The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (NX37684) Private Ernest Arthur Butler, 2/6th Independent Company , AIF, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2017.1.27
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 27 January 2017
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
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 (NX37684) Private Ernest Arthur Butler, 2/6th Independent Company , AIF, Second World War.

Speech transcript

NX37684 Private Ernest Arthur Butler, 2/6th Independent Company , AIF
KIA 20 September 1943
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 27 January 2017

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Ernest Arthur Butler.

Ernest Butler was born on 8 August 1915 to Harry and Elsie Butler in Rozelle in Sydney’s inner west. Popularly known as “Ernie”, Butler lived in Ryde and attended the local school before working as a milk carter.

He was living in the family home in Ryde when war broke out. In 1941 he was called up for the Militia, serving in an infantry battalion for three months before enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force in June. At 25, he was assigned to the artillery and became a gunner with the 2/13th Field Regiment. In September he embarked for overseas service.

Butler’s regiment was sent to the Middle East to take part in the Syria–Lebanon campaign, but arrived too late to participate in operations. The unit’s title then reverted to 2/1st Medium Regiment, and in October it was equipped with 155-millimetre howitzers.

Following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and the start of war in the Pacific, much of the AIF returned from the Middle East to prepare to meet this new threat. Gunner Butler returned to Australia in March 1942.

Later that year he volunteered for specialist training to join the independent companies. Originally trained to conduct raids and reconnaissance in enemy territory, the Australian independent companies fought a guerrilla war against the Japanese occupation of Timor, and harassed and observed Japanese positions in New Guinea. In March 1943 Butler transferred to the 1st Australian Commando Training Battalion in Canungra in south-east Queensland, and in July he was posted as a reinforcement to the 2/6th Independent Company, prior to the company’s deployment to Papua.

During the year Butler married Alma Mary Waton, and the new bride moved into the family home on Blaxland Road. Their time together, however, was fleeting.

In September the Allies launched a major offensive against the Japanese in New Guinea. As part of this great offensive, in mid-September the 2/6th Independent Company was flown from Papua to New Guinea to support the Australian 7th Division’s coming campaign in the Markham Valley.

On 19 September, with little prior reconnaissance or patrolling, the 2/6th Independent Company made a daring attack on the cluster of villages that made up Kaiapit. The company swept through the first village in ten minutes, clearing pits and huts to overwhelm the Japanese defenders. The company’s commander reported that they “went in hard and the enemy panicked”. Having secured the first village, the 2/6th dug in and that night repelled several Japanese thrusts. The next morning the Australians captured the remaining villages and airfield. The seizure of Kaiapit opened up the Markham Valley for an Australian advance to the lower reaches of the Ramu Valley. It was one of the most significant actions conducted by independent companies during the war.

It was an impressive victory. Fourteen Australians, however, were killed or died of wounds, including Ernest Butler, who was killed on 20 September. He was 28 years old.

He is buried in Lae War Cemetery, New Guinea. His family chose these simple words for his headstone:

And I gave unto them eternal life;
And they shall never perish

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among some 40,000 Australians who died while serving in the Second 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 Ernest Arthur Butler, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Dr Karl James
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (NX37684) Private Ernest Arthur Butler, 2/6th Independent Company , AIF, Second World War. (video)