The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (1687) Private Sidney George Birch Bewley, 30th Battalion, AIF, first World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.184
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 July 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 Richard cruise, the story for this day was on (1687) Private Sidney George Birch Bewley, 30th Battalion, AIF, first World War.

Speech transcript

1687 Private Sidney Goerge Birch Bewley, 30th Battalion, AIF
KIA 23 March 1917

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Sidney George Birch Bewley.

Sidney Bewley was born on 10 December 1894 to William and Mary Jane Bewley of Jerrara, New South Wales. He attended the Mullengrove and Maryamma Schools, and went on to work as a labourer in the Cowra area.

Sidney Bewley enlisted in the AIF in August 1915. He travelled to the enlistment office in Lithgow with his uncle, Jack Bewley, where they both enlisted, saying they were brothers, in the hope they would be able to stay together. Jack was 36 years old and Sidney 21. They left Australia together in December 1915 with reinforcements to the 30th Battalion.

Sidney and Jack Bewley arrived in Egypt in January 1916. Almost immediately both were hospitalised with the mumps. During this period the AIF was undergoing a period of expansion and reorganisation. When Jack was discharged from hospital in March, he was transferred to the 45th Battalion as part of this process. When Sidney left hospital he remained with the 30th Battalion, and the two never served together again.

The 30th Battalion arrived in France to fight on the Western Front in June 1916. Its first major engagement came a month later at the Battle of Fromelles. The battalion initially served by providing carrying parties for supplies and ammunition, but was soon drawn into the fighting. Private Bewley came through without a problem, and went on to spend the bitterly cold winter of 1916 to 1917 rotating in and out of the front line.

In early 1917 the German Army withdrew to a strategically prepared position called the Hindenburg Line. The 30th Battalion was involved in the general advance that followed, and on 17 March attacked and captured the French town of Bapaume, capturing the objective with little resistance.

A week later the 30th Battalion was back in the front line near Beaumetz. In the early hours of the morning the Germans counter-attacked the right of the Australian line. During the attack, Private Bewley was a member of a Lewis gun crew which had been placed in an important defensive position and became a target of the German counter-attack. The Germans worked around their position and attacked the Lewis gun crew, killing three and wounding the rest. The Germans were eventually driven out of the position.

Private Bewley’s lieutenant later wrote, “He did not suffer at all, but was killed outright … the post was a most important one, and your son died bravely doing his duty.” Platoon member and friend, Sergeant Chivers, wrote to Bewleys’ parents to say, “Your son was one of the most popular men in the company – a man ready to do his duty, and in whom you could trust.” Everyone who wrote to the Bewleys in Australia mentioned that they had buried Sidney and carefully attended to his grave. The gravesite was lost in later fighting, however, and today Private Sidney Bewley has no known grave but is commemorated on the Australian National Memorial at Villers Bretonneux. He was 22 years old.

The following June, Sidney Bewley’s uncle, Lance Corporal Jack Bewley, was killed in action at the Battle of Messines.
Their names are 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 Sidney George Birch Bewley, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Meleah Hampton
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (1687) Private Sidney George Birch Bewley, 30th Battalion, AIF, first World War. (video)