Even Major-Generals die in battle

Even Major-Generals die in battle
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The sombre 1915 funeral procession of Major-General Sir William Bridges, killed in action at the Dardenelles. Filmed in Melbourne after Bridges’ body arrived home months after his death.

Australians would have been shocked when Major-General Sir William Bridges lost his life at the Dardanelles. This was, after all, one of the founders of the Royal Military College, Duntroon, a highly trained officer selected by the government to pull together and train the first contingent of Australians to fight overseas. At AnzacCove, he was the commander of the first troops to land.

Major-General Bridges’ career was filled with clashes with military colleagues, but he nevertheless won the admiration of his troops by personally visiting the firing line every day. On one of these daily inspections, a sniper’s deadly bullet found its target.

This newsreel reveals the draped coffin topped with Bridges’ helmet and sword. It shows, too, the Swanston Street crowds and pall-bearers including Admiral Sir William Cresswell, Defence Minister George Foster Pearce, Opposition Leader Mr Joseph Cook, Prime Minister Andrew Fisher, Colonel RE Williams, Colonel GGH Irving and Colonel J Stanley.

The Melbourne Age adds details of the day’s sounds, saying the service 'was deeply impressive' and its conclusion moving, 'the Last Post was sounded from somewhere near the altar by an invisible trumpeter. This was perhaps the most intense moment … many men and women were moved to tears.' A 13-gun salute was given as the cortege departed.

Bridges is the only identified Australian killed in the First World War whose body was repatriated and buried on Australian soil. He was buried on 3 September 1915 at Duntroon on the slopes of Mount Pleasant, Canberra. His monument was designed by Walter Burley Griffin.