The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (4175) Private William Oliphant, 24th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2020.1.1.330
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 25 November 2020
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
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

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 Tristan Rallings, the story for this day was on (4175) Private William Oliphant, 24th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

4175 Private William Oliphant, 24th Battalion, AIF
DOW 25 December 1916

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private William Oliphant.

William Oliphant was born on 15 May 1890 near Port Melbourne in Victoria. Little is known of his life before he enlisted, except that he worked as a labourer and lived in Richmond South in Melbourne. On enlistment he stated that his father was no longer living, and he gave his mother, Mrs Annie Tate, as his next of kin.

Oliphant enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 16 December 1915. In March 1916, he sailed from Melbourne for overseas service as part of the 10th reinforcements of the 24th Infantry Battalion. After a brief period of training in England he transferred to France and the war on the Western Front. He joined his unit, the 24th Battalion, for the first time at the front in late August.

Oliphant and the 24th Battalion spent the next month training and resting behind the front lines. In early November they moved to the lines near Meaulte, north of the Somme River near Albert, and days later began serving in a support role in the trenches south of Flers.

Oliphant, who was in D Company, spent this time serving in ration parties, and provided supplies to the troops of the Australian 7th Brigade while they were in the front lines.

His time serving the front lines was, however, only brief. On 6 November Oliphant was hospitalised with bronchitis, an illness that kept him from duty for over a month. He did not rejoin his unit until 21 December 1916, when it endured the hardships of a cold and wet winter thaw near Fricourt.

On 24 December 1916 Oliphant was serving in a 24th Battalion fatigue party behind the lines to the north of the River Somme when a shrapnel shell exploded overhead, severely wounding him in the groin. His mates did their best to bind his wounds, and he was taken to a nearby casualty clearing station, reported to be in good spirits, but suffering from blood loss.

The following day, Christmas Day 1916, he died of his wounds.

He was 25 years old.

He is buried in the Heilly Station Cemetery in France, where 2,890 Commonwealth servicemen of the Great War are commemorated.

Private William Oliphant’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 Private William Oliphant, 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 (4175) Private William Oliphant, 24th Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)