The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Major General William Throsby Bridges KCB CMG, 1st Division Headquarters, AIF, First World War

Accession Number PAFU2015/194.01
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 18 May 2015
Access Open
Conflict South Africa, 1899-1902 (Boer War)
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 Meredith Duncan, the story for this day was on Major General William Throsby Bridges KCB CMG, 1st Division Headquarters, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

Major General William Throsby Bridges KCB CMG, 1st Division Headquarters, AIF
KIA 18 May 1915
Photograph: AO2867

Story delivered 18 May 2015

Today we remember and pay tribute to Major General William Throsby Bridges.

As well as being the first commander of the Australian Imperial Force, Bridges was an important power behind the founding of the Royal Australian Military College at Duntroon, and commanded the Australian force at Gallipoli. He is also the only identified Australian soldier killed in the First World War to be repatriated and buried in Australia.

William Throsby Bridges was born in Scotland in 1861. His father William was a captain in the Royal Navy and his mother Mary the Australian-born daughter of an English migrant. After living in Canada for a time the family moved to Sydney, leaving William behind to finish his studies at the Royal Military College of Canada. Bridges did not finish his studies – some accounts say that he found it difficult to settle down to study, and became the first cadet to be discharged from the college for academic failure. Others hint that his family’s financial crisis meant that he had to withdraw. He joined his family in Sydney in 1879.

In 1885 he married Edith Francis, who would bear him seven children. That year he volunteered for service with the military contingent to the Sudan, but was too late to be accepted and instead joined the temporary forces raised at home to cover the troops’ absence. In 1886 he attended the first course of the School of Gunnery at Middle Head, New South Wales, and went on to become a distinguished artilleryman, an instructor of gunnery, and the state’s artillery firemaster.

Bridges served in the Boer War, seeing action at Paardeberg and Driefontein before contracting enteric fever and being sent to England for recovery.

He continued to rise in the colonial and then Australian forces. By 1909 he had become the first Chief of the Australian General Staff. The following year he was instrumental in the establishment of the Australian Military College, and was appointed its first commandant.

When the First World War began in 1914 Bridges was given the task of raising an Australian contingent for service in Europe. He named it the Australian Imperial Force, and was appointed its commander. Within a short time Australian troops had sailed to Egypt, where they established their training camp and prepared for battle.

On 25 April 1915 units of Major General Bridges’ 1st Australian Division were the first to land at Anzac Cove. In the desperate confusion of the first day the landing force suffered more than 2,000 casualties, and little progress was made towards achieving their military objectives. Foreseeing disaster, Bridges argued for an immediate evacuation but was overruled.

The Gallipoli campaign was destined to continue for another eight months; it eventually ended in stalemate and the evacuation of all allied forces.

Right from the start on Gallipoli Bridges insisted on inspecting the front lines on a daily basis, despite the danger to himself. On 15 May 1915 he was travelling with other officers through Monash Valley when he was shot through his right femoral artery by a Turkish sniper. The bleeding was stopped, but Bridges said, “Don’t’ carry me down – I don’t want any of your stretcher-bearers hit.” All movement in Monash Valley was stopped so that the Turks would know the only thing moving was a party carrying a wounded man. On reaching safety Bridges was evacuated to the hospital ship Gascon. He died before it reached port.

William Bridges was initially buried in Egypt, but in June his body was exhumed and returned to Melbourne, where he received a state funeral. On 3 September he was buried on the slopes of Mount Pleasant at Duntroon in Canberra, under the words: “A gallant and erudite soldier.”

Major General William Throsby Bridges’ 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 one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Major General William Throsby Bridges, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in the service of our nation.

Written by David Whyte
Modified by Dr Meleah Hampton

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