The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (1792) Private Angus McSween Whitelaw, 24th Battalion, First World War

Place Europe: France, Picardie, Somme, Albert Bapaume Area, Pozieres Area, Mouquet Farm
Accession Number PAFU2014/315.01
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 31 August 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 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 Joanne Smedley, the story for this day was on (1792) Private Angus McSween Whitelaw, 24th Battalion, First World War.

Speech transcript

1792 Private Angus McSween Whitelaw, 24th Battalion
KIA 25 August 1916
No photograph in collection

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Angus McSween Whitelaw.

Angus Whitelaw was the son of Robert and Annie Whitelaw of Briagolong, Victoria. He was the youngest of six brothers to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force and fight in the First World War. He enlisted in February 1915 at the age of 16, lying on his attestation papers to say he was 18.

Angus arrived on the Gallipoli peninsula in August 1915 with the 24th Battalion. Two other brothers had already enlisted, served, and been repatriated to Australia: Lee Whitelaw was at Gallipoli just hours before being shot in the face and, surviving his wounds, was repatriated to Australia; Felix Whitelaw was sent back to Australia after suffering sunstroke in Egypt, but in 1916 was in the process of reenlisting.

Angus lasted only a month at Gallipoli before being evacuated with severe dysentery. After a number of months recovering in Britain, he rejoined his battalion on the Western Front in late June 1916. At this time the 24th Battalion was fighting around the French village of Pozières. On 25 August, in an operation against the nearby Mouquet Farm, Angus Whitelaw was killed in action. He was just 17 years old.

Three of the six enlisted Whitelaw brothers died during the war: Angus at Mouquet Farm in 1916, Robert at Bullecourt in 1917, and Ivan in Belgium in 1918. The other three returned home, but of these two died young men as a result of wounds suffered during the war.

Such was Annie Whitelaw’s distress at the loss of her sons that a blind had to cover the Roll of Honour in the Briagolong community hall when she was there. Every year she “would sit crying in her horse and jinker watching the Anzac Day march from a distance, because she could not bear to go any closer”. After her death a memorial was raised to commemorate her role in the war effort – giving six of her sons to fight – and the work of all the women in the district throughout the war. The epitaph on the memorial, which was heartily supported throughout the district of Briagolong, bears the words of Conan Doyle: “Happy is the woman who can die with the thought that in the hour of her country’s greatest need she gave her utmost.”

Private Angus Whitelaw’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, along with the names of his brothers, Sergeant Robert Angus Whitelaw and Corporal Ivan Cecil Whitelaw, and more than 60,000 others from the First World War. There is no photograph in the Memorial's 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 Private Angus McSween Whitelaw, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in service of our nation.

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