The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (4363) Private John William Blankenberg, 24th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.33
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 February 2019
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 Copy provided for personal non-commercial use
Description

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 (4363) Private John William Blankenberg, 24th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

4363 Private John William Blankenberg, 24th Battalion, AIF
KIA 5 October 1918


Today we remember and pay tribute to Private John William Blankenberg.

John William Blankenberg was born around 1891 in Riga, modern day Latvia, which was then part of Russia. Blankenberg was one of four sons born to Nathalia Blankenberg, though his father’s name is not known.

Blankenberg worked as an able seaman, and spent at least two years working for the Prince Steam Shipping Company, a worldwide shipping firm. By 1916, he was living in West Brunswick in Melbourne, and while there, told his friends of his hard life in Russia and how one of his brothers was shot, another drowned, and that his mother and other brother likely died when his village was burnt down. The exact details of when these events occurred are not known.

Blankenberg enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 18 January 1916 and began training with the reinforcements for the 24th Infantry Battalion. In March he sailed with his unit for England, and after a further period of training sailed for Europe and the war on the Western Front. He joined his unit in the field for the first time in September 1916 when they were fighting in Belgium.

In late November, while the 24th Battalion was on roadwork duties at Fricourt near the River Somme, Blankenberg was taken to hospital with an ankle injury. During his treatment he was found to also have an abscess in his jaw. He was taken to hospital in England for treatment and recovery, and did not rejoin his unit until October 1917, when they were training and resting behind the lines at Steenvorde near the French-Belgian border.

In March 1918, Blankenberg was once again hospitalised, this time with injuries sustained during a heavy German gas attack on a series of Australian billets known as the “catacombs”.

In May, Blankenberg took part in an attack on the German trenches at on Ville-sur-Ancre, north of the River Somme. The attack was a success for the 24th Battalion, and Blankenberg distinguished himself in the fight. A later report stated that:
“During the attack he was always found in the forefront of the fighting with his Platoon Officer. When the attacking party was temporarily held up and casualties inflicted by an enemy machine gun he threw a bomb into the post and then helped two of our wounded out of danger. When his party advanced again he helped his Officer to rush another post, put the crew out of action and captured a gun. He helped another casualty to the rear, and immediately reported to his officer again. When daylight came and mopping-up began he assisted his officer and another man to mop up another gun crew, thus capturing a second gun.
During the whole attack he showed a total disregard of all danger and materially assisted in the success of the operation.”
He was awarded the Military Medal for his action on this day.

In 1918 Blankenberg and the 24th Battalion served in a supporting role in the battles of Hamel and Amiens, and played a key role in the successful battle of Mont St Quentin.

On 5 October 1918, just over one months before the Armistice that ended the Great War, Blankenberg and the 24th Battalion participated in heavy fighting at Montbrehain, a small town that had two days previously been captured by British troops, but had since fallen back into German hands. The attack was a success, but came at a heavy cost of 430 Australian casualties.

Blankenberg was one of those killed. He was 26 years old, and killed in what was the last action involving Australian infantry on the Western Front.
He is buried in the Calvaire Cemetery in France, where over 70 casualties of the First World War now lie.

Private John William Blankenberg’s 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 John William Blankenberg, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

David Sutton
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (4363) Private John William Blankenberg, 24th Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)