The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (682) Corporal Harold Ritchie, 49th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Place Europe: France, Picardie, Somme, Albert Bapaume Area, Pozieres Area, Pozieres
Accession Number AWM2016.2.151
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 30 May 2016
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
Description

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 Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (682) Corporal Harold Ritchie, 49th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

682 Corporal Harold Ritchie, 49th Battalion, AIF
DOW 16 August 1916
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 30 May 2016

Today we remember and pay tribute to Corporal Harold Ritchie.

Harold Ritchie was born in 1893 in Taree, New South Wales. He was one of five children born to William and Wilhelmina Ritchie. His father had been a blacksmith who had studied Greek and Latin in his spare time in order to become a clergyman, and just before Harold was born, he entered the Diocese of Newcastle. Until 1905 the family lived at Mount Vincent, described as “an obscure hamlet tucked away at the foot of the mountain near Cessnock”. They moved to Stockton, where William Ritchie was rector in the church until moving to Newcastle.

Following his education, Harold Ritchie was employed by the Works Department in Newcastle. There he was an active member of the Citizens’ Military Forces, but gave up his position in the Australian Corps of Signallers to move to Grafton, where he was a student on the Experimental Farm, the precursor to today’s Grafton Agricultural Research station.

Ritchie enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force within weeks of the outbreak of war in 1914. His brother Hugh was working as an engineer on a steamship that had docked in Hamburg and was detained there by a strike. When war broke out, Hugh and his crewmates were taken prisoner and would spend the next four and a half years as prisoners of the Germans.

Ritchie was posted to the 9th Battalion and sailed with the first contingent for active service overseas. He served as a signaller at the dawn landing on Gallipoli, and was part of the advanced landing party in the early hours of 25 April 1915. Private Ritchie was wounded twice on Gallipoli, the second a serious wound to his thigh from an artillery shell, which saw him spend three months in hospital in Egypt.

After the evacuation Private Ritchie was transferred to the 49th Battalion. A few days later he was promoted to corporal, and continued training in Egypt until June, when he was sent to France to fight on the Western Front.

In August 1916 the 49th Battalion entered the front line near the French village of Pozières. The men initially formed working parties to supply the front line and improve the trenches, all of which were carried out under heavy shell-fire. On 13 August they took over a portion of the front line, again under heavy fire. By the time the battalion was relieved it had suffered more than 100 casualties.

One of those wounded was Corporal Ritchie. On 16 August he was caught in a shell blast which fractured his arm and both legs. He was taken to the 4th Australian Field Ambulance Station, where he died of his wounds a short time later. He was 23 years old.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among more than 60,000 Australians who died while serving in 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 Corporal Harold Ritchie, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Dr Meleah Hampton
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (682) Corporal Harold Ritchie, 49th Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)