The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2428) Lance Corporal Robert Bruce McMillan, 18th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2017.1.277
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 04 October 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 Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (2428) Lance Corporal Robert Bruce McMillan, 18th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

2428 Lance Corporal Robert Bruce McMillan, 18th Battalion, AIF
KIA 5 October 1917

Story delivered 4 October 2017

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Robert Bruce McMillan.

Fondly known as “Bob”, Robert McMillan was born in 1882 to the large family of Archie and Mary McMillan of Eugowra, New South Wales. After growing up on the family estate of Rosebank, McMillan worked as a farmer. He was described as “a remarkable man, full of ambition, as often displayed by his excellent collection of agricultural produce exhibited at the different shows”.

Robert’s nephew Roy enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force shortly after the outbreak of war in 1914, and landed on Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. The following June the family learned that Roy had been wounded in action, but would not receive confirmation that he had been killed in action until the following year. By then Robert and his youngest brother Viv had determined to join the AIF. After enlisting in July 1915, they were posted to the 18th Battalion, leaving Australia together on 5 October on the troopship Themistocles.

Robert and Viv were first sent to Egypt where they trained in the desert. In March 1916 they left to join the fight on the Western Front. They wrote home shortly after their arrival to let their family know that they were “going strong in France … and so far had escaped harm”. But before the letter had arrived in Australia, Private Robert McMillan had to send a cable home to tell his family that Viv been killed in action, shot by a sniper while placing barbed wire in no man’s land at night. Bob wrote a longer account a few days later, saying, “this is a task for me to acquaint you all of poor old Viv’s end … there is one consolation at least to knew the end was instantaneous”.

A few weeks later the 18th Battalion took part in the fighting around the French village of Pozières. Not long after reaching the front line, Private Robert McMillan was wounded by a shell fragment which struck him in
the nose. He was sent to hospital in France, but recovered quickly and rejoined his battalion in August 1916.

McMillan’s health suffered as the 18th Battalion spent the bitterly cold winter of 1916 and 1917 rotating in and out of the front line. He suffered from trench foot repeatedly, each time returning to the front line after a brief spell in hospital.

In August 1917 McMillan was promoted to lance corporal. A few months later, on 5 October 1917, the 18th Battalion moved into the front lines on the Broodseinde Ridge. The previous day, Australian troops had successfully pushed through German assault waves to take the position.

As McMillan and the other men of the 18th Battalion approached the ridge, they came under heavy bombardment and took shelter in some nearby trenches. A shell landed almost on top of Lance Corporal McMillan, who was killed instantly.

He was buried where he fell, but after the war his grave was moved to the Commonwealth war cemetery at Tyne Cot, where he lies today under the simple epitaph, “He gave his life for his country”.

Robert Macmillan was 36 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 Robert Bruce McMillan, 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 (2428) Lance Corporal Robert Bruce McMillan, 18th Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)