The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (749) Private William Theodore Henry Jahns, 2nd Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.50
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 19 February 2018
Access Open
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945
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 Chris Widenbar, the story for this day was on (749) Private William Theodore Henry Jahns, 2nd Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

749 Private William Theodore Henry Jahns, 2nd Battalion, AIF
KIA 2 May 1915

Story delivered 19 February 2018

Today, we remember and pay tribute to Private William Theodore Henry Jahns.

William Jahns, who went by his second name Theodore, was born on 19 January 1894 to Henry and Kate Jahns of Tamworth, New South Wales. After attending the local convent school, he went on to work as a printer. He also served in the local military forces and was a bandsman.

Jahns enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force shortly after the outbreak of war in 1914, despite his parents’ disapproval. After a period of training in Australia, he left for active service overseas with the 2nd Battalion.

The 2nd Battalion were first sent to Egypt, where they continued training in the desert. In early April Jahns sent a letter home to his parents:
You called me silly and mad when I enlisted, but you no doubt see now that I took the right step. I only did what any other young fellow physically fit should be doing now … I knew all along the seriousness of my step, but … I couldn’t, if I were at home, see all the elderly men of the town [undertake military] drill while I carried on as if nothing had happened like a lot of young men are doing.

Jahns thoroughly enjoyed his experience training with the AIF, writing:
I have seen such a lot and gained more experience in six months than anyone in civil life would do in six years. There are all kinds and classes of men in the AIF, from the outback possum shooters and wandering shearers to the capitalists and bankers … all are mixed up together and none is considered better than the next.

Private Jahns’ suspicion that he would soon be sent to the Dardanelles was correct. On 25 April 1915 the 2nd Battalion went ashore on Gallipoli as part of the second and third waves of the landing. Over the course of the day the battalion was sent up to the heights to establish and defend a front line.

After nearly a week of fierce fighting, the 2nd Battalion was briefly withdrawn to the beach before being ordered to reinforce the 3rd Battalion. On 2 May 1915 the men of the battalion marched under heavy shrapnel fire to their new position.

At some point on this day, Private Theodore Jahns went missing. Nothing is known of his fate, and it was not until March the following year that a court of enquiry pronounced him killed in action on 2 May 1915. His body, if it was recovered, was never identified, and today he is commemorated on the Lone Pine Memorial.

In 1916 Theodore’s younger brother Clifford also enlisted in the AIF. He was killed in 1917 when a shell blew in the roof of his dugout. Both Theodore and Clifford were killed when they were 21 years old.

Their names 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 Private William Theodore Henry Jahns, 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 (749) Private William Theodore Henry Jahns, 2nd Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)