The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of Second Lieutenant Cyril Watson, 38th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.27
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 January 2018
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 Jana Johnson, the story for this day was on Second Lieutenant Cyril Watson, 38th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

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Speech transcript

Second Lieutenant Cyril Watson, 38th Battalion, AIF
KIA 23 February 1917

Today, we remember and pay tribute to Second Lieutenant Cyril Austin Watson.

Cyril Watson was born in 1890, one of 11 children born to John and Harriet Watson of Bendigo in Victoria. After attending Melbourne Grammar, Cyril joined his father’s stock and station agency where he worked as an auctioneer with his brothers in the years before the war. He was also an active member of the Bendigo Citizens Defence League – a volunteer military force comprised of men dedicated to the British Empire who spent their spare time parading for home defence during the war years.

Watson enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in September 1915. After a lengthy period of training at Bendigo and Broadmeadows camp on the outskirts of Melbourne, he embarked for Egypt with a reinforcement group for the newly-raised 60th Battalion in May 1916. By this stage, the 60th Battalion was preparing to sail for France. Instead of sailing with them, Watson was promoted to sergeant and sailed for England where he transferred to the 38th Battalion, which had been raised in Bendigo several months earlier.

He spent the following months training at Lark Hill on the Salisbury Plain near Wiltshire until the battalion sailed for France in November 1916. Sergeant Watson entered the line for the first time near the town of Armentières. Here the battalion patrolled no man’s land and carried out trench raids. When they were not raiding the Germans, the Germans were raiding them or subjecting the Australians to heavy bombardments. Despite Armentières being a quiet sector by Western Front standards, the routine of holding the line cost the battalion heavily. Owing to losses in the battalion throughout January 1917, Cyril was commissioned in the field to second lieutenant and made commander of No. 3 Platoon.

The battalion rotated in and out of the line until mid-February when it prepared to make a major raid on the German trenches near Houplines. Number 3 Platoon was holding a front-line position known as Leith’s Walk on the night of 23 February when a German trench mortar known as a “minenwerfer” detonated near Watson, killing him instantly. Aged 27 at the time of his death, Cyril was buried at Cite Bonjean Cemetery at Armentières.

His death had a long lasting impact on the Watson family. Although their private grief at the loss of their son and brother was never documented in the historical records, like many thousands of Australian families at the time, they extolled their grief privately, but remained proud of their son’s service and sacrifice.

Cyril Watson is listed on the Roll of Honour on your left, among almost 62,000 Australians who died while serving in the First World War.

His is just one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Second Lieutenant Cyril Watson, 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 Second Lieutenant Cyril Watson, 38th Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)