The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Lieutenant John Robert Porteous, 20th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Place Europe: France, Nord Pas de Calais, Nord, Lille, Armentieres
Accession Number AWM2016.2.65
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 5 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

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 Lieutenant John Robert Porteous, 20th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

Lieutenant John Robert Porteous, 20th Battalion, AIF
KIA 23 May 1916
Photograph: A03620

Story delivered 5 March 2016

Today we remember and pay tribute to Lieutenant John Robert Porteous, who was killed in action in France during the First World War.

John Porteous was born in Sydney in 1865 and worked as a clerk with the Department of Education in Newcastle. He had married Ida James in Balmain in 1887, though the couple had no children.

Enlistment standards at the start of the First World War precluded men over the age of 35 from serving in the Australian forces. This changed in 1915, when the maximum age was extended to 45. When Porteous enlisted in March 1915, giving his age as 43, he was in fact 50 years old.

Possibly owing to his age and experience, Porteous was given the rank of sergeant before he sailed for Egypt with the 20th Battalion in June 1915. The battalion arrived on Gallipoli in the weeks after the renewed British effort to seize the Sari Bair Range, and as such its role throughout the remainder of the campaign was purely defensive. Porteous spent the following months on Russell’s Top before withdrawing with the rest of the battalion in December 1915. By the time he arrived back in Egypt Porteous had been given a field commission to the rank of second lieutenant.

After months of training in Egypt the 20th Battalion was among the first Australian units to file into the trenches on the Western Front. Based in the relatively quiet Armentières sector, the men became familiar with the routine of trench warfare, learned how to patrol no man’s land and raid the German trenches, and were exposed to enemy artillery fire on a daily basis.

On 23 May 1916 Porteous was in a front-line dug-out with several officers when a German shell landed on their position. Porteous was seriously wounded, and was taken by stretcher-bearers to the nearest dressing station. However, he died before arriving at the station. He was buried later that afternoon at the Brewery Orchard Cemetery at Bois-Grenier, where he rests today alongside 124 other Australians killed in the area.

John Porteous’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among 60,000 others from the First World War. His photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Lieutenant John Porteous, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Aaron Pegram
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Lieutenant John Robert Porteous, 20th Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)