The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2196) Private William Henry Hannam, 45th Battalion, First World War

Place Europe: France, Picardie, Somme, Albert Bapaume Area, Gueudecourt, Stormy Trench
Accession Number PAFU2014/473.01
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 13 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. The story for this day was on (2196) Private William Henry Hannam, 45th Battalion, First World War.

Note: There is no recording for this event

Speech transcript

2196 Private William Henry Hannam, 45th Battalion
KIA 21 February 1917
Photograph supplied by family

Story delivered 13 December 2014

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private William Henry Hannam, who was killed fighting in France in the First World War.

William Hannam was born in 1894, one of five children to Charles and Amy Hannam of Gilgandra, New South Wales. He worked as a printer in Gilgandra, and travelled to Sydney to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force in January 1916. His older brother Charles had enlisted some months earlier, and fought in Sinai and Palestine with the Australian Light Horse.

William, or “Billy” as he was affectionately known by his friends, trained at Bathurst in New South Wales and left Australia with the 4th reinforcements of the 45th Battalion in August 1916. He trained for several months on the Salisbury Plains in Wiltshire in England, and joined the 45th Battalion in France in January 1917. By then, the fighting on the Somme had petered out while British and German forces hunkered down for winter. When William joined his unit the battalion was holding the relatively quiet sector near the village of Gueudecourt.

William was involved in his first and only battle on the Western Front on 21 February 1917, when troops from the 45th Battalion set out to capture the German position known as Stormy Trench. In the lead-up to the German withdrawal to their formidable Hindenburg Line defences, Australian troops started probing the German line. Stormy Trench was defended by German troops who were not going to let it go easily, and despite attempts by the 45th Battalion to capture neighbouring positions, the attack was a costly and unsuccessful failure. Thirty men were killed trying to capture Stormy Trench, and a further fifty were wounded.

Among the casualties was William Hannam, who was severely wounded by German mortar fire in one of the nearby positions. He was evacuated to the nearest dressing station, but succumbed to his wounds several minutes later. William was hastily buried on the battlefield near Stormy Trench; however, subsequent fighting in the area destroyed the temporary marker identifying his remains, and he was never recovered from the Gueudecourt battlefield. A letter written by one of William’s mates consoled his grieving mother. “I am very sorry to have to send you such bad news,” it read, “but you must think that [William] died like [a] brave man for his country and people, and no man can do more than that.”

William Hannam has no known grave, and is one of 10,500 Australians whose names are recorded on the Australian National Monument at Villers-Bretonneux. His name is also listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, along with 60,000 others from the First World War. His photograph is displayed beside the Pool of Reflection.

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

Aaron Pegram
Historian, Military History Section