|Object type||Last Post film|
Australian War Memorial
|Place made||Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell|
|Date made||24 May 2019|
First World War, 1914-1918
Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
|Copying Provisions||Copy provided for personal non-commercial use|
The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2662) Corporal William Mason Proudfoot, MM, 49th Battalion, AIF, First World War.
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 Widenbar, the story for this day was on (2662) Corporal William Mason Proudfoot, MM, 49th Battalion, AIF, First World War.
2662 Corporal William Mason Proudfoot, MM, 49th Battalion, AIF
KIA 7 June 1917
Today we remember and pay tribute to Corporal William Mason Proudfoot.
William Proudfoot was born in Perth, Scotland, around 1889, the son of George and Jane Proudfoot. He trained as a mechanic and worked on the railways, while gaining two years’ military experience as a volunteer in the Forfarshire Garrison Artillery. At the age of 23, he emigrated to Brisbane, where he worked as a porter on Queensland railways.
In May 1915, Proudfoot enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, joining the reinforcements for the 9th Australian Infantry Battalion. After three months’ training near Brisbane, he embarked on the transport ship Kyarra in August 1915. He arrived on the island of Lemnos in mid-November. The 9th Battalion had arrived on the island from Anzac Cove earlier in the month, as part of the British and allied evacuation from the Gallipoli peninsula.
At this time, the Australian Imperial Force took on an influx of recruits and effectively doubled in size. Each original battalion was split in half, with the remainder made up of new recruits such as Proudfoot. In this way, every unit had a core of soldiers with battle experience. About half of the veterans of the 9th Battalion formed a new unit, the 49th Australian Infantry Battalion. Proudfoot transferred to this unit.
The 49th Battalion undertook training on Lemnos for the remainder of November and December. In January, the unit sailed to Alexandria in Egypt, where they continued their training at Tel-el-Kebir camp. Proudfoot was promoted to the rank of corporal in April. He and his comrades trained in Egypt until June 1916, when they sailed for France.
The unit’s first major battle was at Mouquet Farm, near Pozieres on the Somme River in France. During the fighting on 3–5 September, the officers in Proudfoot’s company were all killed or wounded, and Proudfoot and other non-commissioned officers worked hard to keep their men together. For his actions in this, his first battle, Proudfoot was awarded the Military Medal. In this battle, he was also badly wounded in his right leg.
He spent four months recovering in hospital at the British camp in Etaples, on the coast of France. This meant that he was out of the trenches for part of the bitter winter of 1916 and 1917. When he returned to the front in February 1917, his unit was preparing to follow up on the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line. Proudfoot fought again at Noreuil in early April, before spending two weeks on leave in England during May.
He returned to his battalion in early June, and three days later, on 7 June 1917, his unit attacked the German lines at Messines in Belgium, just over the border with France. He was badly wounded in the fight, and while lying on a stretcher waiting to be moved, a shell exploded nearby and killed him instantly. Survived by his widow Isabella, and his daughter Agnes Muriel Proudfoot, William Proudfoot was 29 years old.
Two of William’s brothers also served in the AIF: his older brother Corporal George Proudfoot, who returned to Australia, and his younger brother Private Robert George Henderson Proudfoot, who was killed at Pozieres in August 1916.
William Proudfoot’s name is inscribed on the Menin Gate Memorial in Belgium, alongside the names of 6,000 Australians killed in the Ypres sector whose gravesite is unknown.
Corporal William Mason Proudfoot 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 Corporal William Mason Proudfoot, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.
Historian, Military History Section
Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2662) Corporal William Mason Proudfoot, MM, 49th Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)