The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (744) Private Ralph Ewart Field, 10th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.191
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 10 July 2018
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 Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

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 (744) Private Ralph Ewart Field, 10th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

744 Private Ralph Ewart Field, 10th Battalion, AIF
KIA 23 July 1916
Story delivered 10 July 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Ralph Ewart Field.

Ralph Field was born in Penwortham, near Clare in South Australia, on 4 May 1893. One of nine children born to William and Ada Field, he grew up in Clare, where he attended the local public school. The first family home in Clare had to be demolished to make way for the new railway, and so they moved to a home opposite William Field’s butchers shop, where Ralph’s parents lived until they retired to Adelaide in 1918. Ralph – known as “Paddy” to his mates – followed in his father’s footsteps and became a butcher. He was a kind and genial man who was reportedly well liked by everyone.

Ralph fell seriously ill in 1914, and had only just recovered from typhoid fever when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, shortly after the outbreak of war in August 1914. He was followed days later by his brother Wybert. Unlike Wybert, who went into the light horse, Ralph was posted to the 10th Infantry Battalion. He underwent a period of training in Australia before leaving for active service with the first contingent. They were first sent to Egypt where they continued training before being sent to Gallipoli.

In the early hours of 25 April 1915, men of the 10th Battalion rowed silently towards the Turkish shore at what would become known as Anzac Cove. The war diary of the battalion records that “no sound was heard, except the splash of the oars; we thought that our landing was to be effected quite unopposed, but when our boats were within about 30 yards of the beach a rifle was fired from the hill in front of us above the beach, right in front of where we were heading for. Almost immediately heavy rifle and machine gun fire was opened upon us.”

Ralph wrote home to his mother to say, “the inevitable has happened, and we have been going hammer and tongs. It was just as I told you; we worked for victory or death, and we got victory after a hard fight and we have progressed the same ever since.” He later reported a number of narrow escapes on Gallipoli, including being buried by shell-fire several times.

In August Field fell seriously ill with dysentery, returning to the peninsula after a month in hospital. Within days he was evacuated again, and was admitted to hospital in Cairo suffering from scarlet fever and diphtheria. After being reported as dangerously ill, he somehow turned a corner, and recovered enough to return to the 10th Battalion in March 1916. At this stage the AIF was completing a process of expansion and reorganisation before being sent to the battlefields of France.

On 23 July 1916 the 10th Battalion participated in its first major operation on the Western Front when it attacked the French village of Pozieres. The village was captured under some of the heaviest shell-fire of the war, although the 10th Battalion suffered extremely heavy casualties during the operation.

During the attack, Private Field’s platoon was ordered into a trench as the battalion was making an advance. As they did so, Field was hit on the head by a piece of shrapnel and was killed instantly. His platoon commander later wrote, “he was always a great friend of mine, and fought side by side with me on Gallipoli … Ralph was well liked by all who knew him and always fought bravely and fearlessly. There is one consolation, and that is he died fighting for his king, country, and those he loved best.”

There was no time to bury Ralph Field properly in the confusion and heavy shell-fire of the battlefield. His body was pushed into a shell-hole and roughly covered over, which was the best the men could do at the time. It was lost in later fighting, and today Ralph Field is one of the 10,738 missing named on the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux. He was 23 years old.

His 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 Private Ralph Ewart Field, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Meleah Hampton
Historian, Military History Section

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