The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Lieutenant William Sydney Duchesne, 1st Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2020.1.1.23
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 23 January 2020
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 Troy Clayton, the story for this day was on Lieutenant William Sydney Duchesne, 1st Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

Lieutenant William Sydney Duchesne, 1st Battalion, AIF
KIA 25 April 1915


Today we remember and pay tribute to Lieutenant William Sydney Duchesne.

William Duchesne was born on 28 May 1894 in the Sydney suburb of Waverley, the eldest son of Edwin and Edith Duchesne. He attended Waverley and Manly public schools and later studied military science at the Fort Street Model School in Petersham.

Before the war, he was heavily involved in local militia units. At the age of ten he enlisted in a boy’s volunteer corps at Waverley. He later served for three years in a Waverley Cadet Corps and became a second lieutenant in the 39th militia infantry at Ashfield.

Duchesne applied to join the Australian Imperial Force in August 1914, almost immediately after the outbreak of the First World War, and was soon commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 1st Australian Infantry Battalion.

He was one of three Duchesne brothers to serve in the Australian military. His brother George enlisted in 1916 and served on the Western Front, and while his brother Norman was too young to serve in the First World War, he served in the Royal Australian Navy during the post-war years.

After a brief period of training in Sydney, William Duchesne and the 1st Battalion sailed from Sydney in October 1914 as part of the first convoy of Australians sent for overseas service in the war. After a brief stopover at Albany, they sailed for Egypt, where they set up camp outside of Cairo and undertook further training.

During his time in Egypt Duchesne represented the 1st Battalion in football games, and in March was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. In early April he moved with the rest of the 1st Battalion from Mena to Alexandria, and later sailed to the Greek island of Lemnos, where Australian forces were gathering for the major attack on Ottoman forces in the Dardanelles.

Duchesne and the 1st Battalion formed part of the third and fourth waves of Australian troops to go ashore on 25 April 1915. They landed under heavy fire at about 6 am without loss, but later in the morning they were ordered to move into the firing line and attack Ottoman forces along a series of steep gullies. The men charged with bayonets fixed and suffered terrible casualties.

D Company, of which Duchesne was part, landed with six officers and 213 other ranks. When they formed for roll call on the 30th, they numbered only one officer and 88 other ranks.

Duchesne was killed during this chaotic and bloody period of fighting that immediately followed the Anzac landing at Gallipoli.

He was 20 years old.

The exact cause and place of his death have never been established, but after the fighting his identity disc was found by a New Zealand serviceman on a hill in the Sari Bair range known as Baby 700, a little over a kilometre inland from the initial landing site.

He is commemorated in what is now known as the Baby 700 Cemetery on Gallipoli, his headstone recording that he is believed to be buried near that spot.

Lieutenant William Sydney Duchesne’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 Lieutenant William Sydney Duchesne, 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 Lieutenant William Sydney Duchesne, 1st Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)