The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (NX38919) Corporal Wallace Stafford Keft, 2/3rd Australian Infantry Battalion, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.154
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 3 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 Craig Berelle, the story for this day was on (NX38919) Corporal Wallace Stafford Keft, 2/3rd Australian Infantry Battalion, Second World War.

Speech transcript

NX38919 Corporal Wallace Stafford Keft, 2/3rd Australian Infantry Battalion
KIA 10 February 1945
Story delivered 3 June 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Corporal Wallace Stafford Keft.
Wallace Keft was born on 28 January 1918 into the large family of Thomas and Edith Keft of Nowra on the south coast of New South Wales.

He grew up in the region, and after attending Nowra Intermediate Highschool, went on to work as a labourer. He also served in the Militia, as a private with the 14th Battalion, for over three years.

No less than five of the Keft brothers served during the Second World War. Wallace Keft enlisted in July 1941, undertaking initial training at Ingleburn Camp before leaving Australia on the 1st of October 1941, bound for the Middle East.

In January 1942 he joined the 2/3rd Australian Infantry Battalion in Syria, but soon left the Middle East, heading for the war against Japan in early March. Between late March and July the battalion defended Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka) from possible Japanese attack.

While in Ceylon, Keft reported ill with severe diarrhoea, but had recovered in time rejoin his unit as it returned to Australia in August 1942.

The following month the 2/3rd landed in New Guinea to take part in the advance along the Kokoda Trail to the Japanese beachheads. After fighting major engagements at Eora Creek, Oivi, and on the Sanananda Track, Keft was evacuated, suffering from severe diarrhoea.

Leaving New Guinea in January 1943, he arrived in Cairns and was taken to hospital suffering from malaria.

While the 2/3rd Battalion spent the bulk of 1943 and 1944 training in northern Queensland, Keft had several relapses of malaria, and spent some time recovering. In September he was found absent without leave, and was fined and lost pay as punishment. But this infraction didn’t prevent him from being promoted. In February 1944 he was appointed lance corporal, and in April was promoted to acting corporal. This rank was confirmed in June, shortly before he learnt that his father, Thomas, had died.

The 2/3rd’s last campaign of the war was the operation to clear the Japanese from the Aitape-Wewak region of New Guinea between December 1944 and August 1945.

Before embarking for his final stint of overseas service, on 11 September 1944 Keft married Iris May Catherine Clancy in Hurstville.

Towards the end of year he joined his battalion and embarked from Cairns, landing at Aitape in late December.

Located on the northern coast of New Guinea, the small town of Aitape had been occupied by the Japanese in 1942. Recaptured by an American landing in April 1944, it was developed as a base area, and Australians began to advance to the east of Aitape to destroy the remnants of the Japanese 18th Army.

The resulting operations were characterised by prolonged small-scale patrolling, often in particularly arduous conditions. Assaults, when they occurred, were similarly small-scale, company attacks being the largest conducted in most instances. One such attack took place on the morning of 10 February 1945, when an Australian patrol met intensive machine-gun fire, leaving one killed and one wounded. A further three men were killed and three wounded during efforts to rescue the wounded. The attack ended when another patrol that was in the vicinity heard the action and moved in to attack, putting the Japanese to flight, but resulting in another man killed and three wounded.

Among the dead was Corporal Wallace Keft, who was 27 years old.

Today his remains like in the Lae War Cemetery under the epitaph:
“He gave his life that we may live”.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among almost 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 Corporal Wallace Stafford Keft, 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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