The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (1344) Trooper Robert Alfred Watson, 7th Light Horse Regiment, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.28
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 28 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 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 (1344) Trooper Robert Alfred Watson, 7th Light Horse Regiment, First World War.

Speech transcript

1344 Trooper Robert Alfred Watson, 7th Light Horse Regiment
DOW 10 November 1917

Today we remember and pay tribute to Trooper Robert Alfred Watson.

Robert Alfred Watson was born on 14 July 1894 in Narrabri, New South Wales, to George and Janet Watson. After growing up on the family property at Spring Plains and attending Narrabri District School, he went to work on the family property as a grazier. When his father died suddenly in 1912, Robert continued working the property. By the time the First World War began, he had been joined in this work by his younger brother John.

Robert and John enlisted for service at Liverpool Camp on 17 July 1915. After initial training, the brothers were allotted to the 10th reinforcements to the 7th Light Horse Regiment. They left Sydney on 5 October 1915 aboard the transport ship Themistocles, bound for the training camps in Egypt.

Watson saw his first major action on 4 August at Romani when the 7th Light Horse took part in defeating the Ottoman drive on the Suez Canal. The 7th Light Horse was in action again the following day at Katia. The regiment spent the next few months patrolling in the desert.

In September, Watson was hospitalised suffering from dysentery. After being released from hospital at the end of October, he was posted to the 2nd Light Horse Training Regiment.

He returned to the 7th Light Horse in late April 1917 and after several months of operations in the desert was sent to the Port Said rest camp in early October. He returned towards the end of the month, in time to take part in the wide flanking manoeuvre via Beersheba. This action saw the bastion of Gaza finally fall to the allies on 7 November.

With Ottoman resistance in Southern Palestine collapsing, the 7th Light Horse Regiment took part in pursuing the retreating Ottoman troops.

During an advance on 9 November, the 7th Light Horse Regiment came under artillery and machine-gun fire, and Watson was shot in the abdomen. He was evacuated to the Nottingham and Derby Field Ambulance at Julis, north of Gaza, but wound proved to be mortal, and he died the following day. He was 23 years old.

He was initially buried just outside of Julis, but following the end of the war, he was reinterred in the Gaza War Cemetery.

His brother John survived the war and returned to Australia in 1919.

Robert Watson’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among almost 62,000 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 Trooper Robert Alfred Watson, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

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