The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (1351) Private William Feening, 4th Australian Infantry Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2020.1.1.32
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 1 February 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 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 (1351) Private William Feening, 4th Australian Infantry Battalion, AIF, First World War.

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Speech transcript

1351 Private William Feening, 4th Australian Infantry Battalion, AIF
DOW 15 April 1918

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private William Feening.

William Feening was born in December 1879 to John and Martha Feening at Rocky Ponds, near the town of Orange, New South Wales. William attended school in nearby Narromine. Later, the family moved to Penrith, west of Sydney, and William began work as a labourer for the municipal council.

When the First World War broke out in 1914, Feening enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He joined the 4th Australian Infantry Battalion in November, and embarked from Melbourne on the transport ship Seang Bee in February 1915. The men of the battalion trained at the Australian camp in Egypt from February until April, when they sailed for Gallipoli. The 4th Battalion landed north of Gaba Tepe in the early afternoon on 25 April 1915.

After experiencing several months of fighting on Gallipoli, Feening came down with sickness. He was evacuated from the peninsula, and spent time in hospitals on the island of Mudros and Malta before being sent to England. He recovered in King George Hospital in London until mid-1916. After six weeks training at the army camps on the Salisbury Plain, Feening sailed for France. In August, after nearly a year away, he re-joined the 4th Battalion in the Somme sector of the Western Front.

In mid-August, soon after Feening had arrived at the front, his battalion marched in to relieve Australian troops at Mouquet Farm, near the French town of Pozieres. It was a gruelling return to warfare. In three days of fighting the German troops around the ruined farmhouse, the 4th Battalion suffered just under 300 men killed, wounded or missing.

In November, the men of the 4th Battalion were struggling against heavy rain, wind and cold at Delville Wood, near the French village of Gueudecourt. During operations in the trenches at Delville Wood, Feening suffered a severe wound to his foot. Once again he was transferred to hospital in England, where he recovered until March 1917.

Feening undertook further training at Perham Downs camp in England until June of that year, when he became sick. In mid-October 1917, he sailed for France and re-joined the 4th Battalion. Feening was a stretcher-bearer in the unit. This dangerous role involved walking through mud and gunfire, carefully carrying wounded soldiers back to be treated.

In France, the 4th Battalion endured the winter of 1917 to 1918. As the weather warmed up, the German forces staged what was to be their final attack on the Western Front, known as the German Spring Offensive. Using troops brought west after the collapse of Russia, the German High Command sought to win the war before the newly-arrived American forces could tip the balance in favour of France and Britain. Beginning their attack at the end of March, the German forces made rapid gains but suffered enormous casualties.

In April, the 4th Battalion was defending against the German offensive in Flanders at the town of Strazeele in northern France. One morning, Feening was in a trench with another soldier, waiting to go into no man’s land with his stretcher. A shell landed close by and buried both men in the trench. The soldier he was with was unharmed, but Feening was badly wounded. He was taken to the nearby casualty clearing station, but never regained consciousness. He died the next day, the 15th of April 1918. He was 38 years old.

William Feening is buried in Ebblinghem Military Cemetery in northern France, alongside 440 other Commonwealth soldiers who died in the First World War.

Private William Feening 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 William Feening, 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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