The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2394) Sapper Ralph Charles Groves, 14th Field Company Engineers, First World War

Place Europe: France
Accession Number PAFU2014/346.01
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 18 September 2014
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 Troy Clayton, the story for this day was on (2394) Sapper Ralph Charles Groves, 14th Field Company Engineers, First World War.

Speech transcript

2394 Sapper Ralph Charles Groves, 14th Field Company Engineers
KIA 6 November 1916
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 18 September 2014

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Ralph Groves, who was killed fighting in France in the First World War.

Ralph Charles Groves was born in in 1889, and was the eldest of two sons to John and Ada Groves of Bradford in Yorkshire, England. Ralph attended Bradford Moor Boarding School and became a fully qualified carpenter before immigrating to Australia in 1895. He settled in the Bankstown area of Sydney, where he worked as a labourer and paraded with the local militia, probably the 39th Infantry Regiment.

Ralph enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Holsworthy Camp on 23 August 1915. Perhaps because of his trade in carpentry, Ralph spent four months training at the Engineer Depot in Moore Park before leaving Australia with a reinforcement group for the 1st Field Company Engineers – bound for the Dardanelles campaign.

The fighting on Gallipoli had come to an end before Ralph arrived in Egypt, which meant the following months were spent training at Mena Camp near Cairo. In February 1916, as the AIF affectively doubled in size, Ralph was transferred to the 14th Field Company Engineers, part of the 5th Division. After the Australians redeployed to the fighting on the Western Front, the 5th Division took part in the costly action at Fromelles in July and spent several months recovering in the Armentières sector.

The division did not take part in the British offensive on the Somme until the late stages of the campaign, once the fighting had given way to the bitterly cold winter. By then the Australians were holding the bleak Flers–Gueudecourt sector, where endless rain and shell-fire turned the battlefield into a muddy morass. The 14th Field Company Engineers were kept busy in the sector, laying duckboard tracks and repairing trenches hit by German shell-fire.

On the 6th of November the 14th Field Company Engineers supported the 7th Brigade in its attack on the German position known as the Maze. With the Australians unable to make their way through the mud quickly enough, a creeping barrage intended to protect them moved beyond the German trenches while the infantry made their way across no man’s land. German troops were able to re-establish their front-line positions and inflict a heavy toll on the attacking force, and the 7th Brigade suffered more than 800 casualties within just a few hours. Among them was Sapper Ralph Groves, who was listed as missing in action. His remains were never recovered from the battlefield, but his name is recorded on the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux along with the more than 10,000 Australians killed in France with no known grave.

Ralph Groves’s name is also listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, along with 60,000 others from the First World War. There is no photograph in the Memorial’s collection to display beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is one of the many stories of courage and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Sapper Ralph Groves, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in service of our nation.

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2394) Sapper Ralph Charles Groves, 14th Field Company Engineers, First World War (video)