The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (VX96197) Sapper Kevin Francis Pierce, 1st Training Battalion, Royal Australian Engineers, Second World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.120
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 30 April 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
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 Chris Windebar, the story for this day was on (VX96197) Sapper Kevin Francis Pierce, 1st Training Battalion, Royal Australian Engineers, Second World War.

Speech transcript

VX96197 Sapper Kevin Francis Pierce, 1st Training Battalion, Royal Australian Engineers
Killed in training accident 21 May 1945

Today we pay tribute to Sapper Kevin Francis Pierce.

Kevin Pierce was born on 5 January 1927 in Melbourne, the son of Francis and Ruby Pierce.

Kevin’s mother died when he was eight years old, and by the time he turned 18 he was living with his aunt in the Melbourne suburb of Collingwood. By then he had spent some time working as a farmhand in Kilmany, a small town in western Victoria.

In January 1945, just a few weeks after turning 18, Pierce enlisted in the Second Australian Imperial Force. In April he was posted to the 1st Training Battalion, Royal Australian Engineers, Pierce at the large Australian Army training base at Kapooka.

Here, on the afternoon of 21 May 1945, two groups crowded into a dugout to take part in a routine demolition training exercise on the preparation of hand charges: one of 22 trainees and two instructors, and a smaller squad of three men and one instructor. Inside the dugout 110 pounds of explosives were stored for day’s training exercise. In circumstances that remain unknown to this day, the explosives ignited. In the explosion, 24 men were killed instantly, two died of injuries shortly afterwards, and two more were severely injured.
Sapper Kevin Pierce was one of those killed in the accident. He was 18 years old.

A mass funeral was held for the men in Wagga Wagga on 24 May. Thousands of people lined the route of the funeral parade, and 26 flag draped coffins were carried on four army trucks. The cortege included over 100 military vehicles carrying members of the Army and Air Force. The dead were buried in the Wagga Wagga War Cemetery.

Kevin Pierce’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among some 40,000 Australians who died while serving in the Second 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 Kevin Pierce, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Lachlan Grant
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (VX96197) Sapper Kevin Francis Pierce, 1st Training Battalion, Royal Australian Engineers, Second World War. (video)