The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2585) Corporal Ernest Lionel Bailey, Australian Salvage Corps, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2017.1.136
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 May 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 Craig Berelle, the story for this day was on (2585) Corporal Ernest Lionel Bailey, Australian Salvage Corps, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

2585 Corporal Ernest Lionel Bailey, Australian Salvage Corps, AIF
Accidentally killed 17 May 1918
Photograph: E01085

Today we remember and pay tribute to Corporal Ernest Lionel Bailey.

Ernest Bailey was born in Sydenham, London, around 1886. He attended St Michael’s School in Sydenham, and at the age of 23 emigrated to Australia, eventually making his way to the goldfields of Western Australia, where he worked as a gold assayer. He lived for some time in Meekatharra, where he became popular. Locals later remembered him as “an Australian by adoption … a prince of good fellows, and his fine qualities made a deep impression upon those associated with him”.

Bailey enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in August 1915 and underwent a period of training before leaving Australia with reinforcements to the 28th Battalion in November. He was first sent to Egypt, arriving with a bad case of influenza and going straight to hospital. At this time the Australian units, recently evacuated from Gallipoli, were undergoing a period of training and expansion. As part of this process, Bailey was transferred through several battalions, eventually being sent to England with the 13th Training Battalion in June 1916.

After three months in England, Bailey was posted to the 51st Battalion and sent to France. He spent the bitterly cold winter of 1916 and 1917 rotating in and out of the front line. In January 1917 he was transferred to the 1st Anzac Corps Salvage Section, and shortly afterwards took a short period of leave to England. Bailey continued with the Salvage Section, and returned to England in August 1917 to marry Emily Klein in a civil ceremony on 28 August 1917.

In September Bailey was promoted to lance corporal and detached for duty to the Australian War Records Section. The War Records Section had been created in May 1917 for the purpose of acquiring objects and war relics, paper records, photographs, film, and art in order to preserve a record of Australian experiences in the war. The resulting collection laid the foundation for the Australian War Memorial’s massive collection today.

Bailey lived at the Museum Depot at Vignacourt and was an enthusiastic member of the small team, going out among units to collect items and prepare them for storage. He earned another promotion, this time to corporal, in the following year.

On 17 May 1918 Bailey was working on some German trench mortar bombs, removing some traces of high explosive with a chisel, as was common practice. At about 2.30 in the afternoon there was an explosion. When others from the depot rushed over, they found one of the German bombs had detonated and killed Bailey instantly. The Australian Official Historian, Charles Bean, arrived on the scene soon afterwards. He wrote that Bailey

was a splendid man, keen and intensely trustworthy. More than any man I know he was responsible for the founding of this Australian War Museum with such a splendid series of exhibits … He will not be replaced – they will not get another man like him. The thought of his cheery smile as he came on the coldest days of the winter … makes one sick at heart for the loss of him.

Bean paid Ernest Bailey a magnificent tribute, writing that

the great Australian War Museum, when it finally stands in the Australian capital, will be a monument to him; for it is his work that thousands upon thousands of Australians will see as they walk down those galleries.

Corporal Ernest Lionel Bailey was buried in the nearby Vignacourt British Cemetery, where he lies under the epitaph chosen by his wife, “to live in hearts we leave behind is not to die”. He was 32 years old.

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.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Corporal Ernest Lionel Bailey, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Meleah Hampton
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2585) Corporal Ernest Lionel Bailey, Australian Salvage Corps, AIF, First World War. (video)