The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (4865) Private Clifford Cyril Phister, 47th Battalion, First World War

Place Europe: France, Nord Pas de Calais, Nord, Avesnes sur Helpe, Landrecies
Accession Number PAFU2014/239.01
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 17 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

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 Troy Clayton, the story for this day was on (4865) Private Clifford Cyril Phister, 47th Battalion, First World War.

Speech transcript

4865 Private Clifford Cyril Phister, 47th Battalion
Killed while POW 9 October 1918
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 17 July 2014

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Clifford Phister, a locomotive cleaner from Ipswich, Queensland, who died a prisoner of war in France on 9 October 1918.

Clifford Phister enlisted in the AIF in September 1915 and embarked for service in Egypt with the 9th Battalion in March the following year. By then, Australian forces had been withdrawn from Gallipoli to Cairo, where the AIF effectively doubled in strength. Phister, however, was sent to a training battalion in England, where he remained until he was sent to France with the 31st Battalion in October.

He was lucky to avoid fighting at Pozières and Mouquet Farm, but his first introduction to the war on the Western Front was the brutal winter of 1916–17 in the Flers–Gueudecourt sector near Bapaume. The cold, mud and endless rain were probably far greater adversaries for the troops than the German army, and it was during this time that Clifford Phister was admitted to hospital with a severe case of trench foot. He was evacuated to England for recovery, and did not see any further fighting until June 1917.

Phister was transferred to the 47th Battalion, which was preparing to take part in the Third Battle of Ypres in Belgium. He was again admitted to hospital, this time with a fever, and missed the fighting at Broodseinde Ridge. Phister had so far managed to avoid some of the bloodiest battles fought by the Australians, but he would not be so lucky at Dernancourt in April 1918, where he was among 470 Australians taken prisoner. He reassured his brother in a letter soon after: “I suppose you have all thought … old snowy had gone west but thank God I am still alive and kicking … they haven’t pulled the blinds down yet, so don’t worry.”

Instead of being taken to a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany, Phister was among hundreds of Australians who remained with the German army as it retired over the following months. Conditions were harsh: there was little food, and their close proximity to the fighting meant that the prisoners were vulnerable to their own armies’ shell-fire. Described by his comrades as being “thin and rather weak [with] just enough strength to get about”, Clifford Phister was caught ransacking a turnip crop near Landrecies and was shot dead by a German sentry who believed he was trying to escape. He was just 22 years old.

Clifford Phister’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, along with around 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 Private Clifford Cyril Phister, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in service of our nation.

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