The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (3660) Private Arthur Fish, 57th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.162
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 11 June 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
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 Widenbar, the story for this day was on (3660) Private Arthur Fish, 57th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

3660 Private Arthur Fish, 57th Battalion, AIF
Illness 31 March 1919


Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Arthur Fish.

Arthur Fish was born in 1897 in Colac, Victoria, the eldest son of Richard and Elizabeth Fish. While Arthur was still young the Fish family moved to Port Fairy on the Victorian south-west coast, where he attended the local state school, completed two years’ service as a senior cadet, and later worked as a grazier.

Fish enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in November 1917, and soon began training with the reinforcements of the 57th Infantry Battalion at the Broadmeadows camp near Melbourne.

In late February 1918 he sailed with his unit from Melbourne aboard the transport ship Nestor, and arrived in Liverpool, England, early in April. He began training with the 14th Training Battalion on the Salisbury Plain, and was promoted to the rank of acting corporal.

On 20 June 1918, Fish was admitted to the military hospital at Sutton Veny suffering from influenza. This period of illness left him in hospital for a month, and when he returned to training duties in July, he reverted to the rank of private.

In late August he sailed from England for France and the war on the Western Front. He joined his unit, the 57th Infantry Battalion, for the first time as they were resting and training behind the lines near Péronne on the Somme River – a town that had been the site of bitter fighting only one week earlier.

Fish and the 57th Battalion spent much of September behind the front lines in the Somme area. But towards the end of the month it began moving to the forward areas in preparation for a major Australian assault. On 28 September it came under German high explosive and artillery bombardment near Cologne Farm as it moved into positon for Lieutenant General Sir John Monash’s attack on the St Quentin Canal, which was planned to begin on 29 September.

This joint Australian and American attack was designed to break through the Hindenburg Line, a complex series of German defensive positions, which on this sector of the front were protected by waterways and a deep tunnel system. Fish’s unit formed part of the southern edge of the Australian attack and successfully took the village of Bellicourt at the mouth of the St Quentin Canal. The attack was a success for the Australian and American forces, but came at the cost of over 2,500 Australian casualties.

The attack on the St Quentin Canal was the last battle fought by the 57th Battalion, and Fish would take part in no further fighting during the war. On 11 November 1918, he was in France for the Armistice that brought the war to end all wars to an end.

Just 11 days after the Armistice, however, Fish was taken to the 3rd Australian General Hospital in France suffering from conjunctivitis. His condition soon deteriorated, and in December he was transferred to England to the War Hospital at Exeter, suffering from broncho-pneumonia.

In February 1919, after a brief period of treatment in hospital at Sutton Veny on the Salisbury Plain, his condition appeared to be improving, and he was granted a leave of absence. Less than a week later, however, he was again hospitalised, this time at the City of London Military Hospital at Clapton.

In mid-March he cabled his parents to tell them that he thought he was getting better, but his condition soon deteriorated, and he was sent to the 4th London General Hospital, reported to be “dangerously ill”, suffering from the effects of influenza and meningitis.

On 23 March he slipped into a coma, and on 31 March 1919 he died of his illness.

He was 21 years old, and died five months after the end of the First World War.

He is buried in the Brookwood Military Cemetery in the United Kingdom, where over 1,600 casualties of the First World War now lie.

Private Arthur Fish’s 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 Arthur Fish, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

David Sutton
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (3660) Private Arthur Fish, 57th Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)