The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (3163) Private Ernest Ambrose Mulhall, 56th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.54
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 23 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 Craig Berelle, the story for this day was on, (3163) Private Ernest Ambrose Mulhall, 56th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

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Speech transcript

3163 Private Ernest Ambrose Mulhall, 56th Battalion, AIF
KIA 26 September 1917

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Ernest Ambrose Mulhall.

Ernest Mulhall, known as “Ernie” to his family, was born in 1895 in Dubbo, the eldest of eight children of James and Elizabeth Mulhall. When Mulhall was about 15, he and the family moved to the Nambucca region of northern New South Wales and settled in the town of Bowraville. Mulhall attended the local public school, worked as a general hand in “Tuck’s Shop”, the local grocery, and trained for two years as an apprentice baker.

Mulhall enlisted into the Australian Imperial Force in October 1916. Within a month he had departed for England with the 36th Training Battalion. While en route to England, he fell sick and spent 21 days in hospital with the measles. He arrived in England in January 1917, and spent the next five months training.

Mulhall arrived in France in May 1917 and joined the 56th Battalion with which he would remain for the rest of his life. From May until July 1917, Mulhall and the 56th Battalion experienced the hardships and drudgery of a war of attrition. They spent their time experiencing intermittent enemy artillery, gas, and sniper fire while manning the front, as well as training, resting, and building refugee camps behind the front lines. A highlight for the men came on 12 July when King George V visited while they trained and rested at the Lytham Camp.

In mid-September the 56th Battalion began marching north into the muddy and bloody Ypres region of Belgium. At this time, Mulhall briefly transferred into the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company. It is likely that he was sent to the Ypres Salient to assist in preparations for the battle of Menin Road. The 1st Tunnelling Company in this period worked on digging advanced brigade headquarters and a deep dugout tunnel system in Hooge Crater and assisted in laying plank roads to the front. Australian photographer Frank Hurley, who visited the dugouts at Hooge crater at this time, later wrote, “It is a wretched job as they are working 25 feet below the surface level and most of the time knee deep in mud, which they jocularly term ‘hero juice’ on account of it percolating through tiers and tiers of buried corpses”. On 23 September, after providing aid to the tunnelling unit, Mulhall returned to the 56th Battalion in preparation for the Battle of Polygon Wood.

This battle, a component of the much larger Allied operation known as the Third Battle of Ypres, began on 26 September 1917. At 5.50 am Australian troops advanced out of their trenches into no-man’s-land behind a heavy artillery barrage, the sound of which was compared to a roaring bushfire. The Germans also subjected Australian troops to heavy artillery fire, on the day of the battle, the German Ypres Corps alone fired almost 300,000 shells. The Australians reached their objectives but endured a series of heavy German counter-attacks. Australian troops held the line, but suffered 5,770 casualties in a single day.

Mulhall was killed in this battle. The details of his death are unclear, however, it is likely that he fell during the 56th Battalion’s consolidation of the line the area known as Jetty Wood after other Australian units had successfully taken Polygon Wood earlier in the day.

He was 22 years old.

Mulhall has no known grave, and his name is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, where the names of 54,000 soldiers who have no known grave are recorded. His name is also recorded on a headstone in his home town of Bowraville, alongside the names of his grieving mother and father.

Private Ernest Ambrose Mulhall is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among more than 60,000 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 Ernest Ambrose Mulhall, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

David Sutton
Historian, Military History Section

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