The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (631) Corporal Charles Robert Blucher, 43rd Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.185
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 4 July 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 Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (631) Corporal Charles Robert Blucher, 43rd Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

631 Corporal Charles Robert Blucher, 43rd Battalion, AIF
Died of wounds 4 July 1918
Story delivered 4 July 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Corporal Charles Robert Blucher.

Charles Blucher was born in Rochester, South Australia, on 19 March 1894, the third son of Henry and Margaret Blucher.
Charles attended Watervale Public School before going on to work as a gardener.

The Blucher family were the descendants of German settlers in South Australia. Charles’s father, who was born in Schoenborn, was originally known as Heinrich Friedrich Wilhem Blucher.
With the advent of the Great War, anti-German sentiment meant that Schoenborn changed its name to Gomersal, and Heinrich Friedrich Wilhem Blucher became Henry Christian William Blucher.

Charles also became an active member of the Church of England Mens’ Society. By 1915 he had formed a firm belief that the root of the war lay in Germany’s adherence to the atheistic doctrines of Nietzsche. His letter on the “causes of the war”, published in the South Australian Daily Herald, finished with the following call to arms:
The war is between the armies of Odin and the armies of the Most High God … The wisdom and almightiness of Prince Messiah against the might and power of the war lords of Germany. Aye! To arms, to arms, ye who would serve your God, your country, and preserve your freedom.

The following year, in February 1916, Charles Blucher travelled to Adelaide to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force. He joined the 43rd Battalion, which had been raised during the expansion of the AIF that took place at the end of the Gallipoli campaign. The 43rd Battalion was South Australia’s contribution to the strength of the newly raised 3rd Division.
Private Blucher and his battalion left Adelaide in June 1916 aboard the transport ship Afric, bound for the United Kingdom. Sailing via Egypt, the men of the battalion undertook further training on the Salisbury Plain, before being sent to France in late 1916.

In December, Blucher was admitted to hospital with mumps, but re-joined his unit before the end of the year.

The 43rd Battalion spent 1917 bogged in bloody trench warfare in Flanders. In June it took part in the battle of Messines, and in October the Third Battle of Ypres, attacking around Broodseinde at the start of the month and then around Passchendaele.

On 20 October Blucher was wounded in action, suffering from a gas attack, but remained on duty.

In January and February the following year, Blucher was detached for duty with Brigade Intelligence School, and his mother recalled that he “had done a lot of sketching for headquarters in France”.

In early 1918, after the collapse of Tsarist Russia enabled a shift of German combat power to the Western Front, the German army launched its Spring Offensive. With the vital rail head of Amiens threatened, the 43rd Battalion was brought south to the Somme to help stem the tide of the German advance. In April it helped stop the offensive at Villers-Bretonneux, and in mid-May Blucher was promoted to lance corporal.

Blucher was wounded in action for a second time on 29 May, but again remained on duty. His wound was slight enough for him to continue, and on 8 June he was promoted to corporal.

The German offensive was halted, and the Allies sought to regain the initiative. The town of Hamel was thought to be a significant and strategic boon to the Allied cause, providing depth to defences on the Villers-Bretonneux plateau while opening Allied movement between Villers-Bretonneux and the Somme. A plan was put in place to capture the strongpoint.

The Hamel operation was conducted under the command of Lieutenant General John Monash, who envisaged the attack as an infantry assault, with significant tank and artillery support.
Planning was conducted in strict secrecy. Dummy installations were created to throw the Germans off the scent, harassing fire was maintained while troops were getting into positions, and nothing was allowed that would warn of the attack. Monash asked for 18 planes to bomb Hamel, as well as older, noisier ones to distract attention from the noise of the tanks. Several arms of attack were coordinated, and the decisions and strategies were outlined, refined, and formalised in group meetings.

On 4 July, operations were launched by the Australian Corps against Hamel and surrounding areas. For the first time in the war, American troops acted as part of an offensive. Four companies were sent as attachments to the Australians, in an effort to give the Americans some first-hand battle experience.

The capture of Hamel was declared a brilliant success. All objectives were obtained, and over 1,600 German prisoners were captured. But in the midst of success a heavy price was paid: Australian troops suffered 1,400 casualties, and the Americans lost 176 casualties.

During the battle Corporal Blucher was wounded in action for the third time, too seriously for him to continue. He was taken to a field ambulance station, but died of his wounds. He was 24 years old.

His remains were buried nearby at Hamlet Communal Cemetery Extension, but were later reinterred at Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, underneath the epitaph “Crowned with everlasting joy”.

His 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 Corporal Charles Robert Blucher, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Duncan Beard
Editor, Military History Section

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