The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (3550) Sergeant William Goldby, 59th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2020.1.1.253
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 9 September 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 Troy Clayton, the story for this day was on (3550) Sergeant William Goldby, 59th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

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Speech transcript

3550 Sergeant William Goldby, 59th Battalion, AIF
KIA 19 July 1916

Today we remember and pay tribute to Sergeant William Goldby.

William Goldby was born in June 1895, the youngest son of Edward and Eliza Goldby of Broomfield, Victoria. William began his education at the local school in Broomfield, but when he was 12 years old his family moved to nearby Ballarat and he completed his education at the Queen Street state school. He later went to work at the Sunnyside Woollen Mills, then moved to Cowley’s foundry. He spent some time studying at the School of Mines, before going into the railways, working as a porter at Gisborne Station, then transferring to Leongatha as a clerk. His final civilian job was as a railway clerk at the Glenhuntly station. Goldby was a member of the Golden Point Football Club, and was known to be “of a very cheerful disposition, and highly esteemed by all who knew him”.

William Goldby had tried to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force while working at Leongatha, but had been turned down because of problems with his tonsils. He tried again in July 1915 from Glenhuntly, and was accepted. Goldby underwent a period of training in Australia before leaving for active service overseas on the troopship Nestor with reinforcements to the 7th Battalion.

Goldby was first sent to Egypt, where he continued training. At Christmas 1915 the men of the AIF were given billies, donated and packed by people at home in appreciation of their service. Goldby received a billy from a Miss Eileen Dowd, whom he had never met, and wrote her a letter of thanks. In it he wrote, “Shortly after 10 am today we were lined up … to receive our gifts … you should have seen us a little later. Instead of being men we were small boys again. We each opened our billy and displayed its contents just as a kiddie would do with a Christmas stocking.” Having exchanged his cigarettes for a Christmas pudding, Goldby wrote, “I can safely say that everyone was for once in a while ‘comforted’.”

Goldby concluded his letter to Miss Dowd by writing, “It gives one great cheer when he thinks of how the people are helping us to do our bit. I sincerely hope that our next Christmas will be spent in our own homes.” But before then, he added, “All I want is a share in the fighting and then to be in the first boat home.”

It would take some months before Goldby would see combat, however. After the evacuation of Gallipoli the AIF underwent an extended period in Egypt undergoing a period of expansion and reorganisation. As part of this process, Goldby was transferred to the 59th Battalion and promoted to sergeant.

Sergeant William Goldby was sent to France with his new battalion in June 1916. Less than a month later he would see his first battle. On the 19th of July 1916 the 59th Battalion formed the first wave of an operation against German positions near the French village of Fromelles. It was a disaster, and the 59th Battalion suffered heavy casualties. Among those who did not return was Sergeant Goldby.

He was posted as missing, and his family suffered months of wondering if their son was alive and lost, or a prisoner of war. It was not until August 1917 that a court of enquiry formally determined that William Goldby had been killed in action on 19 July 1916. A member of his platoon reported that they “got within 80 yards of the German lines and then had to fall back owing to heavy machine-gun and shell fire. Sergeant Goldby did not come back and we lost a lot of men that day whose bodies are still lying in no man’s land.”
William Goldby’s body was never identified, and today he is commemorated at VC Corner Australian Cemetery and Memorial, Fromelles. He was killed one month before his 21st birthday.

His 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 Sergeant William Goldby, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Meleah Hampton
Historian, Military History Section

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