The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2206) Private Vivian Francis David Sprague, 2nd Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2017.1.137
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 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
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 Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (2206) Private Vivian Francis David Sprague, 2nd Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

2206 Private Vivian Francis David Sprague, 2nd Battalion, AIF
KIA 6 August 1915
Story delivered 17th May 2017

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Vivian Francis David Sprague.

Vivian Sprague was born in 1896 in Blackheath, New South Wales, to George and Sarah Sprague. He was the second of two sons born to the couple.

He grew up in Blackheath, where he attended the local public school. By the outbreak of the First World War, Sprague was working as a shop assistant. He was known to his mates as “Vic” but due to his short, stocky disposition, he was lovingly referred to by his family as “Fatty.”

His elder brother Dudley was amongst the first wave of men to enlist, joining the 13th Battalion and sailing with the second convoy, which carried the 4th Infantry Brigade, in December.

Sprague enlisted with parental consent on 20 April 1915, just days before the landings at Gallipoli. His initial training took place at Liverpool, after which he was allotted to reinforcements to the 2nd Battalion. He embarked with other reinforcements from Sydney in June aboard the transport ship Karoola bound for service abroad.

Sprague was taken on strength of the 2nd Battalion at 2 am on the morning of 6 August along with two officers and 135 other men from the 6th reinforcements. It was a momentous day on which to arrive. The long-planned August Offensive, in which the British-led forces would attempt a series of breakout actions to end the stalemate and wrest control of the Gallipoli peninsula from the Turks, would begin later that day.

The Australian positions were a scene of frenetic activity as preparations were finalised for the attack on Lone Pine.

At 2 pm, three mines were detonated forward of a position known as the Pimple. Half an hour later, the battalions of the 1st Brigade began making their way forward. The bombardment of Turkish positions began around 4.30 pm. At 5.30 pm, with the sun setting behind the Australians, the attack began.

The 2nd Battalion’s war diary contains an account of the charge:

Three short whistle blasts sounded [and] was taken up along the line. Our men cleared the parapet [and] left the recesses in the new firing line and attacked with vigour. The enemy’s artillery opened up with shrapnel. Their machine guns also came into action at once … the space … between our[s] and the enemy’s trenches was heavily swept with fire.

It was during the initial charge that Private Sprague was killed. He was 19 years old.

In late 1915, Dudley Sprague made an enquiry to the Red Cross on behalf of his parents about Vivian’s fate. Private Frederick Frost, a member of the same group of reinforcements as Sprague, provided evidence about his mate’s death, stating that he had been in the charge on Lone Pine with Sprague and had seen him fall.

Second Lieutenant Dudley Sprague returned to Australia in 1919. After landing at Gallipoli on the morning of 26 April, he was involved in fierce fighting around Quinn’s Post. He was evacuated to Egypt at the end of May suffering nervous exhaustion and did not return to Gallipoli. He served in England from 1916 until 1918 and qualified as a pilot with the Australian Flying Corps only days before the end of the war. He returned to Australia in 1919.

Vivian Sprague was believed to have been buried at Lone Pine, but his remains were unable to be positively identified after the war. Today, a special memorial headstone in the Lone Pine Cemetery commemorates his death. Recorded under his name is the epitaph: “Their glory shall not be blotted out”.

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 Private Vivian Francis David Sprague, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2206) Private Vivian Francis David Sprague, 2nd Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)