The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (6083) Private John Clement Rohan, 3rd Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.103
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 13 April 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 Troy Clayton, the story for this day was on (6083) Private John Clement Rohan, 3rd Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

6083 Private John Clement Rohan, 3rd Battalion, AIF
KIA 14 April 1918
Story delivered 13 April 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private John Clement Rohan.

John Rohan was born in 1898, the son of Patrick and Jane Rohan of the Sydney suburb of Newtown. After attending St Joseph’s Christian Brothers College, where he paraded with the senior cadets, John worked as a coachbuilder and labourer.

John’s older brother Thomas had enlisted the previous year, and John was keen to follow his example. But his staunchly Irish father, Patrick, was reluctant to give consent, believing his youngest son would be little more than cannon fodder for the British Empire. Despite his misgivings, Patrick relented and gave permission for his son to enlist. John Rohan enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in April 1916. Although he told recruitment officers that he was 18, he was actually only 17 years old.

After several months training at Liverpool military camp, Rohan embarked for England with a reinforcement group for the 3rd Battalion in August 1916. He spent several more weeks training on the Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire before sailing for France in December. By that stage, the fighting on the Somme had ended and both sides had hunkered down in their positions to endure the coldest European winter for well over 40 years.

When winter turned to spring, the Germans abandoned their Somme defences and took up positions along the Hindenburg Line. Rohan participated in the pursuit that followed, and was wounded by grenade fragments in bitter fighting at Bullecourt in May 1917. He was evacuated to Rouen where he spent several weeks recovering, rejoining the battalion later that month.

The focus of British operations soon shifted north into Belgium, in an effort to break out of the Ypres Salient and push north towards the Belgian coastline. As part of this offensive, Australian troops, including the 3rd Battalion, participated in a series of attacks that successfully captured ground in the advance towards Passchendaele village. Rohan fought at Menin Road on 20 September, and was wounded in the chest at Broodseinde on 4 October. The seriousness of his wound was such that he was evacuated to England, where he underwent a period of rest and recovery, returning to Belgium in December 1917.

The Australians were still in Belgium when the German Army carried out its Spring Offensive in France in March 1918. Having successfully broken the stalemate of trench warfare, German troops overran British and French positions on the Somme in an effort to capture the Allies’ major logistical hub at Amiens. The Australian divisions were sent south to defend Amiens, with the 3rd Battalion sent to Strazeele with the rest of the 1st Division to defend the major rail and communication hub at Hazebrouck.

The 3rd Battalion fought a number of actions against the attacking Germans in and around the village of Strazeele. On 14 April 1918, German troops carried out an attack on the battalion’s positions on Mont de Merris, to the east of Strazeele village. After a hurricane bombardment, the Germans advanced in waves on the battalion’s positions, into an inferno of rifle and machine-gun fire. Private John Rohan was shot and killed in the midst of the fighting, as were many others from his platoon that day when the Germans overran their position.
He was 19 years old.

It was believed that Rohan was buried by German troops, although the whereabouts of his grave remains unknown. Today John Rohan’s name is listed on the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux among over 10,000 Australians who died in France and have no known grave.

His name is also 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 John Clement Rohan, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Aaron Pegram
Historian, Military History Section

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