The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (V40761) Private Keith Edward Gee, 2/24th Infantry Battalion, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.152
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 1 June 2018
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
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 Gerard Pratt, the story for this day was on (V40761) Private Keith Edward Gee, 2/24th Infantry Battalion, Second World War.

Speech transcript

V40761 Private Keith Edward Gee, 2/24th Infantry Battalion
KIA 11 May 1945
Story delivered 1 June 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Keith Gee.

Keith Edward Gee was born on 20 May 1910 in Melbourne, Victoria, to Harry and Amiee Gee. Not much is known about his early life, but when Australia’s involvement in the Second World War was announced, he was living in Richmond, working as a motor driver and despatch clerk. He was also a field umpire for the Victorian Football Association.

Gee had been part of the Militia, spending four years training with the 10th Infantry Brigade before enlisting in the Second Australian Imperial Force on 14 May 1941. He was allotted to the 24th/39th battalion, formed when the 24th and 39th Battalions had merged in 1939. When they were later split up, Gee remained with the 2/24th Battalion, which was moved to Queensland.

After training with the 24th Battalion and becoming qualified as a driver and mechanic, Gee left Townsville for active overseas service in July 1943, arriving in Port Moresby shortly after. The 2/24th went into action in September, taking part in an amphibious landing to advance on Lae, in New Guinea. As the Australians sought to follow up the retreating Japanese, a further landing was made on the Huon Peninsula. The battalion then took part in actions around Finschhafen and the assault on Sattelberg. From there it took part in the advance north to Wareo before the fighting around the Christmas Hills.

Gee was also involved in an expedition to recover the body of the US Army Air Force’s Lieutenant Harry H. Dunham from the Boana area of New Guinea, to return it for burial. Dunham was buried at Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines, and American composer Aaron Copland later dedicated a sonata for violin and piano to his close friend Dunham.

In August 1944, the 24th Battalion was withdrawn to Australia for rest and reorganisation on the Atherton Tablelands. Around this time, Gee married. Not too long after, he learnt that his brother Harry, who had been ill on and off for years, had died.

In late December, Gee embarked from Cairns, spending New Year’s Eve in transit and arriving at the US base at Torokina on Bougainville Island on 2 January 1945.

As part of plans to free US troops for the Philippines campaign, Australian troops took responsibility for Allied operations on Bougainville and began an aggressive campaign to clear the Japanese from the island.

On 5 May, the 24th Infantry Battalion pressed forward along the Buin Road with a tank troop in support. They came up against a concealed field gun defended by approximately 100 Japanese. After the lead Matilda's machine-gun jammed, the field gun opened fire on it, damaging it and wounding its crew. Moving around the stricken tank, the second Matilda, armed with a howitzer, opened fire and destroyed the field gun before sweeping the Japanese defenders from the position.

That night, the Japanese artillery opened up on the Australian position with a heavy barrage, and the following morning a company-sized counter-attack ensued. The Australians repulsed the attack and afterwards were able to advance to the river without further opposition.

Following the advance to the Hongorai, the battalion waited for roads to be improved and supplies to be brought up before attempting to cross the river.

A week later, on 11 May, Private Keith Gee was killed in action. He and two others were buried in a bombed area by the Buin Road, near a ford to Hongorai River. A tin plate bearing his name and service number was fixed to a cross. His body was later reburied at Bomana War Cemetery, near Port Moresby at the southern end of the Kokoda Trail.

On learning of his death, the VFA umpires at Brunswick wore black armbands in his memory.

Keith Gee was 34 years old.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among some 40,000 Australians who died while serving in the Second 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 Keith Edward Gee, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Duncan Beard
Editor, Military History Section

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