The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (6555) Private William Keating, 14th Field Ambulance, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.62
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 3 March 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

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 Joanne Smedley, the story for this day was on (6555) Private William Keating, 14th Field Ambulance, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

6555 Private William Keating, 14th Field Ambulance, AIF
Died of wounds 21 September 1917

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private William Keating.

William Keating was born in 1890 to John and Ellen Cross near the town of Darnum, Victoria. Known to his family and friends as “Will”, he attended Catholic School in Warragul, worked as a farming assistant and served for 18 months in the Citizens Military Forces. Will was described as being of medium height and build, with reddish hair and blue eyes, and he later played football with his unit.

Keating enlisted into the Australian Imperial Force at Warragul on 15 April 1915, and undertook his training at the military camp at Broadmeadows near Melbourne. Having trained as a stretcher bearer, he sailed for Egypt with a reinforcement group for the 6th Field Ambulance seven months later. The Gallipoli campaign had all but ended by the time he arrived, so Keating spent the following months in Egypt where he was transferred to the newly-raised 14th Field Ambulance, which sailed for France in June 1916.

Less than two weeks after arriving in France, the 5th Australian Division of which the 14th Field Ambulance was part, participated in a costly and unsuccessful attack at Fromelles on the night of 19 July 1916. In less than 24 hours, the Australians suffered 5,533 casualties.

Throughout the fighting and afterwards, stretcher bearers from the 14th Field Ambulance carried hundreds of wounded men between the Le Trou Aid Post behind the Australian front line and an ambulance loading post further to the rear. William was described during this time as being “reticent about himself … [but] responsible for many brave deeds… [and] received great praise from his chief”.
Despite its severe losses, the 5th Division remained in the Fromelles area. Several weeks later, Keating was admitted to hospital suffering from a serious case of appendicitis and transported to England to recover. He did not return to the front until June 1917, when the focus of British operations shifted north into Belgium in preparation for a major offensive that would later be known as the Third Battle of Ypres. As part of this offensive, Australian troops were involved in a number of attacks that began with the battle of Menin Road on 20 September 1917.

Stretcher bearers from the 14th Field Ambulance were attached to the 1st and 2nd Division medical services to support casualties incurred during the fighting.

On 21 September 1917, Keating was carrying wounded men along the Menin Road between Hooge Crater and Hellfire Corner when Australian stretcher bearers where subjected to German shell-fire. Keating was hit in the back by fragments from a high-explosive shell, killing him instantly.

Aged 26 at the time of his death, Keating was buried at the Menin Road South Military Cemetery near Ypres. A simple epitaph by his grieving parents appears on his headstone today: “In Loving Memory, R.I.P.”

Keating’s family received a letter from him two days after receiving news of his death, although the historical record does not provide information as to the nature of the letter, his sister Ellen devoted great energy and described herself as “very anxious” about tracking down her brother’s possessions, finding information regarding the nature of his wounds and finding a photograph of his grave.

His name 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 William Keating, 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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