The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Captain Cecil Maitland Foss MC, 28th Battalion, AIF, first World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.283
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 10 October 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
Description

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 Chris Widenbar, the story for this day was on Captain Cecil Maitland Foss MC, 28th Battalion, AIF, first World War.

Speech transcript

Captain Cecil Maitland Foss MC, 28th Battalion, AIF
DOW 11 August 1916
Story delivered 10 October 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Captain Cecil Maitland Foss MC.

Cecil Foss was born on 10 February 1891 at Arrino in Western Australia, the fourth of five children born to Cecil and Isabella Foss.

Foss’s father died when he was 13 years old, leaving Isabella Foss to rear the younger children.

Cecil attended the High School, later renamed Hale School, in Perth as a boarder, and later passed the primary and junior Adelaide University exams. Foss became a farmer and initially worked at Arrino, but later joined his two older brothers in a farming venture at Babakin.

Following the start of the First World War, Foss enlisted in February 1915 at Blackboy Hill Camp and applied for a commission. He was posted to B Company of the newly raised 28th Battalion, and in mid-March, was sent to an officers’ school of instruction at Rockingham. He completed the course in April and was commissioned with the rank of second lieutenant, returning to his battalion soon after.

He embarked with his unit from Fremantle on 29 June 1915 aboard the transport ship Ascanius, bound for Egypt. After arriving in July, the battalion endured several months of training in the desert. Foss was promoted to lieutenant in late August and embarked with his battalion for Gallipoli shortly after.

The 28th Battalion arrived on Gallipoli in mid-September. By this time, the fighting had become static and the battalion was used in holding the front line around Cheshire Ridge. As the Gallipoli campaign drew to a close, the battalion was withdrawn from the peninsula to Lemnos in December.

The 28th Battalion arrived back in Egypt in early January 1916 and spent the following months reorganising, reinforcing, and training. During this time Foss was promoted to captain.

The 28th Battalion sailed for France in mid-March and was sent north to the “nursery sector” near Armentieres. It was here that Foss began to earn himself a reputation as a fearless patroller of no-man’s land. He led a number of night-time forays forward of his own line to gather intelligence. When a weakly held portion of the German line was identified, a raiding party made up of volunteers from the 26th and 28th Battalions was formed with Foss in command.

On the night of 6/7 June, the Australians, wearing British uniforms and black sandshoes, and with their faces and hands blackened, conducted their raid. Foss, leading the assault party, was first into the German trench and quickly captured a German soldier. Supported by artillery and machine-gun fire, the raid lasted no longer than seven minutes, during which time nine Germans were killed and five captured. The Australians suffered two men killed during the withdrawal. The raid, the first of its kind conducted by the Australians on the Western Front, was a resounding success. The men who took part quickly became known as “the black Anzacs”.

For his part, Foss was awarded a Military Cross for “gallantry and conspicuous ability and coolness … while in command of a raiding party which entered the enemy trenches, effecting considerable loss to them … he was the first man into the trench and the last to leave it.”

In July, the 28th Battalion transferred to the Somme, where on the 28th and 29th of July, the men took part in the 2nd Division’s costly attempt to capture Pozieres Ridge.

On 5 August, Foss led a small party to the area of the Windmill and captured it. He and his men were subjected to heavy German shelling and the party suffered a number of casualties, including Foss. Severely wounded by shrapnel in the chest and one of his legs, he was evacuated to No. 3 Casualty Clearing Station. He was admitted around 7.30 pm that evening, but despite best efforts, his wounds proved to be mortal. He died in the early hours of 11 August and was laid to rest in Puchevillers British Cemetery the following day. He was 25 years old.

Foss was posthumously mentioned in despatches for his courageous work in the capture of the Pozieres Windmill.

In a further tragedy for the family, Foss’s two brothers were also killed during the war. Second Lieutenant Henry Foss was killed at Bullecourt on 3 May 1917, and Corporal Ernest Foss was killed on 3 June 1918.

Cecil Foss’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 Captain Cecil Maitland Foss MC, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Captain Cecil Maitland Foss MC, 28th Battalion, AIF, first World War. (video)