The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Second Lieutenant John O’Donohue, 50th Battalion, AIF, First World War

Place Oceania: Australia, Victoria, Mornington Peninsula, Portsea
Accession Number PAFU2014/244.01
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 22 July 2014
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 Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

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 Nicholas Schmidt, the story for this day was on Second Lieutenant John O’Donohue, 50th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

Second Lieutenant John O’Donohue, 50th Battalion, AIF
KIA 10 June 1917
Photograph: P09291.091

Story delivered 22 July 2015

Today we remember and pay tribute to Second Lieutenant John O’Donohue.

John O’Donohue was born in the South Australian town of Kapunda, but spent most of his life in Norwood, an inner suburb of Adelaide. He worked as a tea blender, and was married to Mary Ellen. He was a prominent footballer for Norwood, and well known as an athlete. He also took a keen interest in military matters and served with the Irish Corps of the civilian forces for 13 years.

On the outbreak of the First World War he was called up as an instructor and served in a number of training camps in South Australia. In July 1916 he enlisted for active service abroad and was immediately commissioned with the rank of second lieutenant. He went through officers’ school, where he excelled, and was sent to England.

O’Donohue spent more time in training institutions in England, both teaching and receiving instruction, before finally reaching the Western Front. In early June 1917 the 50th Battalion was in trenches around the Belgian village of Messines preparing for a large-scale operation. O’Donohue spent a number of days commanding carrying parties taking supplies and ammunition to the forward lines. Although this was dangerous work, O’Donohue went about it in a “cheerful and excellent manner”.

When the operation went ahead, O’Donohue went over the top with his company, and led them in reaching the objective. He then set about clearing the village of Germans. While inspecting a farmhouse for any signs of enemy activity, a hidden machine-gun opened up on his party. O’Donohue was shot through the head and died instantly.

John O’Donohue was buried where he fell, just beyond the village of Messines. His personal effects, including a silver locket with a picture of his wife and a lock of her hair, were sent home. After the war his grave could not be found, despite the coordinates having been registered at the time of his death. His final resting place remains unknown and unmarked.

John O’Donohue’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, along with more than 60,000 others from the First World War, and his photograph is displayed today 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 Second Lieutenant John O’Donohue, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in the service of our nation.

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