The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (4759) Private Harold Brooks Davis, 45th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Place Europe: France, Picardie, Somme, Albert Bapaume Area, Gueudecourt
Accession Number AWM2016.2.62
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 2 March 2016
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 (4759) Private Harold Brooks Davis, 45th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

4759 Private Harold Brooks Davis, 45th Battalion, AIF
DOW 28 February 1917
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 2 March 2016

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Harold Brooks Davis.

Harold Davis was born in 1901 in Parramatta, Sydney, the second of James and Elizabeth Davis’s three sons. In 1906 Harold’s older brother, Alfred, died; he was followed three days later by their mother. James continued on with the two younger boys, moving to the Blue Mountains, where the boys attended Leura State School and James worked in a Katoomba dairy. Harold went on to become a plumber.

When war broke out in 1914, Harold Davis was around 13 years old. Although still far too young, he could not resist the call of the Coo-ee Marchers as the snowball recruitment drive came through town. He joined them on their way to Sydney, enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force in November 1915 by putting his age up from 15 to 18. He was posted to the 15th reinforcements to the 13th Battalion, and after a period of training left Sydney on the troopship Star of England in March 1916.

Private Davis arrived in Egypt in mid-April, where he was transferred to the newly formed 45th Battalion. He continued to train with the battalion in Egypt until early June, when he left for service on the Western Front.

In August 1916 the 45th Battalion spent time in the trenches near the French village of Pozières. Although not called on to conduct offensive operations, the battalion repelled a number of German counter-attacks and provided valuable working and carrying parties to the front line. It suffered several hundred casualties during this period, but young Private Davis survived and continued on with his battalion well into the harsh winter of 1916–17, before being evacuated with a septic foot. He rejoined his battalion on the last day of January 1917.

Four weeks later the 45th Battalion successfully captured a section of German trench near the village of Gueudecourt. The battalion reported inflicting as many as 80 German casualties during this small operation,
while suffering only seven or eight wounded men. One of those wounded was Private Harold Davis.

Davis was evacuated from the front line with multiple shell-blast wounds to his back, buttocks, and upper legs. He was taken to hospital in Rouen, where his condition was rated serious. Even as the local newspaper in the Blue Mountains was preparing to report on Davis’s condition, word was received that he had died of his wounds. Harold Davis’s father received three final letters from France: one from the
matron of the hospital; one from the chaplain; and one dictated by his son from his deathbed.

Harold Davis was buried in the St Sever Cemetery Extension in France. He was 16 years old. His father chose words from the hymn “Lead, Kindly Light” for his headstone:
Then in the Morn those Angel faces smile
Which I have loved long since but lost a while

This inscription proved too expensive, and so was replaced with the simpler words “At rest.” Davis’s father wrote: “my dear and loving son who paid the supreme penalty for King and Country, though only
young in years, his memory will always be fresh to my heart”.

Harold Davis’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among 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 Harold Brooks Davis, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a
better world.

Dr Meleah Hampton
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (4759) Private Harold Brooks Davis, 45th Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)