The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (3/37558) Captain Kenneth John Hummerston 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, Korean War.

Accession Number AWM2017.1.80
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 March 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 Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (3/37558) Captain Kenneth John Hummerston 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, Korean War.

Speech transcript

3/37558 Captain Kenneth John Hummerston 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment
KIA 3 October 1950
Photograph: 106103, 146548, or DUKJ3295

Story delivered 31 March 2017

Today we remember and pay tribute to Captain Kenneth John Hummerston.

Kenneth Hummerston was born on 17 May 1916 in Brighton, Victoria, to John and Kathleen Hummerston. He grew up in the Melbourne suburb of Armadale and attended the local schools, gaining his intermediate and leaving certificates. By the time the Second World War began he was working as a wholesale hardware salesman.

Hummerston enlisted for service in the Second Australian Imperial Force at Caulfield on 2 July 1940. After his initial training he was posted to the 2/22nd Battalion, and was promoted to corporal shortly afterwards. In April 1941 the 2/22nd Battalion sailed for Rabaul, New Britain, where it formed the nucleus of “Lark Force”.

In January 1942 the Japanese invaded New Britain. Despite a spirited defence, Lark Force disintegrated, and Hummerston was one of only 300 who managed to evade capture and return to Australia. Back home, following a bout of malaria, he transferred to the staff of 107 Convalescent Depot, completed a course for army educators, and was recommended for a commission.

Throughout the rest of the war Hummerston served as an education officer in New Guinea and New Britain. In July 1944 he was commissioned with the rank of lieutenant. When the war ended, he remained in the army and continued to work for army education.

In January 1947 Hummerston joined the staff of the 130th Australian General Hospital at Kure in Japan. Here he met Lieutenant Nancy Holmes, a nurse and Second World War veteran, and they began a relationship.
In early 1949 Hummerston was posted to Headquarters 34 Brigade. He was promoted to temporary captain in May and was for a time the aide-de-camp to Lieutenant General Horace Robertson. In January 1950 he transferred to the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.

On 25 June 1950, North Korean forces crossed the 38th Parallel, and the Korean War began. In Japan, 3RAR, which was seriously understrength, had to build up to a war footing very quickly. Hummerston, now captain, was made second-in-command of C Company. He and Nancy Holmes were married on 19 August, but the preparations for war put paid to any chance of a honeymoon.

Hummerston’s battalion left for Pusan in September as part of the 27th British Infantry Brigade. With the UN landing at Inchon and the breakout from the Pusan Perimeter, 3RAR was tasked with patrolling in the Songju-Waegwan area, looking for North Korean troops that had been cut off during the UN advance.

On 3 October 3RAR’s C Company was patrolling south of Waegwan. Hummerston was one of several men assigned to a Local Pattern 2A carrier, which left the main road to investigate a dirt track. Unbeknownst to the Australians, the area had been heavily mined, and soon after leaving the road the carrier detonated a Russian anti-tank mine. The ensuing explosion overturned the vehicle, triggering several more. Captain Hummerston, who was 34, was killed instantly. He and another of the party were the first fatalities suffered by 3RAR in Korea.

Hummerston was buried in a temporary cemetery at Taegu, later reinterred at the United Nations Cemetery at Busan.

Nancy never remarried, and always mourned her fallen husband. She returned to her native Tasmania, where she devoted her life to looking after veterans, and was later recognised with the Order of Australia. Before her death in 2009, she requested that her ashes be interred with her husband in Pusan. Her request was granted, and in April 2010 Ken and Nancy were finally reunited.

Kenneth Hummerston’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among 399 others who died as a result of their service during the Korean 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 Captain Kenneth John Hummerston, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

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