The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Captain William McCarthy Braithwaite, 22nd Infantry Battalion AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2021.1.1.202
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 21 July 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 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 Captain William McCarthy Braithwaite, 22nd Infantry Battalion AIF, First World War.

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Speech transcript

Captain William McCarthy Braithwaite, 22nd Infantry Battalion AIF
KIA 3rd October 1918

Today we remember and pay tribute to Captain William McCarthy Braithwaite.

William Braithwaite was born on 8 November 1892 in Preston, Victoria to William and Louisa Braithwaite. His father had served during the Boer War and became an honorary colonel during his retirement. He also owned the local Preston Tannery, one of the largest employers in town. Braithwaite, the only boy in the family, and with five sisters, received his education at the Church of England Grammar School in Melbourne and served five years in the volunteer cadets. He then entered into his father’s business where he initially worked as a tanner, then as manager and director.

Braithwaite enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 8 July 1915 and was assigned to the 22nd Battalion with the rank of 2nd lieutenant. He spent several months training at Broadmeadows camp in Australia before embarking from Melbourne in October aboard the troopship Nestor.

Braithwaite arrived in England in November 1916 and joined his unit in France in January 1917. His first major action with at Bullecourt, where allied forces were attempting to break through the Hindenburg Line.

The first attack on 10 April relied on the use of tanks to lead the infantry advance towards enemy lines. However, Australians began to take heavy casualties when the tanks failed to arrive as planned and troops were sent over the top without artillery support. The Australians broke through the lines but were unable to hold their positions and were forced to retreat. By the end of the attack casualties stood at more than 3,000 men killed or wounded.

On 3 May a second attack at Bullecourt took place, during which Braithwaite was wounded in the head and arm while leading his men into enemy trenches. This attack was more successful than the first and the township of Bullecourt was secured just 12 days later. Official war historian Charles Bean labelled the second attack “the stoutest achievement of the Australian soldier in France.”

For his role in the fighting, Braithwaite was awarded the Military Cross and promoted to the rank of captain. Severely wounded, he was sent to England to recover. He re-joined his unit in July and was again wounded in action during a raid on enemy trenches in the Somme Valley.

The end of the war was nearing by October 1918, when Braithwaite was serving near the French village of Beaurevoir, in the 22nd Battalion’s last action of the war.

On 3 October 1918, the battalion was given instructions to attack the Beaurevoir line. Braithwaite was in command of C Company when it came under determined fire from German machine-gun positions. Braithwaite charged the enemy’s position, killing an enemy machine-gunner and receiving fatal wounds.

Having survived battles at Bullecourt, Mont St Quentin and wounding on four separate occasions, Braithwaite was just weeks away from the war’s end when he was killed in action, aged 25.

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 Captain William McCarthy Braithwaite who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Meghan Adams
Researcher, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Captain William McCarthy Braithwaite, 22nd Infantry Battalion AIF, First World War. (video)