The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (4107) Private Thomas John Ellis, 19th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Place Europe: France, Picardie, Somme
Accession Number AWM2016.2.319
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 14 November 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

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 (4107) Private Thomas John Ellis, 19th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

4107 Private Thomas John Ellis, 19th Battalion, AIF
KIA 14 November 1916
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 14 November 2016

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Thomas John Ellis, who was killed fighting in France in the First World War.

Thomas Ellis was born in 1883, one of 12 children of Thomas and Ellen Ellis of Murtoa, Victoria. He grew up with his brothers and sisters on a farm along the Murrumbidgee River at Willbriggee, near Griffith in New South Wales. He was working as an assembler in Sydney when war broke out, and enlisted at Casula military camp in November 1915. Ellis spent a brief period training in Sydney before embarking with the 10th reinforcements to the 19th Battalion in November 1915, bound for the training camps in Egypt.

The Gallipoli campaign ended while Private Ellis’s troopship was at sea, so after several months of training in Egypt he was deployed to the Western Front in May 1916. The 19th Battalion was heavily committed to the fighting at Pozières throughout July, but Thomas joined the battalion as it rotated out of the front line. In September, the 19th Battalion moved into Belgium where it rested and recuperated in a reserve position near Ypres after six weeks of fighting on the Somme. It returned to France in October, not long before the battle of the Somme ended, where the battalion took up positions for the winter in the Flers–Gueudecourt sector.

On 14 November 1916 the 19th Battalion took part in an attack made by the Australian 5th Brigade to capture a German trench system known as “the Maze”. Having struggled through the mud to cross no man’s land under withering fire, the 19th Battalion was successful in capturing the Maze, but faced fierce German counter-attacks the following day. The battalion made a costly and unsuccessful bayonet charge against the German positions, which ultimately forced them to retire. The attack on the Maze cost the 19th Battalion more than 390 casualties, among them Private Thomas Ellis, who had been killed during the fighting, aged 34. He was buried nearby, and his remains were later reinterred at the Warlencourt British Cemetery where he rests today.

Just 18 months later, Thomas’s younger brother Arthur was killed defending the town of Villers-Bretonneux.

Thomas Ellis 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 Private Thomas Ellis, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Aaron Pegram
Historian, Military History Section

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