The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2036) Gunner Kenneth Laird, 6th Australian Light Trench Mortar Battery, First World War

Accession Number PAFU2014/010.01
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 10 January 2014
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
Description

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 Andrew Smith, the story for this day was on (2036) Gunner Kenneth Laird, 6th Australian Light Trench Mortar Battery, First World War.

Speech transcript

2036 Gunner Kenneth Laird, 6th Australian Light Trench Mortar Battery
DOW 2 July 1916
Photograph: P08913.001

Story delivered 10 January 2014

Today we remember and pay tribute to Gunner Kenneth Laird.

Ken Laird was born in Serpentine, Victoria, in 1889 to Donald and Isabell Laird. He was from a farming family and continued to work in and around the family farm at Calivil. In 1915 he married Mary O'Byrne. Laird tried unsuccessfully to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force at least once, and was turned down because of dental problems. However, not long after his marriage he was re-examined and successfully enlisted, travelling overseas with reinforcements to the 22nd Battalion.

Laird served at ANZAC Cove for the last two months of the Gallipoli campaign but after a period of training with the infantry in Egypt he transferred to the newly formed light mortar batteries. These light artillery pieces were carried into the forward lines and could be set up and operated simply by dropping a bomb into the barrel of the mortar, which fired it up and over into enemy lines.

After arriving in France the men of the AIF were given a chance to experience front-line trench warfare on the Western Front. Laird had been in the front line about six weeks when he was "caught by an isolated shell on a comparatively quiet night". He was on duty guarding an ammunition dump well behind the front lines in the early hours of 2 July 1916. Half an hour before he was due to be relieved, the stray shell burst next to him and inflicted "terrible injuries". Ken Laird was dead on arrival at the 1st Canadian Casualty Clearing Station.

Lieutenant Gray of the 6th Trench Mortar Battery wrote to Mary Laird back in Australia:

Poor Ken was our first casualty ... I cannot adequately express my feelings at losing him. He was universally loved by the men of the battery. He always exercised a restraining influence to his younger comrades, who naturally looked to him for advice. He showed great coolness and devotion to duty under fire ... in these circumstances I can say no more.

Ken Laird was buried in an extension of the communal cemetery at Bailleul. He had just turned 27.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, along with more than 60,000 others from the First World War, and his photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is but one of the many stories of courage and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Gunner Kenneth Laird, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in the service of our nation.

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2036) Gunner Kenneth Laird, 6th Australian Light Trench Mortar Battery, First World War (video)