The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (806) Private James Garfield Alan Mitchell, 7th Battalion, First World War

Place Europe: Western Front
Accession Number PAFU2015/202.01
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 26 May 2015
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 Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on 806 Private James Garfield Alan Mitchell, 7th Battalion, First World War.

Speech transcript

806 Private James Garfield Alan Mitchell, 7th Battalion
KIA 19 May 1916, aged 21
Photograph: H05986

Story delivered 26 May 2015

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private James Garfield Alan Mitchell.

James Mitchell, known as Alan, was born in Bendigo to William and Isabella Mitchell. His father died when he was 14 years old and he was raised by his mother. He attended the Violet Street State School, where he was generally considered a popular student. Mitchell worked in the mines around Bendigo after finishing school, but on the outbreak of war was very quick to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force, doing so in mid-August 1914.

Private Mitchell underwent a period of training in Australia and, after leaving Australia with the first contingent, in Egypt. In both places he shared a tent with the same nine men, and acted as cook for them all. They were all posted to the 7th Battalion, and in April 1915 were sent to fight on the Gallipoli peninsula.

The 7th Battalion was towed ashore at Anzac Cove at 5.30 am on 25 April 1915. The day was chaotic, and units quickly became muddled. After reorganising, the 7th Battalion spent some days establishing and improving its new front line.

Mitchell served in D Company under the command of Captain Herbert Hunter. In early May, while receiving treatment for a wound, Hunter was struck by a Turkish bullet and killed. Some of Mitchell’s tent mates were also wounded. Mitchell himself remained on Gallipoli for the entire campaign, remarkably without being wounded or falling ill. The last of the 7th Battalion left Anzac Cove at 2.40 in the morning on 20 December 1915, bound for service on the Western Front.

Warfare in France was very different from the fighting on Gallipoli. In order to accustom the new arrivals to the trenches, Australian battalions
were rotated in and out of the line in quiet sectors. However, the front line in France was still a dangerous place. Within weeks of arrival Private Alan Mitchell was dead. No details of the manner of his death remain. The 7th Battalion war diary notes that Mitchell and his companions were in the second line constructing new trenches and repairing established ones. Alan Mitchell was buried quietly nearby.

In Australia the Mitchell family were excitedly preparing for the return of Alan’s brother, Garfield. He had been wounded and was being repatriated to Australia unfit for further service. The family had just received a postcard from Alan to say he was fit and well, so the telegram reporting that he was dead was an enormous shock. At the time of Alan’s death, only one of his tent mates remained on active service. The other nine had been killed, seriously wounded and returned to Australia, or had gone missing. They had been on active service less than two years.

Alan Mitchell’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, along with more than 60,000 Australians who died during the First World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Private James Garfield Alan Mitchell, and all those Australians who have given their lives in the service of our nation.

Dr Meleah Hampton
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (806) Private James Garfield Alan Mitchell, 7th Battalion, First World War (video)