The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (275) Corporal Alfred Harston, Australian Army Provost Corps, AIF, First World War.

Place Europe: France, Picardie, Somme, Daours
Accession Number AWM2016.2.92
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 1 April 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 Troy Clayton, the story for this day was on (275) Corporal Alfred Harston, Australian Army Provost Corps, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

275 Corporal Alfred Harston, Australian Army Provost Corps, AIF
KIA 20 May 1918
Photograph: P07807.001

Story delivered 1 April 2016

Today we remember and pay tribute to Corporal Alfred Harston, who was killed while fighting in France during the First World War.

Alfred Linacre Harston was born in 1893, the only son of three children of Henry and Sarah Harston of the Melbourne suburb of Windsor. Known as “Lin” by his family and friends, he attended Glen Iris State School and won a scholarship to study electrical engineering at the Working Men’s College. He completed his apprenticeship as an electrician at Cumming and Co. electrical engineers on Little Collins Street.

Harston enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in April 1915, and after several weeks of training he embarked for Egypt as an original member of the 13th Light Horse Regiment. The light horse were considered unsuitable for the initial operations on Gallipoli, but were later deployed there without their horses as infantry reinforcements. Arriving on Gallipoli in September 1915, the troopers of Harston’s regiment manned the positions at Lone Pine until the evacuation three months later.

Back in Egypt the AIF underwent a major restructure in preparation for its departure to the Western Front. The infantry divisions expanded from two divisions to four, and the 13th Light Horse Regiment was broken down to provide cavalry squadrons for the 2nd, 4th, and 5th Divisions. Harston was transferred to a number of different units before sailing to France with the 5th Division headquarters in June 1916.

Harston was involved in the costly and unsuccessful fighting at Fromelles, and the 5th Division had to be replenished by fresh reinforcements before being moved to the Somme. In September
Harston was posted to the ANZAC Provost Corps – the military police responsible for battlefield traffic control, security duties, handling prisoners of war, maintaining discipline, and investigating service offenses.

Harston was present for all major actions fought by the Australians throughout the rest of 1916 and 1917. He was promoted to corporal in July 1917 and was awarded the Military Medal for manning his post and directing battlefield traffic in September at a time when German artillery was shelling the Menin Road. His citation noted that Harston and another military policeman:

"carried out their duties in a courageous and cool manner … it was only due to their coolness and courage that traffic was able to get through and they were the means of saving the lives of many men and of preventing transport from being blown up."

As a military policeman Harston did not fight from the trenches, yet he remained vulnerable to the hazards of the front line. On 20 May 1918 the 5th Division was manning positions outside Amiens after blunting the German advance on the city. Harston and other members of the provost corps were billeted in a farmhouse near the village of Daours when German artillery fell on the position. Harston and two other men were killed instantly, while one other man was seriously wounded. Aged just 24, Harston was buried nearby in Daours Communal Cemetery. Back in Australia his grieving parents inserted the following epitaph in the local newspaper:

He rose responsive to his country’s call,
And he gave his best, himself, his all.

Corporal Harston’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among more than 60,000 Australians who died while serving in 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 Corporal Alfred Linacre Harston, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Aaron Pegram
Historian, Military History Section

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