The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (1355) Private James Henry May, 12th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2017.1.40
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 9 February 2017
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 (1355) Private James Henry May, 12th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

1355 Private James Henry May, 12th Battalion, AIF
DOW 26 August 1915 No photograph in collection

Story delivered 9 February 2017

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private James May.

James Henry May was born on 19 June 1885 in Fitzroy, Victoria, to William and Ellen May. The family moved to Port Augusta in South Australia in the years after James’s birth. He grew up in Port Augusta and attended Port Augusta State School.

On 1 June 1908 May married Agnes Mary Haggett in Solomontown, near Port Pirie. A son, James William Stanley May, was born the same year.

May was working as a labourer on Nonning Station, west of Port Augusta, when the First World War began. He enlisted on 14 December 1914 at Oaklands and, after initial training, was allotted to the 3rd reinforcements to the 12th Battalion. He embarked aboard the transport ship Itonus in February 1915, bound for Egypt.

May’s stay in Egypt was brief, and he soon joined the 12th Battalion on Lemnos in preparation for the Gallipoli campaign. As part of the 3rd Brigade, the battalion was in the first wave ashore at Gallipoli in the pre-dawn hours of 25 April. In the ensuing days, it was involved in establishing and defending the Anzac front line.

The 12th Battalion, along with the other battalions in 3rd Brigade, held the southern end of the line over the following months, until the allies sought to break the stalemate at Gallipoli by launching the August Offensive.

Beginning on 6 August, the 1st and 2nd Brigades captured the ground at Lone Pine and held onto their gains grimly. As part of the offensive, all four companies of the 12th Battalion were involved in consolidating and defending the hard-won gains. On 7 August May was wounded in his left leg, and with a compound fracture was evacuated to an Australian Stationary Hospital at Lemnos.

On 26 August May’s condition deteriorated and the decision was made to amputate his leg. He never recovered, and died later that day. He was laid to rest that afternoon in the Portianos Military Cemetery, aged 30.

May’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.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Private James Henry May, 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 (1355) Private James Henry May, 12th Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)