The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2074) Private William Edward Heckendorf, 33rd Battalion, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.50
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 19 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 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 Gerard Pratt, the story for this day was on (2074) Private William Edward Heckendorf, 33rd Battalion, First World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

2074 Private William Edward Heckendorf, 33rd Battalion
DOW 18 December 1916

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private William Edward Heckendorf.

William Heckendorf was born in 1886 in Wodonga, Victoria, to Lousia and Frederick Heckendorf. His father was born in Germany, and his mother was a first-generation Australian, the child of German immigrants. William was the third of five children born to his parents before his father passed away in 1889, when William was only three. His mother later re-married and had another four children.

William Heckendorf was educated at Huon State School and later worked as a labourer. At the time of his enlistment in the Australian Imperial Force, he was living in Come By Chance, an area to the south east of Walgett in northern New South Wales.

Heckendorf signed up to join the Australian military on 13 April 1916. After passing his medical examinations, he travelled to Armidale for formal enlistment. After four months training, he sailed from Sydney aboard the transport ship Anchises with reinforcements of the 33rd Australian Infantry Battalion and the war on the Western Front.

Heckendorf arrived in England in mid-October 1916, and continued his training at the Lark Hill Camp on the Salisbury Plain. During this period he joined the 33rd Infantry Battalion, which formed part of the 9th Brigade of the 3rd Australian Division. He sailed for France on 21 November, and joined his unit for the first time in the trenches on the 29th, in time for the terribly cold and wet winter of 1916 and 1917.

Heckendorf and the 33rd Battalion served in a section of the trenches near Armentieres in northern France. This was a relatively quiet sector of the trenches known as the “Nursery Sector”, where new Australian units were placed to gain experience in trench warfare conditions. While in the trenches, Heckendorf experienced the day-to-day hardships and terrors of the war. His unit came under intermittent enemy artillery, mortar and machine-gun fire, and faced the extreme cold and wet.

During this period, troops of the 33rd Battalion took part in a series of intelligence patrols into no-man’s-land to discover enemy positions and disrupt enemy defences. This was dangerous work. Even though these patrols often occurred at night, the Germans would often use flares to light up the battlefield and expose the Australian parties.

On 18 December 1916, Heckendorf was killed by gunshot wounds to the head, and it is likely that he sustained these injuries while on one of these dangerous intelligence patrols. He was 31 years old, and had been at the front for only 20 days.
He is buried in the Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery near Armentieres in France, where over 2,600 casualties of the First World War now lie. His grieving mother left the inscription on his grave: “The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away”.

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 William Edward Heckendorf, 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 (2074) Private William Edward Heckendorf, 33rd Battalion, First World War. (video)