The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Colonel William Weston Hearne, DSO, 5th Div HQ AMC, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.222
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 10 August 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 Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

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 Joanne Smedley, the story for this day was on Colonel William Weston Hearne, DSO, 5th Div HQ AMC, AIF, First World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

Colonel William Weston Hearne, DSO, 5th Div HQ AMC, AIF
KIA 17 October 1917

Today we remember and pay tribute to Colonel William Weston Hearne.

William Hearne was born on 7 February 1871 in Bega, New South Wales, the son of William Goodall Hearne and Amelia Louisa Hearne. He moved to Geelong, Victoria, and attended Geelong College, where he excelled at his studies. From there, he studied medicine at the University of Melbourne. Known as “Wes” to his family and friends, he practiced as a physician and instructor at the Alfred Hospital in South Melbourne.

Hearne served as a surgeon lieutenant in South Africa during the Boer War, and was wounded. On returning to Melbourne, he married Alice May Grubb in 1904, and the following year the couple had a son, William Beaumont Weston Hearne. In August 1914, immediately after the outbreak of war, Hearne was promoted to the rank of major in the Australian Imperial Force. He was one of the first medical officers to enlist, and sailed from Melbourne on the troopship Wiltshire in October 1914.

Serving with the 2nd Australian Field Ambulance, Hearne undertook training in Egypt before landing on Gallipoli in April 1915. His superior officer later described his service on Gallipoli as “painstaking and thorough”. In August, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and took over command of the 3rd Australian Field Ambulance. Hearne was on duty from the landing until early December, when influenza forced him into hospital in Egypt. While he was recovering, Commonwealth forces and their allies withdrew from the Gallipoli peninsula.

Hearne returned to the 2nd Australian Field Ambulance as commanding officer. At the end of March 1916, he arrived in France with his unit and began to move towards the front.

Hearne’s work as a medical officer earnt high praise. He was mentioned in despatches at least three times. For “his constant and careful attention” in establishing and running a main dressing station at Vadencourt in July 1916, he was made a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order. In November 1916, his work in recovering and evacuating wounded soldiers at Guedecourt was acknowledged by the commanding officer of the 5th Division, Major General Talbot Hobbs. For carrying out this work under heavy fire, Hearne was made a knight of the Italian order of St Maurice and St Lazarus.

Hearne did not stint in praise of his men, especially at the Vadencourt dressing station in July 1916. During that engagement, German artillery bombarded the unit with gas shells, but because the unit followed correct gas drill, no casualties were inflicted. Hearne noted that the 2nd Field Ambulance had worked “splendidly under a constant shell fire”. He described the work of the stretcher bearers as “magnificent”. His willingness to work alongside his men at the front line earned their respect and admiration.

In November 1916, Hearne was promoted to the rank of colonel and became the Assistant Director of Medical Services for the 5th Australian Division. In the second half of 1917, the 5th Australian Division moved to the north of France and across the border to the region around the town of Ypres in Belgium. In late September 1917, British and Commonwealth forces began a campaign to force the Germans out of Flanders. Collectively, the engagements of this campaign are known as the Third Battle of Ypres.

In mid-October, Hearne was working at the front line treating the casualties of the major engagements along Passchendaele Ridge. On 17 October 1917, while on one of his routine visits to a regimental aid post, he was struck by a shell fragment and killed. He was 46 years old.

Hearne is buried at The Huts Cemetery in Belgium, alongside nearly 1,100 Commonwealth soldiers.

His name appears 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 Colonel William Weston Hearne, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Thomas Rogers
Historian, Military History Section

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