The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (1674) Gunner Eric Burgess 53rd Battery, 14th Field Artillery Brigade, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2017.1.301
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 28 October 2017
Access Open
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Charis May, the story for this day was on (1674) Gunner Eric Burgess 53rd Battery, 14th Field Artillery Brigade, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

1674 Gunner Eric Burgess 53rd Battery, 14th Field Artillery Brigade, AIF
KIA 4 October 1917
Story delivered 28 October 2017

Today we remember and pay tribute to Gunner Eric Burgess.

Eric Burgess was born on 28 July 1895 in Geelong, Victoria, the last of seven children born to Ernest and Elizabeth Burgess.

Burgess grew up in Geelong and attended Highton State School, serving for two years with the senior cadets attached to the 69th Infantry Regiment. After finishing school, he moved to Melbourne to take up a job as a clerk for AMP. He continued to serve in the Militia, transferring to the 64th Infantry Regiment.

At the outbreak of the First World War, Burgess enlisted for service but was discharged soon after due to illness. Undeterred, he enlisted again in May 1915 and was allotted to the 2nd reinforcements to the 23rd Battalion.

In July he embarked from Melbourne aboard the transport ship Demosthenes, joining the 23rd Battalion in Egypt before embarking for Gallipoli.

The 23rd Battalion arrived on Gallipoli in early September and was sent to man the trenches at Lone Pine. The fighting was so intense here that the battalion alternated with the 24th Battalion on a daily basis.

On 21 November Burgess was wounded by a piece of shrapnel from a Turkish bomb which ended his time on Gallipoli. He was evacuated to Malta for treatment and recovery. It wasn’t until March 1916 that he rejoined his battalion, which had returned to Egypt after the end of the Gallipoli campaign.

By the end of March the 23rd Battalion had sailed to France. After an introduction to trench warfare in the “Nursery Sector” in April, it moved south to take part in the battle of Pozières in July and Mouquet Farm in August, where it suffered almost an entire turnover of original battalion members due to death, wounds, and illness. Burgess managed to survive these horrors and by the end of July had been promoted to temporary corporal.

In September, Burgess was claimed from the infantry by his brother Joseph who had arrived in France in June and was serving with the 53rd Battery of the 14th Field Artillery Brigade. Burgess joined his brother in October and was posted to the same gun crew.
The brothers served together during winter, and in the early months of 1917 were involved in supporting the allied advance to the Hindenburg Line. In early April Eric Burgess was detached to another gun crew and badly wounded when a shell fired from his gun exploded prematurely, sending shrapnel back through the gun shield.

After surgery in France, he was evacuated to England to recover. His recovery went well and at the end of June, having been posted to a depot unit, he went absent without leave for five days. He was given seven days’ Field Punishment Number 2 and fined 13 days’ pay.

After a brief illness in July, Burgess returned to France and rejoined his brother and his unit towards the end of August. Over the following months the brothers were almost constantly in action as their battery fired in support of the allied operations during the third Ypres campaign, including the successful operations to capture Menin Road and Polygon Wood.

On 4 October, the Burgess brothers were at their gun firing in support of the Australian infantry attacking Broodseinde Ridge. During the day, their battery came under fire from German artillery, and a shell landed
in the brothers’ gun pit, detonating the ready ammunition and killing Eric, Joseph, and their crewmates instantly. The brothers were buried side by side in the Huts Cemetery at Dickebusch in Belgium. Eric was 22 years old, Joseph was 25.

Eric Burgess’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among more than 60,000 Australians who died while serving in the First World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Gunner Eric Burgess, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

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