The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (VX37499) Sergeant William Arthur Gullidge, 2/22nd Australian Infantry Battalion, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.214
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 2 August 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 Sharon Bown, the story for this day was on (VX37499) Sergeant William Arthur Gullidge, 2/22nd Australian Infantry Battalion, Second World War.

Speech transcript

VX37499 Sergeant William Arthur Gullidge, 2/22nd Australian Infantry Battalion
Died at Sea 1 July 1942
Story delivered 2 August 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Sergeant William Arthur Gullidge.

Known by his middle name of “Arthur”, William Gullidge was born on 9 April 1909, the only child of George and Frances Gullidge.

William’s father died in a mining accident at the South Blocks Mine at Broken Hill in 1911, when William was two years old. His mother returned to Tasmania, where she had been born, before moving to Perth, and finally settling in Melbourne.

As a young boy, William Gullidge became an ardent Christian and developed a lifelong passion for music. Rapidly developing into an accomplished conductor and composer, he had his first work published at the age of 17. He was the winner of two ABC national music competitions, two international competitions for composers of music for brass, and was the publisher of The Regal Brass Band Journal. For a time he was the bandmaster at Collingwood, one of Melbourne’s largest Salvation Army bands.

While pursuing his passion for music and religion, in 1935 he married Mavis Anderson at Northcote Church of Christ.

When the Second World War was declared, Gullidge felt a responsibility to play a part in Australia’s defence. As a Christian, however, he thought that a non-combatant role would be appropriate. In July 1940, he and 25 other Salvation Army members from as far away as Sydney and Hobart marched to the Royal Park Military Depot in Melbourne and enlisted as a group.
Major Harry Shugg was in charge of recruiting battalion bands, and assigned the group to the 2/22nd Battalion, which had just been formed at Victoria Barracks.

Shortly after being raised, the 2/22nd began training, and in September, the battalion marched 235 kilometres to Bonegilla. Here it undertook further training before being sent to Sydney in April 1941 to begin the move to New Britain. There it was to form part of a garrison force being established in response to concerns about the possibility of war with Japan in the Pacific.

Gullidge was commissioned to write a collection of band music for use on ceremonial occasions. Mavis would buy the latest sheet music and send it to him so that he could rearrange it as a band march, which explains how the 2/22nd were marching to “We’re off to see the wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz”, not long after the movie opened.

The 2/22nd arrived at Rabaul, the administrative centre of New Britain, in April. Here it became part of Lark Force, along with the local unit of the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles, the coastal defence and anti-aircraft batteries, and elements of the 2/10th Field Ambulance and 17th Anti-tank Battery. Despite being ill-equipped to withstand an enemy attack, the 2/22nd began constructing defences and training for operation in a tropical environment. They were joined by No. 24 Squadron in early December 1941, after Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor and Malaya, launching the Pacific war.

Japanese bombing of New Britain began in early January 1942, and increased in intensity. Within three weeks, 24 Squadron was virtually destroyed and its remaining aircraft were withdrawn. With no use for the airstrips, they were destroyed and Lark Force withdrew from Rabaul, waiting on the western shores of Blanche Bay for the inevitable Japanese landings.

These began in the early hours of the next day. By 9 am that morning, in the face of communication failures and overwhelming Japanese strength, the Australian defence had lost cohesion and Colonel Scanlan ordered a withdrawal on the basis of “every man for himself”. Unprepared for retreat, chaos ensued, and Lark Force disintegrated.

Over the following days groups ranging from company-strength down to pairs and individuals sought escape along the north and south coasts. Some found small boats and escaped, others were picked up by larger vessels operating from New Guinea. Around 400 members of Lark Force made it to Australia – but about 160 Australians, captured by the Japanese while trying to escape, were massacred at Tol Plantation. Another 836 were interned as prisoners of war.

Early in the morning of 22 June 1942, members of the 2/22nd Battalion, including Gullidge, and civilian prisoners captured in New Britain, were ordered to board the Montevideo Maru. The ship sailed unescorted for Hainan Island, keeping to the east of the Philippines in an effort to avoid Allied submarines.

Eight days into the voyage, the Montevideo Maru was spotted by the American submarine USS Sturgeon which manoeuvred into a position to fire its four stern torpedoes. Survivors from the Japanese crew reported two torpedoes striking the vessel followed by an explosion in the oil tank in the aft hold.

The ship sank in as little as 11 minutes. Although the Japanese crew was ordered to abandon ship, it does not appear they made any attempt to assist the prisoners to do likewise. The ship’s lifeboats were launched, but all capsized and one suffered severe damage.

While the exact number and identity of the more than 1,000 men aboard the Montevideo Maru has never been confirmed, an estimated 845 military personnel and up to 208 civilians lost their lives in the tragedy. Among the dead was William Gullidge, who was 33 years old.

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 Sergeant William Arthur Gullidge, 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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