The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (5665) Corporal Ernest Corby, 3rd Battalion, AIF, First World War
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 Michael Kelly, the story for this day was on (5665) Corporal Ernest Corby, 3rd Battalion, AIF, First World War
5665 Corporal Ernest Corby, 3rd Battalion, AIF
KIA 14 April 1918
Story delivered 14 April 2018
Today we remember and pay tribute to Corporal Ernest Corby.
Christopher Ernest Corby was born in 1885, one of 11 children of Reuben and Catherine Corby from Tuena in the New South Wales southern tablelands. Those who knew him in the small rural community simply knew him as “Ernie”. He attended Tuena State School and afterwards worked as a grazier and shearer on the family property, “Rockdale”.
Corby enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Sydney Town Hall in January 1916, and after a period of training at the military camp at Liverpool, embarked in June 1916 for the training camps in England with a reinforcement group for the 3rd Battalion. After several weeks in camp on the Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, Corby sailed for France and joined the battalion in Belgium. Here it rested in the relatively quiet Ypres sector after taking part in heavy fighting at Pozières and Mouquet Farm. Once it had been built back up to strength, the 3rd Battalion returned to the Somme and held the line between the villages of Flers and Guedecourt during the bitterly cold winter of 1916 to 1917.
Corby participated in all the battalion’s major actions throughout 1917, including the advance to the Hindenburg Line in March and April. When British operations shifted north into Belgium, he participated in the attack at Menin Road during the Third Battle of Ypres. Corby had by this stage been promoted to lance corporal, and in October, after fighting at Broodseinde, was promoted to corporal before going on leave to London. He returned to the battalion in November, spending this winter in the now-quiet sector near the town of Messines.
The tranquillity of that cold but quiet winter ended in March, when the German army launched its Spring Offensive in France, in an effort to split the British and French armies along the river Somme. Their objective was the city of Amiens, the major rail and logistical hub for the allies in France, and they also attempted to strike at the rail hub further to the north at Hazebroucke.
The 3rd Battalion was sent to defend the line between the forward villages of Merris and Strazeele, where on 14 April 1918 they fought off a strong and determined German assault near the position known as Gutzer Farm. According to one eyewitness, Corby was rallying his men sometime around 10.30 am when a German bullet struck him in the head and killed him instantly. He was 32 years old.
He was buried nearby, along with a number of other 3rd Battalion men, but the location of his grave remained unknown.
For decades, Corby’s name appeared on the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux, which records the names of over 10,000 Australians killed in France who have no known grave. But in 2005, a farmer tilling his field near Merris discovered the skeletal remains of four Australian soldiers who had been killed during the First World War. After research and forensic investigation, one of the recovered soldiers was believed to be Ernie Corby. All four soldiers were later reinterred at the Outtersteene Communal Cemetery Extension in nearby Bailleul.
Ernie Corby’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among almost 62,000 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 Christopher Ernest Corby, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.
Historian, Military History Program
Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (5665) Corporal Ernest Corby, 3rd Battalion, AIF, First World War (video)