The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (1067) Private Colin Robert Brown, 29th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.232
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 20 August 2018
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 Craig Berelle, the story for this day was on (1067) Private Colin Robert Brown, 29th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

1067 Private Colin Robert Brown, 29th Battalion, AIF
KIA 3 November 1916
Story delivered 20 August 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Colin Robert Brown.

Colin Brown was born about 1896 in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond, one of three sons born to James and Margaret Brown. The Brown family were originally from Scotland, and were active in the local Caledonian Society.

After finishing his schooling at Central State School in Richmond, Colin Brown worked as a grocer’s assistant. By the time the Great War began, he had been in senior cadets for four years, and around a year with the Yarra Borderers, a Citizen Military Forces unit.

In July 1915, Colin and his older brother James enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. As Colin was still quite young, he brought with him a letter of consent from his parents.

The following month, the 29th Battalion was raised at Broadmeadows Camp, comprised of volunteers, such as the Brown brothers, raised during the recruitment drive that followed the landing on Gallipoli.
After some initial training with his new battalion in Australia, Private Brown embarked at Melbourne on 10 November 1915 aboard the troopship Ascanius, bound for the Middle East.

While training in the desert camps on the outskirts of Cairo, Brown was found absent without leave and charged with travelling on Egyptian state railway without a ticket. He was given 21 days field punishment number two, but before there was time for the penalty to be carried out, the 29th Battalion set off to France, destined for the Western Front.

The battalion fought its first major battle at Fromelles in northern France on 19 July.

Directed against a strong German position, the attack was intended primarily as a feint to draw German troops away from another offensive to the south. A seven-hour preparatory bombardment deprived the attack of any surprise and was ineffective in subduing the well-entrenched defenders. When the troops finally attacked, they suffered heavily at the hands of German machine-gunners.

The battle was summed up by one soldier: “the novelty of being a soldier wore off in about five seconds, it was like a bloody butcher’s shop.”

The attack was a complete failure. The Germans quickly realised that it was merely a feint, and the 5th Division suffered over 5,000 casualties.

After reorganising and bringing in the wounded, the 29th Battalion held the front line until the end of the month, when it was relieved.

After taking up billets in a nearby French town, the battalion continued to rotate in and out of the front line. In late October it took up positions on the front line near Flers, relieving English troops in the sector. Constant rain had left some trenches knee deep in mud, which it took the troops five hours to trudge through to reach the front line.

The English troops were glad to be relieved; they had seen heavy fighting, and the corpses of the dead lay thickly scattered over the whole area.
That first night, rations did not arrive, and the only water available was from shell holes filled with the heavy rain.

Enemy artillery fire continued almost without stop, and after suffering numerous casualties, the bulk of the front line garrison were intermittently moved back away from the worst of the carnage. But casualties continued to mount.

On 3 November, Colin Brown and his brother James were killed in action. While there are no records detailing the circumstances of their deaths, it is likely that they were together when they were struck by shell-fire.
Given a hasty burial in the trenches near Flers, their gravesites were lost during subsequent fighting. Today they are commemorated at the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux, which lists over 10,000 Australian soldiers with no known grave.

Colin Brown was 20 years old. His brother James was 25.

Back in Australia, Margaret Brown never got over the shock of losing her two sons. While her youngest son, Thomas, was discharged at the end of the war and returned to Australia, the strain was too much. Her health broke down and she died on 27 September 1918.

Colin Brown’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among almost 62,000 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 Private Colin Robert Brown, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Duncan Beard
Editor, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (1067) Private Colin Robert Brown, 29th Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)