The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2/4669) Temporary Corporal Bruce Arthur Harkness, 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, Korea.

Accession Number AWM2017.1.25
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 25 January 2017
Access Open
Conflict Korea, 1950-1953
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 Gerard Pratt, the story for this day was on (2/4669) Temporary Corporal Bruce Arthur Harkness, 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, Korea.

Speech transcript

2/4669 Temporary Corporal Bruce Arthur Harkness, 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment
KIA 25 January 1952
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 25 January 2017

Today we remember and pay tribute to Temporary Corporal Bruce Arthur Harkness.

Bruce Harkness was born on 4 July 1928 at Concord West Hospital, New South Wales, to James and Nellie Harkness. He was the second of two sons born to the couple. His parents separated in 1936, which left his mother, a highly regarded nurse in Sydney, to bring up her sons.
After primary school, Harkness went into the workforce. He was too young to serve during the Second World War but enlisted instead in March 1946, only months after turning 18.

Harkness was posted to 5 Base Ordnance Depot at Moorebank as a clerk. He seemed to struggle with his service and during the latter months of 1946, going absent without leave on a number of occasions. In July 1947 he was transferred to a reinforcement unit for service in Japan, and he embarked from Sydney aboard HMAS Kanimbla that August. He arrived at Kure in September and joined his new unit, the 21st Australian Ordnance Depot.

Harkness’s poor record for disciplinary infractions continued in Japan. He was returned to Australia in May 1948, and 11 days later was discharged from the army, his term of engagement expired. He travelled to North Queensland and found work as a bushman on the Angliss and Kidman cattle station at Cape York, where he remained until early 1951, when left his job and returned to Sydney.

On 19 March Harkness enlisted in the Australian Regular Army for a six-year term. At this stage the Korean War had been raging for nearly nine months. Harkness went through recruit training and was posted to the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. However, soon afterwards he was listed as a reinforcement to serve in Korea.

Harkness arrived in Japan in September and spent much of the rest of the month at the 1st Reinforcement Holding Unit before being flown to Korea to join 3RAR in the field. He was posted to C Company as a stretcher-bearer, and only days later took part in the iconic battle of Maryang San. Over five days of near-constant fighting, Harkness and his fellow stretcher-bearer Private Bill Massey evacuated their wounded comrades over difficult terrain and under heavy enemy fire. C Company’s sergeant major Arthur Stanley later wrote that many of the men owed their lives to Massey and Harkness.

The battalion endured another month on the front line, during which time it bore witness to the massive Chinese recapture of Maryang San from a British battalion. In January 1952, 3RAR returned to the front line and was almost immediately tasked with capturing a nearby feature, Hill 227. Known as “John”, it was part of a feature known as “the apostles”, containing hills Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

The attack took place as night fell on 25 January. A platoon from C Company quickly occupied “John”, which was devoid of Chinese troops. As the platoon advanced towards the next feature it came under attack. Though the position was captured soon after, the Australians came under sustained Chinese small-arms, mortar, and artillery fire. With casualties mounting and the Chinese infantry counter-attacking, a decision was made to withdraw.

A plan was organised for evacuation of the wounded, and just after 4 am Harkness was part of a casualty recovery patrol when he was shot while preparing a wounded man for movement. Harkness’s company sergeant major cradled him until he died. He was 23 years old.

Harkness was laid to rest in the United Nations Memorial Cemetery. His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among the 399 other Australians who died as a result of their service during the Korean War.

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

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2/4669) Temporary Corporal Bruce Arthur Harkness, 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, Korea. (video)