The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2943) Gunner Ernest John Wills, V4A Australian Heavy Trench Mortar Battery, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.251
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 8 September 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 Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (2943) Gunner Ernest John Wills, V4A Australian Heavy Trench Mortar Battery, First World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

2943 Gunner Ernest John Wills, V4A Australian Heavy Trench Mortar Battery
DOW 2 June 1917
Story delivered 8 September 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Gunner Ernest Wills.

Ernest John Wills was born in 1882 to Robert and Susannah Wills of Ballarat. He was the eldest son of the couple, and had two sisters ¬¬¬¬– Georgina and Ellen ¬¬- and three brothers – Joseph, William, and John.

After attending Golden Point State School in Ballarat, Wills travelled to Kalgoorlie in Western Australia and took up gold mining.

By the time he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Laverton in Western Australia in July 1915, Wills was 33 years old. On 1 October, he left Fremantle on the troopship Hororata with group of reinforcements for the 16th Battalion, bound for the Egypt.

After some initial training in Egypt, Wills fell ill and had to spend some time in the dermatological hospital in Abassia. In March 1916 he was first transferred to the 48th Battalion, and then to the 4th Division Artillery.

In July Gunner Wills was in northern France, seconded to the 4th Divisional Ammunition Column. On 19 and 20 July, the 4th Division Artillery participated in the disastrous attack at Fromelles, during which the Australian 5th Division suffered over 5,000 casualties. During the operation, the 4th Divisional Ammunition Column was responsible for supplying more than 25,000 rounds of ammunition to the divisional artillery.

In September Wills was attached to the Australian Service Corps before attending Trench Mortar School; but on returning to the field he received two weeks of heavy labouring duties for disobeying a superior officer. He returned to the divisional ammunition column, later transferring back to the artillery to be posted to the divisional trench mortars.

In May 1917 Wills reverted to being a gunner and was posted to a heavy trench mortar battery of the 4th Divisional Artillery. Shortly afterwards, his unit was involved in the battle of Messines, providing a preliminary bombardment to put pressure on the enemy during the days leading up to the infantry assault.

Ernest Wills did not live to see the battle of Messines launched, or the success that followed. On 2 June, five days before the operation was due to begin, he was seriously wounded by an enemy shell, which shattered his face, seriously damaged his left arm, and caused a compound fracture to his spine. He was taken to a field ambulance, but due to the severity of his wounds he died the same day.

He was buried at the nearby Pont-D’Achelles Military Cemetery, in Nieppe, France, where he lies today.

He was 34 years old.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, 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 Gunner Ernest John Wills, 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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