The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (5431) Private Norman Frederick Thomas Williams, 17th Battalion AIF and (5768) Private Albert Edward Williams, 4th Battalion AIF, First World War

Place Europe: France, Picardie, Somme, Bapaume Cambrai Area, Bullecourt
Accession Number PAFU2014/226.01
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 4 July 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 Nicholas Schmidt, the story for this day was on (5431) Private Norman Frederick Thomas Williams, 17th Battalion AIF and (5768) Private Albert Edward Williams, 4th Battalion AIF, War.

Speech transcript

5431 Private Norman Frederick Thomas Williams, 17th Battalion AIF
KIA 3 May 1917

5768 Private Albert Edward Williams, 4th Battalion AIF
KIA 5 May 1917

No photograph in collection

Story delivered 4 July 2014

Today we remember and pay tribute to Privates Albert Edward and Norman Frederick Thomas Williams, two brothers who died in the First World War.

Albert and Norman were born into a large family. Their parents Frederick and Ada Williams welcomed Albert into the world in 1889 and Norman in 1897. Both boys were born at Cargo, New South Wales, and sometime after Norman’s birth the family moved to Canowindra.

Albert, eight years older than his sibling, moved to Bathurst as a young man, where he met Ivy Hynds, a single mother with a daughter. They were married in 1912 and had two daughters, though the youngest died in 1915, aged just one.

Norman, working as a labourer in Canowindra, was the first of the brothers to enlist for service with the AIF. He joined up in January 1916, shortly after his 18th birthday, and was sent to the depot battalion at Bathurst for training.

Albert, also a labourer, enlisted in March and joined his brother at the depot battalion. The brothers and their fellow recruits were later transferred to Liverpool Camp in Sydney. They were separated into different units at the camp, Albert being posted to the 4th Battalion and Norman to the 17th. The brothers would have been able to see each other regularly during this time.

Albert embarked from Sydney aboard the transport ship Kyarra in June, and after arriving in England was sent to a training camp on Salisbury Plain. Norman embarked aboard the Wiltshire in August, but following his arrival in England was hospitalised after contracting mumps.

It is not known whether the brothers had a chance to meet each other again in England. Albert joined his battalion in France in late November and, after his recovery, Norman returned to Salisbury Plain and was sent to France in December.

Both brothers and their battalions endured periods of front-line service in the winter of 1917, one of the worst on record for Europe. Both the 4th and 17th battalions were involved in follow-up actions in February when German troops withdrew to the prepared defences of the Hindenburg Line. The 4th Battalion was withdrawn for a rest in March, but the 17th Battalion, including Norman Williams, took part in stemming a major German counter-attack at Lagnicourt in April.

The brothers’ first major battle, the Second Battle of Bullecourt, was also their last. In the early hours of 3 May the 17th Battalion attacked the Hindenburg Line and suffered heavy casualties during the day. Among those killed was Private Norman Williams. He was buried by his comrades, but in the fighting his final resting place was lost.

Albert was involved in supporting a 2nd Battalion bombing attack on 4 May, and as the 4th Battalion was being relieved the following day the Germans shelled the front line. Albert was killed during one of these bombardments, and his body was not recovered.

After the war both men’s names were added to the roll of the missing on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial.

In the years immediately following Albert’s death his wife’s health deteriorated and she went to live with her parents. Albert’s mother became the guardian of his daughters. Unfortunately, Ivy’s health never recovered and she passed away in October 1926.

The Williams brothers’ names are listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, along with more than 60,000 others from the First World War. There is no photograph in the Memorial’s collection to display 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 Privates Albert Edward and Norman Frederick Thomas Williams, 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 (5431) Private Norman Frederick Thomas Williams, 17th Battalion AIF and (5768) Private Albert Edward Williams, 4th Battalion AIF, First World War (video)