The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (5117) Lance Corporal William Alfred John Layburn, 22nd Battalion, AIF, First World War

Place Europe: France, Picardie, Somme, Herbecourt
Accession Number PAFU2014/312.01
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 28 August 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 Gerard Pratt, the story for this day was on (5117) Lance Corporal William Alfred John Layburn, 22nd Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

5117 Lance Corporal William Alfred John Layburn, 22nd Battalion, AIF
KIA 28 August 1918
Photograph: H16885

Story delivered 29 August 2014

Today we remember and pay tribute to Lance Corporal William Alfred John Layburn.

William Layburn was the son of John and Jane Layburn of Dunedin, New Zealand. He was born in Sawyer’s Bay and was educated at the Christian Brothers’ School near Dunedin. As a young man he immigrated to Australia. Although he had an uncle and aunt in South Australia, Layburn found work as a wool buyer and classer in Victoria and settled there.

William enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in 1915 at the age of 25. Nearly two months after enlisting he announced his engagement to Miss Mabel Bliss, although they did not marry before he left the country. He underwent a period of training in Australia and then England, during which he was promoted to lance sergeant in the training battalion. He proceeded to France in late March 1917 to join the 22nd Battalion in the field, at which time he reverted to private. His first experience in the trenches was around the French village of Bullecourt in April 1917.

In October 1917 the 22nd Battalion took part in an attack on Broodseinde Ridge in Belgium. Layburn served as a runner, performing the crucial task of carrying messages under heavy shell-fire. He was buried twice by the blasts, and became “physically exhausted with exposure and fatigue”. Nevertheless, Layburn would not rest, and remained “on duty in spite of the fact that he had been given permission to report to the nearest dressing station for medical attention”. These words come from his citation for the Military Medal, which he was awarded in January 1918 for courage and devotion to duty at Broodseinde.

In 1918 the 22nd Battalion returned to France to help stop the German Spring Offensive. But the tables soon turned, and the latter part of 1918 saw the allies make serious inroads into the German positions. August, the 22nd Battalion war diary records, was a month “as varied in nature and extent as it has [been] the privilege of any member of the unit to participate in”. They fought in set-piece battles, and infiltrated German positions through “peaceful penetration” techniques. In the middle of the month the battalion spent a number of days at rest beside the Somme, where “even the non-swimmers were tempted into the shallow waters at least once daily”.

Soon the battalion went back into the line near Herbecourt. The men were attempting to infiltrate enemy positions with a bombing attack, when a German officer came running out of a house in the village dressed in just his shirt and trousers. He shot at Lance Corporal Layburn, killing him instantly. Layburn was buried where he fell, aged 28.

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 Lance Corporal William Alfred John Layburn, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in the service of our nation.

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