The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (3534) Private Samuel Charles Wilson, (4887) Private Eric Robert Wilson, 53rd Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2016.2.265
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 21 September 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 Troy Clayton, the story for this day was on (3534) Private Samuel Charles Wilson, (4887) Private Eric Robert Wilson, 53rd Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

3534 Private Samuel Charles Wilson, 53rd Battalion, AIF
KIA 19 July 1916
Photograph: P05445.001

4887 Private Eric Robert Wilson, 53rd Battalion, AIF
KIA 19 July 1916
Photograph: P05445.002

Story delivered 21 September 2016

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Samuel Charles Wilson and his brother Private Eric Robert Wilson.

Known as “Sam”, Samuel Wilson was born in Braidwood, New South Wales, in 1885. He was the seventh of 12 children born to George and Isabella Wilson, and was followed by three sisters and two brothers, Eric in 1895, and James in 1898. The family moved a number of times and the two youngest sons were born in Port Macquarie, where the children went to school. By the time James was born their mother was 50 years old and their father 55. George Wilson worked in the local sawmill as an engine driver, and several of his sons followed him, including Sam, Eric, and James.

Sam Wilson enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in July 1915, while Eric and Jim enlisted together two days later. The three began training together, but Sam and Jim were allotted to the 3rd Battalion and left Australia in November 1915. Eric sailed the following March with the 1st Battalion, but the three were reunited in Egypt, where they were all transferred to the 53rd Battalion and ended up in the same platoon of B Company.

The 53rd Battalion arrived in France to fight on the Western Front in late June 1916. Three weeks later the battalion was committed to its first major operation, an attack on German positions near the village of Fromelles. The 53rd was part of the first attacking wave, and suffered
heavy casualties in what is now known as the worst 24 hours in Australia’s military history.

In Australia Mr and Mrs Wilson received the news that one of their sons was wounded. Three days later word came through that another was missing, and that evening a wire came that the last son had been killed in action.

Private Jim Wilson had been wounded, shot through the neck and later rescued from no man’s land by British stretcher-bearers. He was evacuated to hospital and took some months to recover. He returned to active duty, although his military discipline suffered in the months after Fromelles, and he returned to Australia in 1919.

Private Sam Wilson was killed during the battle of Fromelles. As a bomber, he was last seen attempting to keep a party of Germans at bay. His last act was to pull the pins on several Mills bombs and throw them between himself and the attacking Germans.

Private Eric Wilson was reported missing after the battle, and his name eventually came through on German casualty lists as having been killed in action. The bodies of both Eric and Sam were recovered by the Germans and buried in a large burial pit at Pheasant Wood.

The local newspaper reported that Mr and Mrs Wilson:

bore up wonderfully well under their heavy burden of affliction … Mrs Wilson proved herself a worthy mother of fighting men. Stifling her emotion with Spartan firmness, she said, with Christian resignation, “When my three sons left me, I placed them in God’s hands, and His will must be done.”

Mrs Wilson died in February 1919, while James was on his way home.

In 2009 the burial pits at Pheasant Wood were exhumed in a major archaeological project. The bodies of Sam and Eric Wilson were identified as part of this process, and today the brothers are buried side by side in the newly created Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery.

Their names are listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among more than 60,000 Australians who died while serving in the First World War. Their photographs are displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection. Samuel is on the western side of the Pool and Eric is on the eastern side.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Private Samuel Charles Wilson and Private Eric Robert Wilson, who gave their lives 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 (3534) Private Samuel Charles Wilson, (4887) Private Eric Robert Wilson, 53rd Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)