|Last Post film
Australian War Memorial
|Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
|23 January 2014
First World War, 1914-1918
Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
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The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Captain Joseph Henry Slater, 22 Battalion, First World War
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 Troy Clayton, the story for this day was on Captain Joseph Henry Slater, 22 Battalion, First World War.Film order form
Captain Joseph Henry Slater, 22nd Battalion
KIA 3 May 1917
No photograph in collection
Story delivered 23 January 2014
Today we remember and pay tribute to Captain Joseph Henry Slater.
"Joe" Slater was the only son of Henry and Diana Slater. Born in Ballarat East, Victoria, on 28 November 1888, he moved with his family to Geelong as a young boy, where he attended and matriculated from Geelong College. Slater became the manager of a stationery printing business, but was much better known as a footballer. He began playing for the United Methodist team in Geelong, and soon entered the senior Victorian league. He was known as a "serious athlete" because he did not smoke or drink, and as a "brilliant and dashing" player for the Geelong Cats and Victoria.
Slater applied for a commission in the Australian Imperial Force in April 1915, and was posted to the 22nd Battalion with the rank of second lieutenant. He proved an able soldier and within 11 months was promoted to captain. Slater spent around two months on Gallipoli towards the end of the campaign. In early 1916 he went to France, and was for some time appointed chief instructor of a bombing school before joining his battalion in the field in September 1916. At some point he met and became engaged to Nellie Wigley, a nurse in the Australian Army Nursing Service.
Slater was a popular company commander for the 22nd Battalion and a handy addition to their football team. In January 1917 Captain Slater was mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig's despatches of November 1916 for his "distinguished and gallant conduct and devotion to duty in the field".
In May 1917 he was leading his company in an operation at Bullecourt when he was hit by shrapnel, but on the way to a dressing station he was caught by machine-gun fire which killed him instantly. Although men went out to look for his body the following night, nothing was found except one of his boots. To this day he has no known grave.
In Geelong, news of Slater's death was met with sorrow. The president of the Victorian Football League wrote:
As a man and a footballer he was "one of the best", and I am sure that everyone who knew of him will be sorry that Geelong and the club have lost one whose place it will be hard to fill.
Even other teams recognised the Slater's loss. The Collingwood Football Club forwarded a letter to the Geelong club to say:
The committee and players of Collingwood Club tender their sincere sympathy to your club on the loss of your gallant champion - killed on the field of honour. His name was a by-word amongst footballers for skilful and gentlemanly play, and his memory will be treasured in football gatherings for many years to come.
His widowed mother "bore her grief with heroic fortitude", although Joe had been the last living member of her family. She wanted it to be remembered that "he died
as he had lived, a soldier and a man". Joe's fiancée, Nellie, had still not married in 1939 when she placed a memorial notice in the Melbourne Argus "in affectionate
memory" of Joe Slater.
His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, along with more than 60,000 others from the First World War. There is no photograph in the collection to display
beside the Pool of Reflection.
This is but one of the many stories of courage and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Captain Joseph Henry Slater, and all
of those Australians who have given their lives in the service of our nation.
Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Captain Joseph Henry Slater, 22 Battalion, First World War (video)