The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (3077) Private William Ewart Mortensen, 9th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Place Europe: France, Nord Pas de Calais, Nord, Lille, Fromelles
Accession Number PAFU2015/459.01
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 9 November 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 , the story for this day was on (3077) Private William Ewart Mortensen, 9th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

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Speech transcript

3077 Private William Ewart Mortensen, 9th Battalion, AIF
KIA 20 April 1916 No photograph in collection Story delivered 9 November 2015

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private William Ewart Mortensen.

William Mortensen was born in 1899 in Leichhardt, New South Wales, to Peter and Therese Mortensen. Little is known of his early life other than he grew up in Marrickville and attended the local state school before leaving to take up work as a farm labourer.

In July 1915 Mortensen put his age up to 18 and travelled to Brisbane with his older brother Albert, where the brothers enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. They were split between reinforcement groups, with Albert leaving for Egypt in September and William embarking with the 10th reinforcements aboard the transport ship Warilda in October.

The brothers were reunited in Egypt that December, and when the 9th Battalion returned to Egypt from Gallipoli in early January 1916 William was taken on strength almost immediately. Albert joined the battalion almost two weeks later.

The brothers remained together until the end of March, at which time the 9th Battalion sailed for France. William went on to France while Albert remained in Egypt and was transferred to the 49th Battalion.

By 19 April William’s battalion was in reserve billets near Rouge-de-Bout, one mile behind the front line in the Armentières or “nursery” sector. Intermittent artillery fire was landing nearby.

Tragedy struck early the next afternoon when the battalion’s C Company billets were heavily shelled. One shell landed outside a canvas tent, wounding four, and as men went to assist them another shell landed, killing several men and wounding others. A further shell hit a brick wall of a nearby billet, causing another 47 casualties. C Company was decimated, suffering 50 men wounded and 25 killed, one of whom was Mortensen. Several other men would die from their wounds over the ensuing days.

Mortensen and the other fallen men of C Company were laid to rest later that day in the Rue-Du-Bacquerot (13th London) Graveyard at Laventie. He was 17 years old.

Mortensen’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, along with more than 60,000 others from the First World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Private William Ewart Mortensen, 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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