The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (213) Private Francis Williams, 34th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2017.1.20
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 20 January 2017
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 (213) Private Francis Williams, 34th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

213 Private Francis Williams, 34th Battalion, AIF
KIA 7 February 1917
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 20 January 2017

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

Francis Williams was born in 1893, one of three children of Thomas and Catherine Williams of Greta in the Hunter Region of New South Wales. Known as Frank, he attended school nearby at West Wallsend and later worked as a miner in one of the district’s many collieries. He was a well-known personality in the local soccer league, playing fullback for the West Wallsend British Football Club. In 1914 Williams married Isabella Dawson and the couple soon had a daughter, Vera.

According to his football mates, Frank “proved that when the country’s call came he was quite fearless and ready, just as in football, to take part in the defence of his country”. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at West Wallsend in January 1916 and, after a period of training at Broadmeadow Military Camp near Newcastle, embarked for the training camps in England as an original member of the 34th Battalion in May 1916. Williams trained with the battalion on the Salisbury Plains near Wiltshire before finally sailing for France six months later.

The 34th Battalion filed into the trenches for the first time in the relatively quiet Houplines sector near Armentières in November, where they spent the bitterly cold winter of 1916. Due to its low-lying conditions, there was relatively little fighting in this sector, although the Australians carried out a regimen of active patrolling and trench raiding during the winter months. German artillery and trench mortar fire was active, and routinely bombarded the Australian front line. Williams wrote home to his wife in December telling her how he was lucky to be alive after a German shell exploded near him in the front-line trench, the concussion of which pitched him over a friend’s head.

Just a few hours after Isabella had received this letter, she received a telegram informing her that her husband had been killed on 7 February 1917. He was just 23 years old. The 34th Battalion war diary refers to aircraft dropping bombs on the Australian lines, and German machine-gun fire being particularly active in the sector on the day Williams was killed, and it’s possible that one of these led to his death. He was buried at Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery in Armentières, where he rests today.

Williams’s loss was keenly felt within the Wallsend British Football Club, who remembered him as “very popular and … one of the best backs who ever wore the blue jersey”.

Francis Williams is listed on the Roll of Honour 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 Frank Williams, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Aaron Pegram
Historian, Military History Program

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (213) Private Francis Williams, 34th Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)