The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (10051) Chaplain 3rd Class Michael Bergin MC, Australian Chaplains Department, AIF, Fisrt World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2017.1.76
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 17 March 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
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 Mathew Rose, the story for this day was on (10051) Chaplain 3rd Class Michael Bergin MC, Australian Chaplains Department, AIF, Fisrt World War.

Speech transcript

10051 Chaplain 3rd Class Michael Bergin MC, Australian Chaplains Department, AIF
KIA 12 October 1917
Photograph: P04475.001 or P09291.122

Story delivered 17 March 2017

Today we remember and pay tribute to Chaplain Michael Bergin MC.

Born in Tipperary, Ireland, Michael Bergin was a Jesuit priest who became an admired and respected member of the AIF. At the outbreak of the First World War he was working at a Catholic school in Syria –then a part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire – where he was interned as an enemy civilian. After several months of imprisonment he was extradited by the Turkish government and arrived in Cairo around the same time that the first Australian troops began arriving in Egypt.

Bergin offered his service to the AIF, which was short of Roman Catholic padres, and joined the 5th Light Horse Brigade. He served on Gallipoli, but in September 1915 he was evacuated to England with serious illness. Recovering, he re-joined the AIF in December, working in various hospitals before joining the 51st Battalion. He served as chaplain in all the unit’s major actions in France and Belgium, including at Pozières, Mouquet Farm, Messines, and the Third Battle of Ypres.

Defying general orders banning chaplains from entering the front lines, Bergin served alongside the men of his battalion, frequently found in the trenches and around the front lines, winning the admiration of all, regardless of faith. On one occasion he led a Mass in a field near Albert while under enemy artillery fire. One soldier described this scene as the most inspiring sight of the war.

On 12 October 1917 Bergin was killed in Belgium when a heavy shell burst near the aid post where he was working. A photograph by photographer Frank Hurley marking the area in which Bergin was killed became one of the iconic images of the Passchendaele campaign.

Bergin was buried in Reninghelst Churchyard Extension cemetery. His loss was met with great sadness throughout the 13th Brigade, and he was posthumously awarded the Military Cross. The citation praised his “magnificent zeal and courage”:

In the line or out Padre Bergin is always to be found among his men helping them when in trouble and inspiring them with his noble example and never-failing cheerfulness. These are the characteristics which have endeared him to all and which make him such a valuable asset to the Brigade.

An Irishman by birth, Bergin was one of the very few members of the AIF never to have set foot in Australia. Regardless, he was deeply admired by the thousands of Australian soldiers with whom he served.

His 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 Father Michael Bergin, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Dr Lachlan Grant
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (10051) Chaplain 3rd Class Michael Bergin MC, Australian Chaplains Department, AIF, Fisrt World War. (video)