The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (4275) Corporal William Alfred Spurling, 50th Battalion, First World War

Place Europe: United Kingdom, England, Dorset, Weymouth
Accession Number PAFU2014/168.01
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 23 May 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 Meredith Duncan, the story for this day was on (4275) Corporal William Alfred Spurling, 50th Battalion, First World War.

Speech transcript

4275 Corporal William Alfred Spurling, 50th Battalion
DOD 16 August 1917
Photograph: P09291.081

Story delivered 23 May 2014

Today we remember and pay tribute to Corporal William Alfred Spurling.

Will Spurling was born in Warracknabeal but was working as farm labourer in South Australia when he enlisted on 13 August 1915. He was posted to the 10th Battalion and, after a period of training, went to Egypt to join the AIF as it was evacuated from the Gallipoli peninsula.

He arrived as the AIF was being reorganised into five divisions, and was transferred to the 50th Battalion as a result. Their first action on the Western Front was at Mouquet Farm in July 1916. Here Spurling went missing for a time and it was determined that he had been wounded and was suffering from shell shock. He described the battlefield as "a horrible spectacle - with the mighty craters and the ground torn up ... dead and dying men, and the awful smell. The noise of bombs, ammunition and equipment and the mighty roar of the guns all add up to make it worse".

On his return to the battalion he was promoted to lance corporal, and shortly afterwards to corporal. He had also applied for the Royal Flying Corps and was waiting to be called away for an examination for admission. However, in April 1917, while the battalion was in the trenches around the Hindenburg outpost village of Noreuil, Will Spurling was severely wounded by gunshot wounds to his back, scalp, and neck. He had been firing his Lewis gun at German infantry massing for a counter-attack and, although he managed to stop the threat of attack he was hit as he was pulling his Lewis gun back in off the parapet.

After a number of operations to remove shrapnel from his chest Corporal Spurling survived these wounds and was sent to England to recover. He continued to suffer from ongoing severe headaches and was sent to hospital in Weymouth on the south coast. While he was here he was somehow scratched on the face. This scratch - seemingly nothing in comparison with his previous wounds - would prove fatal. In the days before antibiotics, it festered and eventually caused his death. Will Spurling died on 16 August 1917 and was buried at the Melcombe Regis Cemetery at Weymouth.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right 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 Corporal William Alfred Spurling, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in service of our nation.

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (4275) Corporal William Alfred Spurling, 50th Battalion, First World War (video)