The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2778A) Private William McDonald 9th Battalion, AIF, First World War

Place Europe: France, Nord Pas de Calais, Nord, Lille, Armentieres
Accession Number PAFU2015/303.01
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 13 July 2015
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
Description

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 Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (2778A) Private William McDonald 9th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

2778A Private William McDonald 9th Battalion, AIF
KIA 20 April 1916
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 13 July 2015

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private William McDonald.

William McDonald was born in Brisbane in 1895 to James and Frances McDonald. James died suddenly when William was quite young and the boy was sent to live with his maternal grandmother in the Brisbane suburb of Fortitude Valley.

McDonald attended Valley State School, but left to take up a plumbing apprenticeship with J.R. Wylie, with whom he worked and earned his trade for three years. He was working as a plumber when the First World War began, and enlisted in Brisbane on 16 August 1915, joining the 25th Battalion. After some initial training he embarked in October with the 6th reinforcements to the 25th Battalion aboard the transport ship Seang Bee.

Arriving in Egypt in December, McDonald underwent several months of training in the desert sands. At the end of February 1916 he was transferred to the 9th Battalion, which had returned to Egypt from Gallipoli in January. The battalion sailed for France at the end of March.

By 19 April the 9th Battalion was in reserve billets near Rouge-de-Bout, one mile behind the front line in the Armentières or “nursery” sector. Intermittent artillery fire was landing nearby.

Tragedy struck early the next afternoon when the battalion’s C Company billets were heavily shelled. One shell landed outside a canvas tent, wounding four, and as men went to assist, another shell landed among them, killing several more and wounding others. A further shell hit a brick wall of a nearby billet, causing another 47 casualties. C Company was decimated, with 50 men wounded and 25 killed, one of whom was William McDonald. Several others would die from their wounds over the ensuing days.

Later that day McDonald and the other fallen men of C Company were laid to rest in the Rue-Du-Bacquerot (13th London) Graveyard at Laventie. He was 21 years old.

McDonald’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, along with more than 60,000 others from 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 McDonald, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in service of our nation.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

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