ACT News

Australian War Memorial in Canberra holds 1000th Last Post Ceremony

  The Australian War Memorial will hold its 1000th Last Post ceremony on Thursday.

The milestone event will be dedicated to the memory of Flight Sergeant Lindsay Arthur Bayley who was killed on active service with the No. 9 Squadron of the Royal Air Force during World War II.

Wreaths are laid near the Pool of Reflection at the Australian War Memorial during a Last Post ceremony.
Wreaths are laid near the Pool of Reflection at the Australian War Memorial during a Last Post ceremony.  Photo: Melissa Adams

The Last Post ceremony has been held at the memorial each day since April 2013.

Director Brendan Nelson began the practice to personalise the roll of honour, which contains the names of more than 102,000 Australians killed in war and other operations.

The last post ceremony at the Australian War Memorial.
The last post ceremony at the Australian War Memorial.  Photo: Jay Cronan

The event now draws hundreds every evening, where wreaths are laid beside the Pool of Reflection and the crowd stands solemnly to hear the poignant story of one individual.

It takes place at the end of the day and the audience usually includes groups of school children visiting from all parts of Australia.


The event begins with the singing of the Australian National Anthem, followed by a lament played by a piper, the laying of wreaths and a tribute to an Australian named on the memorial's roll of honour.

The ceremony ends with the reciting of The Ode and the sounding of the Last Post.

It will take nearly 300 years to commemorate every person on the roll of honour but the War Memorial says it is committed to ensuring each story will eventually be told.

Dr Nelson began the event after being inspired by the Last Post ceremony  carried out beneath the Menin Gate in Ypres, Belgium.

When he was Australian ambassador to the European Union and Belgium, he frequently attended that ceremony.

The monument was built to honour the memory of British and Commonwealth soldiers killed in World War I, whose bodies were never found.

As the event at the War Memorial has gained in popularity, particularly with the ceremony being webcast, the institution has been inundated with requests from families to have their relative's story told in public.

One of the most moving Last Post ceremonies told the story of Captain Robert Page, of Z Special Unit, who sailed on the Krait to sneak a crew of 14 behind Japanese lines.

On a later mission, he was captured and beheaded, one month before the end of the World War II. He was 25 years old.

When he was honoured with the Last Post ceremony, his widow – who had never remarried – brought flowers from their wedding cake for the floral tribute she laid in memory of her husband.

According to witnesses, there wasn't a dry eye in the crowd.

The Last Post ceremony on May 14 each year is dedicated to the 268 people who drowned when the Hospital Ship Centaur was torpedoed near Brisbane in World War II.