Last Post: remembering the fallen in new book

Last Post: War Memorial book reflects on the fallen

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The Last Post Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial.

The Last Post Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial.

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A new book explores the lives of 30 Australians remembered in Last Post ceremonies at the Australian War Memorial.

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EVERY day at 4.55pm Canberra time the story of an Australian soldier is told as a bugle call marks the closing ceremony at the Australian War Memorial. 

The moving closing service – called the Last Post Ceremony – was introduced by War Memorial director Brendan Nelson in 2013. 

Each night people from all walks of life gather in the Memorial’s Commemorative area to hear the story of one Australian who died in the service of the nation.

From visiting dignitaries to year six students from remote parts of Australia, flowers or wreaths are laid in remembrance.

The event finishes with the sounding of the Last Post.

Now a book dedicated to this Last Post Ceremony has been launched by the Memorial The Last Post: a ceremony of love, loss, and remembrance at the Australian War Memorial explores the lives of 30 young Australians remembered in Last Post ceremonies.

The Last Post: A ceremony of love, loss and remembrance at the Australian War Memorial.

The Last Post: A ceremony of love, loss and remembrance at the Australian War Memorial.

Researched and written by Emma Campbell from the War Memorial, The Last Post looks at the importance of why Australians commemorate the ceremony.

At its launch at Parliament House on August 15, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull shared snippets from the book, drawing on the story of Private Richard Warne from rural Queensland.

"Having survived the Western Front, he'd come home. His family, you could imagine their emotion. So many of their friends and neighbours sons had been killed and their boy was coming home, and he died jumping off the train so he could get to his family sooner," he said.

Dr Nelson said the publication captures the essence of the Last Post Ceremony, which was inspired by his many visits to the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium. It is here that the Last Post is played daily.   

“Just as in Belgium, every chance I get I attend the Last Post Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial. Each and every ceremony is different. Each time it strikes an emotional chord for everyone present cloaked by the Roll of Honour,” Dr Nelson said.

A girl lays a wreath at the Last Post Ceremony.

A girl lays a wreath at the Last Post Ceremony.

He recalled the time the visiting Hungarian president and his wife were listening to the story of Australian soldier Lance Corporal Luke Gavin, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2011.

“The president’s wife was moved to tears and Gavin’s daughter, Olivia, wrapped her arms around Her Excellency’s legs and looked up at her, saying, “It’s okay to cry. I cry about it a lot too.” Moments like these, captured in this book, show just how powerful and important this ceremony has become,” Dr Nelson said.

“The Memorial was founded by Charles Bean to ensure that the nation would never forget the spirit of those who served, and to help others understand the Australian experience of war,” author Emma Campbell said.

“But it can be difficult to exhibit individual experiences, or even to include them in the official histories, so in most cases the stories of the men and women who served have not been formally recorded. 

Malcolm Turnbull at the book's launch at the Australia War Memorial in Canberra.

Malcolm Turnbull at the book's launch at the Australia War Memorial in Canberra.

“The Last Post Ceremony aims to rectify this by revealing the details of a person’s life – including their childhood, family, and early pursuits – as well as their war service, to help people better understand the sacrifice of the more than 102,800 Australians whose names are set in bronze on the Memorial’s Roll of Honour.

“This book explains how we do that, and what it has meant to thousands of people who have participated in the event so far.”

  • The Last Post: a ceremony of love, loss and remembrance at the Australian War Memorial (NewSouth), RRP $29.99 from Australian War Memorial shop and at bookstores nationally.

Read more: Marking centenary of day the guns of war fell silent

Read more: War memorial brings Charles Bean's work to life

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