The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (4730) Private Harold Baxter, First World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2017.1.106
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 16 April 2017
Access Open
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 Dennis Stockman, the story for this day was on (4730) Private Harold Baxter, First World War.

Speech transcript

4730 Private Harold Baxter
45th Battalion, AIF
KIA 22 November 1916

Story delivered 16 April 2017

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Harold Baxter.

Harold Baxter was born in Ilford, Essex, on 14 May1897, the fourth and youngest child of James and Rhoda Baxter. He emigrated to Australia when he was 16 years old, and was living and working as a farm labourer at Gilgandra in western New South Wales when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in October 1915.

Known to his friends as “Bob”, Baxter enlisted as part of the first snowball march, known as the “Cooe march” – a recruitment drive that aimed to gather marchers like a snowball rolling down a hill – as it progressed from Gilgandra to the recruiting depot at Sydney, welcomed by large crowds along the way. Twenty- six men left Gilgandra on 10 October 1915, and by the time they reached Sydney just over a month later, the numbers had swelled to over 260 recruits. According to his father, Harold was one of a half-dozen recruits who managed to march the entire distance from Gilgandra to Sydney without assistance, a distance of over 320 miles (500 kilometers).

Baxter was assigned to the 13th Battalion and embarked for Egypt on the troopship Star of England in early March 1916. Upon arrival in Egypt, he was transferred to the 45th Battalion, which had been raised as part of the expansion and re-organisation of the AIF that took place after the evacuation from Gallipoli. About half of the new recruits were Gallipoli veterans from the 13th Battalion; Baxter was among the other half, consisting of fresh reinforcements from Australia.

As part of the 12th Brigade of the 4th Australian Division, the 45th Battalion arrived in France in early June 1916, destined for the Western
Front. It fought in its first major battle at Pozières in August, defending ground previously captured by the 2nd Australian Division.

After Pozières the battalion alternated between duty in the trenches and training and rest behind the lines, first around Ypres in Belgium, and then in the Somme Valley in France.

On 22 November, Baxter was among two support companies sent up to relieve those in the line near Gueudecourt. After relief was complete, the enemy opened up an “intense bombardment”. A large shell exploded in the trench where Baxter was positioned and he and two others were killed instantly.

He was buried nearby the following day and a cross was placed on his grave. His body was later reinterred at Bancourt British Cemetery at Picardie in France.

Private Harold Baxter’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 Harold Baxter, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Emma Campbell
Researcher, Military History Section

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