The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2854) Private Albert Jones, 45th Infantry Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2017.1.117
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 April 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 Sharon Bown, the story for this day was on (2854) Private Albert Jones, 45th Infantry Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

2854 Private Albert Jones, 45th Infantry Battalion, AIF
KIA 6 August 1916
Photograph: P08624.267

Story delivered 27 April 2017

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Albert Jones.

Albert Jones was born on 13 November 1874 at Tuena in the Southern Tablelands, west of Sydney and the Blue Mountains. He was the fifth son of policeman Montgomery Jones and his wife Mary. Albert attended state school and afterwards moved north to take up farming in the Clarence Valley. Here at Coutts Crossing he made his home, but he remained a single man.

With the outbreak of war in August 1914, Albert was almost 40 years old and did not join immediately. Many thought at the time that the war would probably be over quickly.

After the Anzacs landed on Gallipoli in April 1915, stalemate set in and casualties soared. Many who had held back from enlisting now changed their minds and decided to lend a hand. Among them was Albert Jones, who joined up on 18 July. He met and befriended Charlie Cook, who at 44 was older than Albert. Perhaps the pair were initially drawn to one another by their grey hair – standing out among the predominantly younger men. Both Albert and Charlie were assigned to the 9th Reinforcements for the 13th Infantry Battalion, as privates.

Aside from taking part in the National Rifle Reserve, Albert had no prior military service, but there was some military blood in his veins. His grandfather, Jeremiah Jones, had served with the Royal Navy in the Napoleonic Wars and had emigrated to Australia around 1840 to try his hand at farming around Bungendore, not far from where we now stand.

After initial training the new troops were ready to go. On 30 September 1915, they sailed out of Sydney Heads aboard the Argyllshire.

Crossing the Indian Ocean, Jones and his comrades arrived in Egypt a few weeks later and settled into camp life in the hot and dusty conditions. Early in the new year the reinforcements joined the veterans of the 13th Battalion, who along with the entire Allied force, had withdrawn from Gallipoli just a few weeks prior. No doubt, much time would have been spent listening to stories of their experiences on the peninsula.

But their time with the 13th would be short. With Australian reinforcements pouring into Egypt, plans were afoot to expand the forces and create two new divisions. This meant Albert and Charlie would now go into a new battalion, the 45th Infantry. There they joined C Company under Captain Howden. After a few months in Egypt, the Australians learned they were going to France to fight the Germans on the Western Front.

Jones and the 45th Battalion boarded the Kinfauns Castle at Alexandria on 2 June 1916. A few days later they disembarked at Marseilles. The train journey took them up the picturesque Rhône Valley, while along the way the Australians were fêted with cigarettes, fruit, and flowers by French civilians. Arrival in northern France was followed by weeks of training and experience in the front line near Fleurbaix. Albert and Charlie had another thing in common – both were crack shots and became snipers.

Just days before the disastrous attack at Fromelles, the 45th Battalion and other units of the 4th Division were pulled out and sent south. Here on the Somme, a different fate awaited them, at a place called Pozières.

At the beginning of July 1916, a great British and French attack on the Somme had begun. After slow progress and heavy casualties, more troops were called in. Men of the 1st and 2nd Australian Divisions were sent in to capture and hold the line around the ruined village of Pozières. Suffering very heavy casualties, they soon needed to be relieved, and the 4th Division was brought in.

At the end of the month Albert Jones and the 45th Battalion began the long march up to the front. Arriving on the 4th of August, the men soon knew that this place was a level higher in intensity. The battalion adjutant, Captain Joseph Lee described their first night:

The sky that night was lit by the flashes of the guns and the bursting shells glowed like a red sunset in mid-summer. All night long the guns roared and the watching troops wondered what it was like in an inferno like that.

They would soon find out. Next day the men struggled through crowds of Australians in the trenches of Sausage Valley, in places choked with wounded. At the front line they relieved the men of the 2nd Division who had attacked the night before. After 12 days in the front, this division was worn out, after suffering almost 7,000 casualties.

The night of 5 August was the battalion’s first in the forward lines. After weeks of bombardment the trenches were almost obliterated and the men found themselves in a virtual moonscape of horror, death and destruction. It is perhaps well that Albert Jones didn’t endure it for long. Around midnight a fragment from one of the hundreds of shells came screaming in, found its mark, and killed him outright. All that could be done was a hasty burial in a shell hole outside the trench.

With so much destruction around Pozières, many bodies were never recovered, and that was sadly the case with Albert. We know precious little about Albert’s character, but his mate Charlie Cook remembered him as “a most careful man, [who] neither drank nor smoked – [and only] allowed himself sixpence per day.” Perhaps that, combined with volunteering to serve his country, actually tells us a lot.

His name is also 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 Albert Jones, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Craig Tibbitts
Military History Section

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