The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (1622) Private Clifford Miner Bigelow, 59th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.58
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 27 February 2019
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 Troy Clayton, the story for this day was on (1622) Private Clifford Miner Bigelow, 59th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

1622 Private Clifford Miner Bigelow, 59th Battalion, AIF
Illness 18 December 1916

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Clifford Miner Bigelow.

Clifford Bigelow was born in 1878, the second oldest child of James and Agnes Bigelow. While his father was from Canada, and his parents married in New Zealand, Clifford was one of three Bigelow children born in Newcastle, New South Wales, with other siblings being born in New Zealand and Victoria.

Clifford attended school in Richmond and afterwards worked as a carpenter. At the time of his enlistment he was living in South Yarra, Melbourne, with his wife Elsie and two children, Leslie and Ena.

Bigelow enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 1 February 1916 and began training at the Broadmeadows Camp near Melbourne. On 4 May, he sailed from Melbourne aboard the transport ship Port Lincoln with reinforcements for the 59th Australian Infantry Battalion.

He arrived in Egypt in June 1916, where he continued training and formally joined the 5th Australian Division. In August he sailed from Alexandria for England. Here he trained at the Lark Hill camp on the Salisbury Plain before departing for France and the war on the Western Front.

He arrived in France in November 1916, just in time for the coldest winter in living memory. He joined the 59th Battalion on 30 November as it was training and resting behind the front lines of northern France near Flers.

Bigelow immediately experienced the hardships, drudgery, and horror of trench warfare. Throughout early December, he served in reserve and front-line trenches, exposed to terrible winter conditions and high explosive artillery fire. On 2 December, in an effort to reduce the risk of the men succumbing to trench foot, strict orders were issued to his unit to ensure that all troops applied whale oil to their feet and changed their socks daily. When in the trenches, the men spent their time improving the trench system and clearing the muddy and sodden duckboards upon which they walked.

On 12 December 1916, the field diary of the 59th Battalion recorded the kind of warfare Bigelow experienced: it snowed, and after the snow thawed, cold rain beat down on the freezing men. The heavy rain caused parts of the trench to cave in, and the men worked in severe conditions in an effort to make necessary repairs. On the same day, at 5 pm the Germans launched a heavy high explosive artillery barrage that lasted for 40 minutes. Casualties from sickness and artillery were common.

On 14 December, Bigelow was evacuated from the front-line trenches sick with bronchitis and trench foot. Over the next four days, Bigelow passed through the Anzac Main Dressing Station, the 38th Casualty Clearing Station, and finally Number One Australian General Hospital in Rouen, where he was admitted with acute bronchitis on 16 December. Two days later, on 18 December 1916, he died of his illness.

He was 38 years old, survived by his wife and two children. Bigelow had been at the front for 19 days, and had been in the Australian military for less than a year.

He is buried in the St Sever Cemetery Extension in France, where over 8,600 casualties of the First World War now lie. His grieving wife left the inscription on his grave: “In memory of my dearly beloved husband”.

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 Clifford Miner Bigelow, 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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