The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (3239A) Private Walter Stanley Simpson, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2017.1.266
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 23 September 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 Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

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 (3239A) Private Walter Stanley Simpson, First World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

3239A Private Walter Stanley Simpson KIA 19 July 1916
Story delivered 23 September 2017

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Walter Simpson.

Walter Simpson was born in 1889, one of eight children of Robert and Isabel Simpson of the Melbourne suburb of Canterbury. He attended Canterbury State School, and worked as a salesman before attending the Australian Coaching College and becoming a Baptist home missionary. For a brief period of time, Simpson carried out missionary work in Burnie, Tasmania, where he regularly wrote short poems and Sunday verse.

In July 1915 Simpson enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Melbourne. After a period of training at Broadmeadows Camp he embarked with a reinforcement group for the 23rd Battalion, bound for the training camps in Egypt. On the troopship, he wrote a short verse that evoked the pride he felt in answering his country’s call:
On, press on, ye warriors brave and true.
Be strong, be firm, the victory is to you!
Fight for your God, your Country, and your King,
And all the world forthwith your praise shall sing.

The fighting on Gallipoli had ended before Simpson arrived, and the AIF spent the following months training and undergoing a major restructure before embarking for the fighting in France.

As part of this restructure, Walter was transferred to the 59th Battalion, which formed part of the newly-raised 5th Division, and sailed for the Western Front in June 1916. Arriving in France, the 59th Battalion entered the line near the village of Fleurbaix and spent just two weeks in the trenches before being committed to its first major attack on the Western Front.

On the night of 19 July 1916, the 5th Division made a costly and unsuccessful attack on the German positions outside the village of Fromelles, which resulted in 5,500 casualties in less than 24 hours. Some historians say it was the worst 24 hours in Australian history. Attacking in the first wave assault, the men of the 59th Battalion were cut down by withering German machine-gun fire from a position known as the Sugar Loaf, which was supposed to have been destroyed by British and Australian artillery fire. An Australian soldier who witnessed their attack described the “air thick with bullets; swishing in a flat, crisscrossed lattice of death … Hundreds were mown down in the flicker of an eyelid, like great rows of teeth knocked form a comb”. When the fighting stopped several hours later, the 59th Battalion has suffered no less than 695 casualties.

Among the missing was Private Walter Simpson. A court of inquiry later determined that he had been killed in action.

As his remains were never recovered, he is among the 1,300 Australian soldiers killed in the action who are commemorated at the VC Corner Cemetery and Memorial at Fromelle.

He was 26 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 Private Walter Simpson, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Aaron Pegram
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (3239A) Private Walter Stanley Simpson, First World War. (video)