The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (606) Second Lieutenant James Balfour Harcus Taylor, 52nd Battalion, First World War

Place Europe: France, Picardie, Somme, Albert Bapaume Area, Pozieres Area, Mouquet Farm
Accession Number PAFU2014/334.01
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 6 September 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 Charis May, the story for this day was on (606) Second Lieutenant James Balfour Harcus Taylor, 52nd Battalion, First World War.

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Speech transcript

Second Lieutenant James Balfour Harcus Taylor, 52nd Battalion
KIA 3 September 1918
Photograph: P05301.024

Story delivered 6 September 2014

Today we remember and pay tribute to Second Lieutenant James Balfour Harcus Taylor, who was killed fighting in France in the First World War.

James Taylor was born in 1893, one of four children to William and Elizabeth Taylor of Wilcannia in New South Wales. He worked as a labourer in the Wilcannia area after school, and in October 1914 travelled to Morphettville in Adelaide to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force. At that time, some volunteers from South Australia were sent to Tasmania for training. James was one of them, and after training at Pontville he left Australia in the first AIF convoy as an original member of the 12th Battalion.

Following training in Egypt, the men of the 12th Battalion were among the first Australian troops to land at Anzac Cove on the morning of 25 April 1915. The battalion was heavily involved in establishing and defending the front line of the Anzac position over the following weeks, but on 30 April James was wounded in the arm and leg by Turkish shrapnel and was evacuated to Egypt for recovery. He returned to Gallipoli in June, was promoted to corporal, and spent the remainder of the campaign in the region around Lone Pine.

After the evacuation, the 12th Battalion spent time preparing for redeployment to the Western Front. The AIF effectively doubled in size during this time, and James was promoted to sergeant and transferred to the newly raised 52nd Battalion. He arrived in France in April 1916, and spent several weeks in the relatively quiet Strazeele sector before the 52nd was drawn into in the fighting on the Somme. By then James was an experienced soldier who had displayed initiative and leadership qualities, and he was given a battlefield commission. As a second lieutenant and platoon commander, James was considered to be “a jolly good fellow [and] one of the best”.

By August 1916 the Australians had captured the village of Pozières and were pushing towards the German stronghold of Mouquet Farm in one of the most intense periods of fighting on the Western Front. After fewer than six weeks the Australians had suffered more than 28,000 casualties for little gain.

On 2 September the 52nd Battalion took part an attack on Mouquet Farm. It was the battalion’s first major action on the Western Front, yet the 52nd suffered up to 50 per cent casualties and was ultimately unsuccessful.

Among those listed as missing was Lieutenant James Taylor; according to Red Cross reports he was seen to have been killed in the fighting. It was not until after the war that his remains were uncovered on the Mouquet Farm battlefield, and he was reinterred at the Serre Road Military Cemetery, where he rests today.

James Taylor’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, along with 60,000 others from the First World War, and his photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is one of the many stories of courage and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Second Lieutenant James Balfour Harcus Taylor, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in service of our nation.

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