The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (5435) Private William Joseph Punch 1st Battalion, AIF, First World War

Accession Number PAFU2014/463.01
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 3 December 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 Craig Berelle, the story for this day was on (5435) Private William Joseph Punch 1st Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

5435 Private William Joseph Punch 1st Battalion, AIF
DOD 29 August 1917
Photograph: P01625.003

Story delivered 3 December 2014

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private William Joseph Punch.

William Punch was believed to have been born in the Bland River region of New South Wales around 1880 to an Indigenous family. Following the murder of his family soon after his birth, he was taken in by the Siggs family of Goulburn. He attended the local public school and was a good student. He enjoyed music and became an accomplished violin player. He was a popular member of his community and, along with some of his friends, provided musical entertainment at community functions.

Punch was working as a farm labourer in the Goulburn area when the First World War began. He enlisted in December 1915 and underwent his initial training at the local depot. In March he and the other reinforcements at Goulburn were transferred to Liverpool Camp in Sydney. Here Punch was allotted to the 17th reinforcements to the 1st Battalion and sailed for Egypt with his unit aboard the transport ship Ceramic.

After arriving in Egypt Punch was sent to a training battalion at Tel-el-Kebir. He was transferred to England at the end of July and spent several weeks there before sailing for France.

He joined the 1st Battalion in Erie Camp west of Ypres in Belgium in early September. Only a few days later he and the 1st Battalion were in the front line.

On 9 September the battalion was carrying out local maintenance and repair duties under some German artillery fire. Punch sustained a shrapnel wound to his scalp and was evacuated to Boulogne to recover. He re-joined his battalion at the end of the month.

By November the 1st Battalion had moved back to France and was occupying trenches near Flers. The battalion was relieved a few days later and sometime in the ensuing days Punch lost his greatcoat. With a bitterly cold winter setting in, this was viewed dimly by his commanding officer. He was issued a new coat, but fined the cost of the garment.

By the end of the month Punch had been evacuated with trench foot, and did not return to the battalion until April 1917. On 6 April the battalion was involved in a general advance towards Doignes. Three men were killed and eight were wounded, including Punch, who was shot in his right buttock.

A little over a month later he had also developed pleurisy and he was transferred to England for further treatment. By July he had developed endocarditis and was sent to the Mont Dore Military Hospital in Bournemouth.

His condition deteriorated, and on 29 August, too weak to write, Punch dictated his will to the medical staff. He barely had the strength to sign an “X” at the bottom of the page and he died later that day. He was believed to be 37 years old.

He was laid to rest with full military honours in East Cemetery at Boscombe, in Bournemouth. Wreaths were sent by his friends and by fellow patients and hospital staff.

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

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

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (5435) Private William Joseph Punch 1st Battalion, AIF, First World War (video)