For All My Aussie Friends, In Memorium
Last Australian WWI Veteran Dies at 106
By MIKE CORDER, Associated Press Writer Tue Oct 18,12:23 AM ET
SYDNEY, Australia - The last Australian veteran to see active service in
World War I has died at age 106, government officials said Tuesday.
William Evan Allan enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy at the outbreak
of the war when he was just 14. He served as a seaman on the HMAS Encounter
from 1915 to 1918.
"With his passing, we have lost an entire generation who left Australia to
defend our nation, the British Empire and other nations in the cause of
freedom and democracy," Veteran Affairs Minister De-Anne Kelly said in a
"Mr. Allan was just a boy when he went to war, much younger than most. His
sacrifice is remembered and we honor him for his service," she said.
Allan, born in the southeastern town of Bega in July 1899 and a resident
of Melbourne, also was Australia's sole surviving veteran of both world
wars. In World War II, Allan served on an armed merchant cruiser and as
pier master of a naval base.
He died Monday night, Kelly said. The cause of death was not disclosed.
Allan sailed in the Pacific and Indian oceans escorting troop ship
convoys. His ship, the Encounter, also took part in the search for the
German raider Wolf, which caused havoc with Allied shipping in the region,
the statement said.
He served in the Royal Australian Navy for 34 years, retiring in 1947 with
the rank of lieutenant, before becoming a farmer.
John Campbell Ross, 106, a wireless operator who enlisted in 1918 while
Australia was still involved in the war but never left Australia is now
considered Australia's only surviving World War I veteran, Kelly said.
Allan was survived by his daughter and two grandchildren. Authorities in
Victoria state said he would be given a state funeral, but no date was
When I was a young man I carried my pack
And I lived the free life of the rover.
From the Murrays green basin to the dusty outback
I waltzed my Matilda all over.
Then in nineteen-fifteen my country said, "Son,
It's time to stop ramblin' there's work to be done."
So they gave me a tin hat and they gave me a gun,
And they sent me away to the war.
And the band played "Waltzing Matilda"
As the ship pulled away from the quay.
And amid all the cheers, flag wavin' and tears
We sailed off for Gallipoli.
How I remember that terrible day
When the blood stained the sand and the water.
And how in that hell that they called Souvla Bay
We were butchered like lambs at the slaughter.
Johnny Turkey was ready, oh he primed himself well.
He rained us with bullets and he showered us with shell.
And in five minutes flat we were all blown to Hell,
Nearly blew us back home to Australia.
And the band played "Waltzing Maltilda"
As we stopped to bury our slain.
We buried ours, and the Turks buried theirs,
And we started all over again.
Those who were living just tried to survive
In that mad world of blood, death, and fire.
And for ten weary weeks I kept myself alive,
While around be the corpses piled higher.
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head,
And when I awoke in my hospital bed,
And saw what it had done, well I wished I was dead.
Never knew there were worse things than dying.
No more will I go waltzing Matilda,
All around the green bush far and near.
For to hump tent and pegs a man needs both legs,
No more waltzing Matilda for me.
They collected the wounded, the crippled, the maimed,
And they shipped us back home to Australia.
The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane -
Those proud, wounded heroes of Souvla.
And when the ship pulled into Circular Quay,
I looked at the place where my legs used to be,
And thanked Christ there was no one there waiting for me
To grieve, and to mourn, and to pity.
And the band played "Waltzing Matilda"
As they carried us down the gangway.
But nobody cheered, they just stood there and stared,
And then turned all their faces away.
Now every April I sit on my porch
As I watch the parade pass before me.
And I see my old comrades, how proudly they march,
Reliving their dreams of past glory.
I see the old men, all tired, stiff and sore,
Forgotten heroes of a forgotten war.
And the young people ask, "What are they marching for?"
And I ask myself the same question.
And the band plays "Waltzing Matilda"
As the old men still answer the call.
But year after year, the numbers get fewer -
Someday no one will march there at all.
"Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda,
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?"
And their ghosts may be heard as they march by the Billabong,
"Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?"