DefenceSpecial Occasions

The Last Post

On ANZAC Day (25th April), when the first two notes of a bugle fill the air at a commemorative service, a hush falls over the crowd. Those hearing the call are transported to a private place; a place of thought, memory, gratitude and respect. A lone bugler sounding the Last Post has become one of the most eerie and evocative sounds in the world.

The musical score for the Last Post was first published as Bugle Horn Duty in the 1790s. Originally it had nothing to do with mourning and remembrance. It is one of several bugle calls in British military tradition which mark the phases of the day. Reveille and The Rouse signal the start of a soldier’s day (wake up and get out of bed). The Last Post signals the end.

It is believed to have been part of a routine, known as “tattoo” (lights out and silence) in the British Army, which began in the 17th century. Soldiers didn’t have watches, so the officers needed a way to provide a routine for their men while they were in camp. A bugle call, and a series of drum beats were introduced to tell the soldiers when to get up, when to have their meals, when to go to bed and when to perform other daily activities. At the end of the day, the duty officer inspected the sentries posted on the perimeter of the camp, and at the end of his inspection a bugler would sound the Last Post. This signalled that the camp was secure for the night.

A different purpose for the bugle call emerged in the 1850’s. Many of the bandsmen and bandmasters in the military were civilians and they weren’t required to go overseas with their regiments. Consequently, when a soldier died in a foreign land, there was often no music played at the burial service. The regimental bugler was given the duty of sounding the Last Post over the grave of a fallen soldier. The simplicity of this act was highly effective and symbolised that the soldier’s duty was over and he could rest in peace.

By the time World War One broke out in 1914, the Last Post was already a recognised call in our national culture. After the war, it began to be sounded on ANZAC Day, on Remembrance Day and at Military funerals.

Over the years the manner in which the Last Post is sounded has changed. The melody is the same, but what was once a lively tune, is now mournful. Some notes are held for longer, some pauses are extended and the expression is more melancholy. The rendition can last up to 75 seconds rather than the 45 seconds it used to take. It’s usually followed by a silent prayer and by the sounding of Reveille, the first call of the day, representing man’s rebirth into eternal life.

Several hundred men and women from the Rosewood district served in WW1 and WW2. Of these, 62 gave their lives in service to their country in WW1 and 24 in WW2. Whenever a serviceman bugler was not available to sound the Last Post on ANZAC Day, a musician from the Ipswich Salvation Army Citadel Band or the Rosewood Citizens’ Band would stand in, as shown in records below spanning the years 1922-1954.

In the years 1920 and 1921, on ANZAC Day, special memorial services were held by the local churches in the mornings, and at night public meetings were held at the Farmers’ Club. The Dead March and hymns were played but not the Last Post.

1922 – Private John William Dawson (late of A.I.F.) sounded the Last Post and Reveille on the cornet.
1923 – One hundred years ago on ANZAC Day a ceremony for the unveiling of Rosewood’s War Trophies was held. The Last Post was sounded by Private John William Dawson, head teacher at Calvert. He held the duty until the left the district late in 1927.
1928 – Rosewood Citizens’ Band member, Mr C. D. Ross, rendered the Last Post and played The Dead March on his cornet.
1929 – Rosewood Citizens’ Band – Mr W. Clark, sounded the Last Post.
1930Rosewood Citizens’ Band – Mr W. Clark, sounded the Last Post.
1931 – The conductor of the Rosewood Citizens’ Band, Mr F. Bowers, had the duty.
1932 – A public meeting was held in the Farmers’ Hall. Pastor L. Larsen presided. The Dead March in Saul was played.
1934 – Mr. J. Harvey sounded the Last Post and Dead March.
1935 – Mr J. Peardon sounded the Last Post.
1936 – It was decided to sound Reveille on its own.
1937 – Mr J. Peardon sounded the Last Post at the ANZAC Day ceremony.
1938 – Mr J. Peardon sounded the Last Post.
1939 – Mr C. Freeman of the Ipswich Salvation Army Citadel Band, sounded the Last Post.
1940 – After the procession and laying of wreaths, Bugler R. Gunthorpe sounded the Last Post and Reveille.
1941 – Bandmaster Henderson of the Ipswich Salvation Army Citadel Band sounded the Last Post and Reveille.
1942 – Band conductor Mr C. Freeman sounded the Last Post and Reveille.
1943 – Rosewood Citizens’ Bandsman M. Stitz sounded the Last Post and Reveille.
1944 – Private George Patterson, a member of the U.S.A. Army, sounded the Last Post and Reveille.
1945 – Mr R. Green from Rosewood Citizens’ Band sounded the Last Post and Reveille.
1946 – Rosewood Citizens’ Band Drum Major, E. Thumms, sounded the Last Post and Reveille.
1947 – Ipswich Salvation Army Citadel Bandmaster Smith sounded the Last Post and Reveille.
1948 – Ipswich Salvation Army Citadel Band’s Mr G. Whybird sounded the Last Post and Reveille.
1949 – 1952 A member of  the Ipswich Salvation Army Citadel Band sounded the Last Post and Reveille.
1953 – Deputy Bandmaster of the Ipswich Salvation Army Citadel Band, Mr T. Smith, sounded the Last Post and Reveille.
1954 – Mr Forrester of the Ipswich Salvation Army Citadel Band sounded the Long G, Last Post and Reveille.

Following are some accounts of Rosewood’s reaction to the end of WW1 and WW2.

On Monday 11th November, 1918 the glorious and welcome news of the unconditional surrender of Germany and the signing of the Armistice was received.

ROSEWOOD, November 12
There was rejoicing here last night on the receipt of the news that the Armistice had been signed. The news was received at 8 o’clock, and the Musical Union, which was holding a practice, adjourned to a prominent part of the street, and sang “Rule, Britannia”. By this time the crowd had increased to several hundreds, and a procession was formed, and with the assistance of an improvised “tin-can” band, paraded the town singing patriotic songs. A meeting was held this morning to arrange for a big demonstration worthy of the great occasion, and arrangements were made to hold a procession at 1.30 p.m. and an open-air meeting at night.

The Rosewood peace celebration was held this afternoon, over 2000 people taking part in the procession, which was the largest ever seen in the town. The procession, which was marshalled by Sergt. French, comprised school children, cadets, Red Cross, returned soldiers, rifle club, Friendly Societies, motor cars, and public conveyances. The town was paraded after which a public meeting was held in the school grounds. The Rev. C. A. Capern presided, and addresses were delivered by Revs. Geo. Neal, T. Kelleher, T. E. Ashworth, and H. W. Rodgers. The City Band from Ipswich, under the conductorship of Mr. Wade, took part in the procession, and played selections. The school children also sang under the baton of the head teacher Mr. J. R. Mark. An open-air meeting was held to-night. (2)

Another article about a “Welcome Home” function held in December, 1919 can be read here: “ROSEWOOD’S FIGHTING MEN”

On Tuesday, 8 May, 1945, World War II in Europe came to an end with the news of Germany’s surrender. (V-E Day)
On Sunday, 2 September, 1945, formal surrender documents were signed aboard the USS Missouri, designating the day as the official Victory over Japan Day (V-J Day).

At a public meeting at Rosewood on Tuesday night, victory celebrations for Rosewood were enthusiastically organised. The Shire Chairman (Cr. C. J. Murphy) presided. Every organisation in the town and all sections of the community were represented.

The Chairman said it was the desire of the Federal Government that celebrations be held throughout the Commonwealth. The Shire Council would sponsor the movement for Rosewood, but sought the co-operation of the public. Various proposals were discussed and arrangements for the two days’ celebration were made.

These were put into effect  following the “big news” to-day. Rosewood reacted in joyous spirit this morning when radios gave the announcement of Japan’s surrender. Church bells rang intermittently, whistles from the sawmill sounded, volleys at distant centres were heard in Rosewood, horse bells used over half a century ago rang out, flags of the Allied Nations decorated flag-poles and the exterior of people’s homes, shops closed at noon, workers evacuated their posts, and happy “cheerios” passed from one to the other in the streets.

On Sunday in the churches clergy and people offered thanksgiving prayers for the impending end of hostilities. A mass of thanksgiving was celebrated in St. Brigid’s R.C. Church on Monday morning. Two Masses were celebrated to-day, the date observed in the Catholic Church as the Festival of the Assumption. Speaking to the congregation, Rev. Father O’Rourke (Parish Priest) said the end of the war was something for which we should all be thankful to God, and it would he part of our work to see that war did not occur again. Christian principles must be brought back into the lives of the people if peace was to be maintained.

At the Honour Board at the railway station this afternoon a citizens’ thanksgiving service was held, preceded by a parade from the Shire Office. The main street was thronged with people, and there was a big attendance at the function. The procession, which was marshalled by Lieut. A. W. Johnston, was led by Mounted Constable C. O’Sullivan. It was headed by the Rosewood Citizens’ Band, which played stirring music. Big sections of returned men of this and the last war marched; then came Rosewood Shire Council representatives, followed by the V.D.C. (under the charge of Lieut. N. Bade), Boy Scouts (under G.S.M. D. Elder), Junior Red Cross (with Mr. C. Radcliffe in charge), Masonic and P.A.F.S.O.A. Lodges, and children from the State and Convent Schools. Proceedings at the Honour Board opened with the National Anthem.

In the unavoidable absence of the Chairman of the Rosewood Shire Council (Cr. C. Murphy) Mr. H. M. A. Grant, Chairman of the Rosewood Patriotic Committee, presided. He said that for almost six years the nation and Allies had fought against a savage and ruthless enemy, and now that we were victorious and peace was declared we were naturally delighted. The meeting they were holding was an expression to Almighty God of their grateful thanks for the wonderful victory He had given them.

Rev. M. Paxton Hall (Church of England, Ipswich), who deputised for Rev. J. H. Smith of Rosewood, said, in the course of his address, that in accordance with the expressed wish of the King six years ago we had put our hands into that of God, and it was because of that that miracles such as Dunkirk had been wrought. The dominant thought for this occasion was thankfulness. We must remember the ones who had given their lives, and remember what they had given them for, so that the generation growing up would not have the same thing happening to them. The many forces of evil must be fought.

Padre L. Larsen (West Moreton Churches of Christ) said that righteousness had exalted the nation. With the victory achieved came a great responsibility. Those whom we spoke of us our enemies had souls for which God died, and we must try to bring to them the better way of life. Our social, moral, and spiritual life must be raised if we were to be an influence for good to them.  Rev. H. E. Saunders, Baptist Church, said no people in the history of the world had greater cause for thankfulness.  Rev. J. H. King (Ipswich Central Congregational Church) said our thankfulness to all who served must be expressed in work in the days ahead; we must pledge ourselves to do more than express words.

Hymns were played by the band at intervals in the proceedings. At the conclusion the Last Post was sounded by Trumpeter Green. The visiting speakers were accorded a vote of thanks at the instance of the Chairman. (3)

Since then, there have been many conflicts in which Australians have taken part, either as soldiers, sailors, airmen, peace-keepers or humanitarians. Present at all commemorative occasions have been individuals who carry the memory of their service, along with the families of those who sacrificed much for their country. Every story is different. Listening to the haunting call of the Last Post is an individual experience and kindles awareness, pride and emotion in the heart of every Australian.  

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.”


List of local ANZACS

(1) Brisbane Courier – Wednesday 13 November 1918, page 9
(2) Brisbane Courier – Thursday 14 November 1918, page 4
(3) Queensland Times – Friday 17 August 1945, page 3

Compiled by Jane Schy


One comment

  1. Jane you have done a wonderful job compiling this information on The Last Post.

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