes early, and the war diary of the 55th Battalion records that "the minutes went slowly by" waiting for the artillery barrage to start so that they could start their operation. Finally, zero hour arrived, and the raiding party went out into no-man's land, but Lieutenant Piddington would not return. As he was covering the short distance to the German trenches, he was struck down by an artillery shell and killed instantly.
The operation at Hamel went on to be known for its startling success. The raiding party was able to watch tanks moving about like "huge beetles" in the German lines.
Meanwhile a party went out to search no-man's land for casualties from the raiding party. Piddington's body was retrieved and buried nearby.
Captain Wyllie, Piddington's superior officer, wrote: "by his death this company has lost a very fine officer, and I have lost a personal friend whom I thought very highly of indeed".
His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, along with more than 60,000 others from the First World War.
This is but one of the many stories of courage and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Second Lieutenant William Thomas Piddington, and all those Australians who have given their lives in the service of our nation.