The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (244) Private William Edward Newson, 24th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2017.1.225
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 13 August 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 (244) Private William Edward Newson, 24th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

244 Private William Edward Newson, 24th Battalion, AIF
KIA 29 July 1916

Story delivered 13 August 2017

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private William Newson.

Known as “Bill” to his family and friends, William Edward Newson was born in 1880, one of six children of George and Ellen Newson of what is now known as Mitchell in Queensland’s Western Downs. He was brought up by his mother and older siblings following the death of his father the year after his birth. William attended state school in Warren before the Newson family moved to Trangie in the New South Wales Orana region, where William worked as a labourer. He was fondly remembered by the community as “well-known and of a very humorous disposition”.

William Newson enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Woodonga in Victoria in March 1915. After a period of training at Broadmeadows military camp, he embarked for Egypt as an original member of the 24th Battalion in May 1915. After several weeks training, the 24th Battalion sailed for Gallipoli, where it joined the rest of the Australian 2nd Division in reinforcing parts of the line along the beachhead at Anzac after landing on 4 September. The battalion spent most of its time on Gallipoli near Lone Pine before it withdrew to Mudros and returned to Egypt after two months on the peninsula.

The 24th Battalion spent the following months training in Egypt as the AIF prepared for fighting on the Western Front. Arriving in France in March 1916, the 2nd Division spent its first weeks in the new operational theatre in the relatively quiet sector outside the town of Armentières on the Franco-Belgian border. Troops of the 24th Battalion carried out patrols of no man’s land and carried out raids on the German trenches in preparation for their first major offensive effort.

In July, the 2nd Division moved south to the Somme and entered the line near the village of Pozières which the Australians had captured just
days earlier. Taking the village had pushed a significant bulge into German lines, allowing German guns to pour devastating fire onto the village from multiple sides of the battlefield.

The 2nd Division entered the line at Pozières on 27 July 1916 and began preparations for an assault on the German defences east of the village. Known as the OG lines, these were a formidable network of trenches that dominated the high ground of the area and impeded any further progress. Capturing these defences would allow the Australians to take the high ground surrounding Pozières and push north towards the heights of Thiepval.

The 24th Battalion assaulted the OG lines the following evening in what was ultimately a costly and unsuccessful assault. German machine-gun crews were alerted to the Australians as they formed up before the attack began, opening fire on them and inflicting a heavy toll. The supporting bombardment was not strong enough to overwhelm the German defences, and assaulting troops were caught out in the open by rifle and machine-gun fire before being driven away. By morning, the 2nd Division had lost over 3,500 men as casualties and the OG lines remained in German hands.

Among the casualties lost that night was William Newson, who was listed as having been killed in action. The historical records do not tell us how he died that night, but we dp know that his body was recovered and later buried at Courcelette British Cemetery where he rests today. He was 36 years old.

William Newson’s 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 Private William Edward Newson, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Aaron Pegram
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (244) Private William Edward Newson, 24th Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)