War memorial honour for Launceston hero

LAUNCESTON-born soldier Keith Heritage will be honoured by having his story told at a Last Post ceremony at the Australian War Memorial today, as part of commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the declaration of World War I.

Captain Heritage was believed to have been the first Australian soldier to volunteer for service after war was declared on August 4, 1914, serving as part of the 19th Australian Infantry Battalion.

He was born at Longford in 1882 to parents George Thomas and Eleanora Boyce. He was part of a large family of eight boys, five of them serving during the war. He attended schools at Longford and Invermay, and was a talented oarsman, at one stage preparing for the 1912 London Olympics.

Captain Heritage was an officer in the Militia in Launceston, and was working in Sydney when war was declared. He was part of Australia’s first World War I military operation, which secured a German communications facility in German New Guinea.

Captain Heritage then served at Gallipoli, and was ultimately killed by shrapnel at Pozieres, in France on July 26, 1916, at 35 years of age.

Federal Bass MHR Andrew Nikolic said Captain Heritage died while relieving fellow officers from duty.

‘‘While his men were resting a bomb landed nearby and a fragment from the shell struck him on the side of the head and he died a short time later,’’ he said.

Historian and author Reg A. Watson said Captain Heritage was an incredible son of Tasmania.

‘‘We can be rightly proud of him,’’ he said.

‘‘We nurtured many, many heroes who proved themselves at that terrible tragedy we call The Great War. However, there was nothing great about it, other than the great number of casualties.’’

Captain Heritage won a Military Cross after leading a raid that killed 20 enemy combatants and captured four others. Captain Heritage also carried a wounded man back single-handedly.

He died before he was notified of receiving the medal.

The Last Post ceremony can be live-streamed at 5pm through the Australian War Memorial website.

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