The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (750) Private William Francis Green, 29th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2021.1.1.64
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 5 March 2021
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

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 Craig Berelle, the story for this day was on (750) Private William Francis Green, 29th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

750 Private William Francis Green, 29th Battalion, AIF
KIA 2 March 1917

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private William Francis Green.

William Green, known as “Will”, was born around 1898, the second son of John and Agnes Green wife of Shepparton, Victoria. Little is known of his early life, other than that he was educated at the Convent of Mercy school in Tatura. He later worked on the railways at Seymour, and was described as “immensely popular with his acquaintances and … a fine sturdy stamp of a young man.”

Will enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force shortly after turning 18. He coordinated his enlistment with his older brother Jack, who was working as a clerk in Melbourne, and both were posted to the 29th Battalion. After a period of training in Australia, they left for overseas service in November on board the troopship Ascanius. They were first sent to Egypt, where they continued training in the desert.
Will wrote home from Egypt to say, “Don’t worry about us, mother, we are in the best of health, couldn’t be otherwise; the food we get is splendid. Regards to all our friends in Shepparton.” Jack wrote a letter on the same day which said, “The work we are doing is very interesting. Needless to say, Will and I have a few blisters on our hands.”

Not long after writing this letter, the Green brothers were sent with their battalion to France to fight on the Western Front. Two days after reaching the front line near Bois Grenier, Private Jack Green was killed by a high explosive shell which tore through the sandbags on the parapet of his trench. A little over a week later, Will took part in the disastrous battle at Fromelles], coming through unscathed despite his battalion’s heavy casualties.

In October 1916, Will’s parents were informed that he had been wounded but was remaining on duty. Will later wrote to his mother, saying, “About that wound of mine, I was surprised that you had received word about it. I only got a few splinters in the head and knee; it was nothing, only a bit sore for a few days. I never left the trenches.”

After Jack’s death, Will had formed a close friendship with Private Tom O’Donnell, also from Shepparton. Tom was also killed in action, and Will wrote to his mother, “My next best friend to dear old Jack was killed … I got a terrible shock when I heard about poor Tom. Ever since dear Jack was killed, he used to come down to see me regularly … The people in Australia can hardly realise what the lads have to go through.”

Private Will Green remained with his battalion through the bitterly cold winter of 1916 to 1917, rotating in and out of the front line trenches. In early 1917 the Germans conducted a fighting withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line, and the 29th Battalion was part of the force following their retreat. On 2 March 1917, the 29th Battalion sent a small raiding party into German positions near the French village of Gueudecourt. The Germans replied with artillery barrages and later a counter attack which was repulsed – but the raiding party eventually returned with prisoners, German machine-guns and reconnaissance information.

At some point during the confusion of that day, Private Will Green was killed in action. No record remains of the manner of his death. His body was recovered from the battlefield and buried in Bancourt British Cemetery, where it lies today under the words “Sacred to the memory of our darling son and brother, Will our hero.” The words reflect the epitaph on his older brother’s grave a few miles away. Will Green was 19 years old.

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 Private William Francis Green, 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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