The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (25552) Gunner Bernard Rudd Thompson, 5th Field Artillery Brigade, AIF, First World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.166
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 15 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 Craig Berelle, the story for this day was on (25552) Gunner Bernard Rudd Thompson, 5th Field Artillery Brigade, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

25552 Gunner Bernard Rudd Thompson, 5th Field Artillery Brigade, AIF
KIA 18 May 1917

Today we remember and pay tribute to Gunner Bernard Rudd Thompson.

Bernard Thompson was born in February 1893, the son of blacksmith Richard Rudd Thompson and his wife Elizabeth, of the Sydney suburb of Newtown. Bernard was the fifth of nine children, eight of whom survived infancy. “Barny”, as he was known to friends and family, attended Camdenville Public School. After leaving school, he worked as a tram conductor.

Thompson enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in January 1916. As a member of the reinforcements to the 5th Australian Field Artillery Brigade, he trained in Australia for six months. He embarked at Sydney in late July on board the transport ship Orsova, and arrived in England in mid-September 1916. After further training in England, he sailed to the large Commonwealth camp at Etaples in northern France. From there he joined the 105th Howitzer Battery in April 1917.

Artillery was central to the strategy of both sides on the Western Front. Thompson’s battery was made up of six 4.5-inch howitzers. These guns were used in support of Australian and British infantry. Three days after he joined the unit in France, Thompson and the 105th Battery went into the front line at Vaulx-Vraucourt, north–east of Bapaume in northern France. From there, they bombarded the German position at Reincourt with gas shells. The 4.5-inch howitzers also used high explosive shells against enemy parapets and trenches. Because of the damage artillery could do, the Australian batteries were often the target of German artillery or aeroplane bombing raids.

From the beginning of May, Thompson and his men supported the 2nd Division’s attack on the German defences known as the Hindenburg Line. The operation became known as the Second Battle of Bullecourt. During the two-week battle, the war diary for Thompson’s brigade noted that enemy aeroplanes were active, and heavy German bombardments continued throughout the month.

The Second Battle of Bullecourt was a very costly victory for the Allies. The Australians suffered seven and a half thousand casualties. During the German retreat, in the afternoon of 18 May 1917, Thompson’s battery came under German counter-battery fire, and he was killed. He was 24 years old.

Two of Thompson’s brothers also fought in the First World War. His younger brother Private Reginald Philip Thompson was killed at Mouquet Farm in August 1916. His older brother Private Richard Thompson was killed only ten days after Bernard’s death, carrying out a trench raid in the Ypres sector in May 1917. Neither of his brothers has a known gravesite.

Bernard Thompson is buried at Vraucourt Copse Cemetery in northern France, alongside 103 other Commonwealth soldiers who died in the First World War. He was survived in Australia by his parents and five siblings: Phoebe, Henry, Philip, Lillian, and Tasman. Mourning the loss of three sons, his father remembered them all on Bernard’s tombstone. The inscription he chose reads, “Brothers united with Christ/Which is far better”.

Gunner Bernard Rudd Thompson 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 Gunner Bernard Rudd Thompson, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Thomas Rogers
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (25552) Gunner Bernard Rudd Thompson, 5th Field Artillery Brigade, AIF, First World War. (video)