The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Lieutenant John Pidcock, 11th Field Artillery Brigade, AIF, First World War.

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 Gerard Pratt, the story for this day was on Lieutenant John Pidcock, 11th Field Artillery Brigade, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

Lieutenant John Pidcock, 11th Field Artillery Brigade, AIF
DOW 5 April 1918
Photograph: P02992.001

Story delivered 1 August 2017

Today we remember and pay tribute to Lieutenant John William Pidcock.

John Pidcock was born in 1893, one of four children of John and Catherine Pidcock of Tatham, near Casino in northern New South Wales. He attended St Mary’s Convent School and Casino Grammar School before starting work as a clerk at the Bank of New South Wales at the age of 15. John worked in banks at Casino, Bathurst, and Newcastle before passing his exams and becoming an accountant. Afterwards, he worked on the Inspector’s Staff at the Bank of New South Wales, and later became the ledger-keeper at the bank’s Surry Hills branch in Sydney.

Pidcock enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in September 1914, and after a period of training at Queens Park in Waverly, embarked with the 1st Field Ambulance with the first troopship convoy in December 1914. He landed on Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 and fought on the Gallipoli peninsula until his evacuation to England with a severe case of gastritis in September. He recovered after a short stay in hospital and was sent back to Egypt. Here he transferred to the artillery to be with his brother, Sidney, joining the 10th Field Artillery Brigade in May 1916. He embarked for the Western Front several weeks later, part of a six-man gun team operating one of the four 18-pounder field guns in No. 37 Battery.

After sailing to France in June, Pidcock participated in all the major actions on the Western Front throughout 1916. He spent several months near Armentières, where his battery fired in support of Australian troops at Fromelles. He was then moved south to lay down bombardments on the German lines to support infantry at Pozières and Mouquet Farm. In February 1917, Pidcock was selected to join the Royal Artillery Cadet School at St John’s Wood in England, where he qualified for a commission. Now a lieutenant, he returned to France in November 1917 and was posted to 42nd Battery in the 11th Field Artillery Brigade.

Pidcock spent the following winter in the Messines sector, which was relatively quiet until the Germans launched a massive offensive that broke the stalemate on the Western Front and overran the old battlefields on the Somme. Having achieved this breakthrough, the German army attempted to drive a wedge between the British and French armies in France by attacking along the Somme River, striking towards the support and logistical hub of Amiens. The Australians were rushed south from Belgium to defend Amiens, and troops of the 4th Division were put in the line near the village of Dernancourt to stop the German assault.

With two understrength brigades that included the guns of the 11th Field Artillery Brigade, the Australians made a defensive stand against three German divisions on the morning of 5 April 1918. The 18-pounders of 42nd Battery were dug outside the village of Millencourt, firing in support of the Australian infantry under heavy and sustained German counter-battery fire.

For his actions that day, John Pidcock was awarded the Military Cross. An excerpt of his citation reads:

The heavy and accurate fire directed against this battery cut all wires and interrupted communications between the control station and the guns. Lieutenant Pidcock personally carried order to the guns from the control station for two hours under the continued fire until [he was] wounded.

Pidcock was seriously wounded in the abdomen by German shell fragments. He was evacuated to the 3rd Canadian Stationary Hospital but succumbed to his wounds later that day.

Aged 25 at the time of his death, he was buried at Doullens Communal Cemetery Extension Number 1.

One of Pidcock’s former colleagues at the Bank of New South Wales described him as one of the finest lads that I have known; unassuming to a degree, and as an officer, he is not often equalled. A hardened campaigner of nearly five years service said of him on the Peninsula that he was indeed wonderful, going out calmly under the most dangerous conditions for the wounded, and remaining bright and cheerful in spite of all the discomfort and hardship there.

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 Lieutneant John Pidcock, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Aaron Pegram
Historian, Military History Unit

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Lieutenant John Pidcock, 11th Field Artillery Brigade, AIF, First World War. (video)