The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2945) Private James Taylor McKnight, 2nd Company Australian Machine Gun Corps, First World War

Accession Number PAFU/880.01
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 22 July 2013
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 every 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 (2945) Private James Taylor McKnight, 2nd Company Australian Machine Gun Corps, First World War.

**Due to technical issues this recording is of poor quality and not for public display.**

Speech transcript

2945 Pte James Taylor McKnight, 2nd Battalion Australian Machine Gun Corps
KIA 9 April 1918
Photograph: P05413.57

Story delivered 22 July 2013

Today, we remember and pay tribute to Private James Taylor McKnight.

James McKnight was working as a clerk in the Bank of New South Wales in Tumut, New South Wales, in the early years of the Great War. He must have been impatient to join the war effort all that time, because one month before his 18th birthday he managed to enlist with his parents' permission. This was in May 1916, and he was soon on his way to England for training with a view to fighting on the Western Front.

Although McKnight went overseas with reinforcements to the 55th Battalion, on arrival in England he was transferred to the Machine Gun details for training. This was technical work. The Machine Gun Corps was increasingly used to fire barrages of bullets ahead of advancing infantry to enhance their protection on the battlefield. This often meant using complex trigonometry tables and maps to fire on targets the gun crew could not see. After several months of training, McKnight was sent to the Western Front with the 2nd Battalion of the Australian Machine Gun Corps.

His role was to form part of the crew of a Vickers gun, which typically took six to eight men to work effectively. The gun and its attendant equipment would be sent as far forward as possible by horse-drawn limber, and then the crews would carry it in pieces to where it would be positioned.

On 9 April 1918 two gun crews of the 2nd Machine Gun Battalion were going into action at Hangard late at night. They were unloading their Vickers guns, tripods and ammunition from the limber carrying the guns when a shell fell into the middle of the gun team with which McKnight was working. Private James McKnight was seriously wounded, along with Private Bertie Charles Bull. Another man, Lance Corporal John Hanney, was killed instantly. James McKnight died not long afterwards; Bertie Bull hours later.

Artillery on the Western Front often arbitrarily took lives when least expected. James McKnight's body was carried away in the limber that brought up the gun he had been unloading minutes earlier. He was buried by an English padre next to John Hanney in a small French village called Boves. He was not yet twenty years old.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, along with around 60,000 others from the First World War, and his photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

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