The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (1816) Private Ernest Ivey Robisson Coffey, 15th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Place Middle East: Ottoman Empire, Turkey, Dardanelles, Gallipoli, Sari Bair Area, Hill 971
Accession Number PAFU2015/338.01
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 8 August 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

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 (1816) Private Ernest Ivey Robisson Coffey, 15th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

1816 Private Ernest Ivey Robisson Coffey, 15th Battalion, AIF
KIA 8 August 1915
Photograph: A03577 (detail)

Story delivered 8 August 2015

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Ernest Ivey Robisson Coffey.

Ernest Coffey was born in Ballarat, Victoria, the youngest son of Thomas and Mary Coffey’s five children. His father was an Irish migrant, and his mother was born in New South Wales. He attended the Urquhart Street School in Ballarat. In 1911, when Ernest was about 20 years old, his father and older sister Daisy died within a month of each other, and it seems his mother could have died around the same time as well. On the outbreak of the First World War the bulk of the family had scattered across Victoria, with one in Manchester, England, and Ernest himself in Queensland, where he worked as a miner.

Ernest Coffey enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in December 1914. He went into training at Enoggera Camp and was eventually posted to the 15th Battalion. Private Coffey arrived in Egypt in May 1915, and wrote to his sister: “We had plenty of leave [after arriving] so could see all the sights worth seeing. I will be able to tell you all about it when I come home again, that is if a fat Turk don’t get me.” He was sent to Gallipoli shortly after, arriving on 2 June 1915.

Writing to his sister a week after his arrival on the peninsula, Private Coffey said:

"the fighting here is pretty merry; at present things are humming, I can tell you. In fact, we are all living by minutes, but that makes no difference to us. We are all in good spirits … The only thing that troubles us whilst digging trenches is the snipers. Sometimes they get a few of us, sometimes not; it all depends on their luck."

Coffey and his friends James Coleman, Alfred Davidge, and Reginald Palmer had met on the boat to Egypt, and the four of them remained
close while on Gallipoli. On the evening of 6 August 1915, as a part of the 4th Brigade’s attack on Hill 971, the 15th Battalion left its bivouac lines in Reserve Gully and began the dangerous march into position. At times the battalion guides lost their way; at other times enemy fire meant they had to capture enemy positions before continuing on. The battalion’s war diary recalls “rough, broken, stony ridges, densely covered with low prickly undergrowth in which the Turks had taken cover and were obstinately disputing every yard of our own advance”. Exhausted by the constant skirmishing, the men of the 15th Battalion established a defensive position. That evening it was confirmed that they would attack Hill 971.

The 15th Battalion was at the head of the brigade, and charged over Turkish positions for a considerable distance that night. The objective was captured, but the Australians were forced to retire in the face of determined Turkish resistance. As the advance was launched Coffey, Coleman, Davidge, and Palmer kept close to each other, but at some point Palmer became separated, and his mates were never seen again. A court of inquiry held at Serapeum in 1916 confirmed that Privates Coffey, Coleman, and Davidge were killed in action on 8 August 1915.

Ernest Coffey’s body was never identified, and he has no known grave. He is commemorated on Gallipoli on the Lone Pine Memorial to the Missing. He was 23 years old.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among more than 60,000 Australians who died during the First World War. His photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection. Coffey can be seen in the fifth row, fifth from the left.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Private Ernest Ivey Robisson Coffey, his mates Corporal Alfred James Davidge and Private James George Coleman, and all those Australians who have given their lives in the service of our nation.

Dr Meleah Hampton
Historian, Military History Section

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