The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2429) Private Vivian Ernest McMillan, 18th Battalion, First World War.

Place Europe: France
Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.57
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 26 February 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
Description

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 (2429) Private Vivian Ernest McMillan, 18th Battalion, First World War.

Speech transcript

2429 Private Vivian Ernest McMillan, 18th Battalion
KIA 5 June 1915

Story delivered 26 February 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Vivian Ernest McMillan.

Vivian McMillan was born on 18 April 1893, the last of 16 children born to Archibald and Mary McMillan, Scottish immigrants who had settled in Eugowra, New South Wales.

Vivian grew up on the family estate, “Rosebank” and went on to be a dedicated farmer. He and his brothers eagerly embraced new technology, using acetylene headlights in order to plough by night. They were also founding members of the Eugowra Rifle Club.

Vivian’s nephew Roy enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force shortly after the outbreak of war in 1914. He landed on Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, and the family was informed the following June that he had been wounded in action. They heard no more for months. In July 1915 Vivian and his brother Bob enlisted. They were posted to the 18th Battalion, leaving Australia together on 5 October on the troopship Themistocles. The family would not receive confirmation that Roy had been killed in action until the following year.

Vivian and Bob McMillan were first sent to Egypt, where they continued training in the desert. Vivian enjoyed opportunities to sightsee while training, writing at length in his diary with great reverence about the Sultan’s Palace in Cairo.

In Egypt the McMillan brothers also regularly met other recruits they knew from the Forbes district. One man, Jim Clark, later wrote of meeting them in Egypt, local papers later reporting, “Viv McMillan nearly dropped with surprise when Jim hit him on the shoulder”. In March the McMillan brothers were sent to France to fight on the Western Front, writing shortly after their arrival to say they were “going strong in France … and so far had escaped harm”.

In late May Vivian again wrote home, this time describing the front line in the aftermath of a battle:
After it was all over we went up into the front line and it was there that the horrible sights could be seen, for the stretcher bearers had removed nearly all the wounded and it was mostly the dead which remained. The poor fellows were mangled about in all directions, and some only a hand, leg, or something of the kind could be found, the remainder being blown to pieces with a shell.

This was the last letter that his parents would receive from Vivian. Eight days after writing, he was killed in action. It fell to his brother, Bob, to write home with the news:
Poor Viv was out wiring (placing barb wire in position) between the enemy and our own trenches, and was stooping down at work when he received the fateful bullet, which entered the left temple, made its exit in the middle of the right side of the neck, and then entered the middle of the right shoulder… there is one consolation at least to know the end was instantaneous.

Vivian McMillan was buried in the cemetery in nearby Bois Grenier the same day, where his remains lie today under the simple words “at rest”. He was 23 years old.

The following year, the third member of the McMillan family to go to war, Private Bob McMillan, was also killed in action, aged 36.

Vivian McMillan’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 Private Vivian Ernest McMillan, his brother Lance Corporal Robert Bruce McMillan and his nephew Private Roy Alexander McMillan, who gave their lives 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 (2429) Private Vivian Ernest McMillan, 18th Battalion, First World War. (video)