The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Major Thomas Patrick Elliott, 60th Battalion, AIF, First World War

Place Europe: France, Nord Pas de Calais, Nord, Lille, Fromelles
Accession Number PAFU2014/409.01
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 30 October 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

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 Craig Berelle, the story for this day was on Major Thomas Patrick Elliott, 60th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

Major Thomas Patrick Elliott, 60th Battalion, AIF
KIA 19 July 1916
Photograph: P08624.343

Story delivered 30 October 2014

Today we remember and pay tribute to Major Thomas Patrick Elliott.

Tom Elliott was born on 18 January 1894 in Marrickville, New South Wales, to Thomas and Mary Elliott. Attending Marrickville West Public School, he was a gifted student and was encouraged to excel. To supplement his schooling, he attended night classes at Sydney Technical College, attaining a first grade standard in each of his subjects.

In 1911, aged 17, he was accepted into the Royal Military College, Duntroon. Elliott settled into life as a cadet; it was not always to his liking, but his natural leadership abilities were certainly noted. He made friends easily – one in particular, Alan “Bluey” Thorne, with whom he shared some daring escapades that brought them to the attention of their instructors.

On 12March 1913 Elliott was one of the cadets making up the ceremonial guard during Canberra’s naming ceremony. Elliott and Thorne also represented RMC as forwards in the college’s rugby first 15, a team that was counted among the best in Australia at the time.

With the outbreak of the First World War and the need for a second AIF contingent, Elliott and his class were graduated early. Elliott was appointed as lieutenant to the 7th Light Horse Regiment along with RMC classmate Bluey Thorne.

The regiment arrived in Alexandria in early February and set to training, but it wasn’t all work; the RMC graduates managed to hold a reunion dinner at the Grand Hotel in February. It would be the last such gathering for many of those present.

In mid-May the 7th Light Horse Regiment and the rest of the 2nd Light Horse Brigade were sent unmounted to Gallipoli. From the boats the men witnessed the Turkish counter-attack, which was bloodily repulsed, and landed under shell-fire the following morning.

The 7th Light Horse occupied positions in the southern sector of the Anzac line and remained there for most of the campaign. By July, Elliott was promoted to temporary captain and was made regimental observation officer. Later that month Elliott was with Bluey Thorne in the front line when Thorne put his head over the trench to check on the Turks opposite. He was immediately shot through the head and killed, his body landing on Elliott.

Elliott took over his friend’s position as machine-gun officer, but in September was evacuated to Malta with severe enteric fever. His recovery was slow, and he did not re-join his unit in Egypt until January 1916. Here he was promoted to captain.

In March, a former classmate introduced him to Major General H.E. “Pompey” Elliott. Young Elliott made a favourable impression on Pompey, who transferred him to lead one of the 60th Battalion’s companies.

Pompey later wrote that Elliott’s “personality was of such sterling value that from a mere formation the company speedily became a well disciplined and trained fighting unit”.

Elliott’s star was only beginning to rise. In April, he was made battalion adjutant and completely reorganised the administration and running of the battalion. Not long after he was promoted to major and made second-in-command of the battalion. He worked closely with Major Geoff McCrae, the battalion’s acting commanding officer and another rising star in the AIF, to make the 60th Battalion one of the best in the 5th Division.

In July Elliott was instrumental in the battalion’s preparations for its attack on the Sugarloaf Salient during the assault on Fromelles. At 5.50 pm Elliott led the battalion’s second wave into the attack. According to one witness:
Major Elliott dropped about 80 yards from our line … Shortly afterwards he stood up and tried to get his tunic off … then pitched forward onto his face. He had a big gash in his back, as from high explosive. He remained there all bunched with his body in the air and his head on the ground as we went past … We did not see him as we came back next morning.

Though Elliott’s body was located after the battle, he was unable to be brought in for burial, and today his name is recorded in the VC Corner of the Australian Cemetery and Memorial at Fromelles.

The 60th Battalion was all but annihilated. Of the 887 men who went into the attack, 780 were reported killed, wounded, or missing.

Elliott’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, along with more than 60,000 others from the First World War. His photograph is displayed 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 Major Thomas Patrick Elliott, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in service of our nation.

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