The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (470) Sergeant Philip James “Pip” Ball MM, 44th Battalion, AIF, First World War

Place Europe: France, Picardie, Somme, Corbie Albert Area, Sailly-le-Sec
Accession Number PAFU2015/112.01
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 12 March 2015
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 Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

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 Meredith Duncan, the story for this day was on (470) Sergeant Philip James “Pip” Ball MM, 44th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

470 Sergeant Philip James “Pip” Ball MM, 44th Battalion, AIF
KIA 28 March 1918
Photograph: P08927.001

Story delivered 12 March 2015

Today we remember and pay tribute to Sergeant Phillip James Ball MM.

Philip Ball was born in October 1896 in Birmingham, England, to Henry and Emily Ball. He was the fourth of six children.

Ball attended boarding school in Birmingham, but by the age of 14 was working as an engineer tool maker. In 1913, aged 17, he immigrated to Australia with one of his sisters and they settled in Fremantle, Western Australia. Ball lived with his sister and her husband and found work on a local farm.

He was still underage when the First World War began the following year, but in January 1916, aged 19, he enlisted for service in the AIF with his sister’s consent. Ball was posted to C Company of the newly formed 44th Battalion. He was given the nickname “Pip” by his comrades.

Ball embarked with his unit from Fremantle on 6 June 1916 aboard the transport ship Suevic. After several months training in England the battalion sailed for France at the end of November. Ball’s first experience of the front line came in late December, when the 44th Battalion moved into the firing line east of Armentières.

Ball took part in his first battle in June 1917 when the Australian 3rd Division attacked and captured Messines. For his bravery during the fighting, Ball was awarded a Military Medal. In the months that followed he was promoted to lance corporal, temporary corporal, and, in September, corporal.

The 44th Battalion was largely on the defensive in the Ypres Sector during this period, but in October took part in the successful capture of Broodseinde Ridge. The battalion suffered heavy casualties: of the 992 men who entered battle only 152 were left unwounded when the battalion was relieved from the front line. Ball was one of those unscathed, and was promoted lance sergeant in early November. In January 1918, now a senior member of the battalion and a respected noncommissioned officer, was promoted to sergeant.

In March Ball was given a week’s leave to Paris. Shortly after his return the Germans launched their Spring Offensive. The 44th Battalion, still in Belgium, was sent south to help stem the onslaught.

The battalion took up positions near Sailly-le-Sec. On the evening of 28 March Ball was part of a patrol ordered forward to locate the Germans advancing in their vicinity. After advancing 1,000 yards the patrol came under heavy machine-gun fire and suffered several men killed and wounded. Among the dead was Ball, who had been hit and killed outright in the opening German fusillade.

Ball was initially listed as missing in action, which caused great angst for his family. His Red Cross Wounded and Missing file contains numerous entries from his comrades, some of whom saw him die and others who thought he might have been captured. Ball was officially listed as killed in action following a court of inquiry.

It is unclear where his body was initially buried, but in October 1919 his family was advised that his body had been found and re-interred in the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery. After the war the Imperial War Graves Commission asked the next of kin to add epitaphs to the graves of their fallen soldier. Ball’s parents requested the following for their fallen boy:

I fought and died
In the great war
To end all wars
Have I died in vain?

Ball’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 today 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 Sergeant Philip James Ball MM, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in service of our nation.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

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