The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (7196) Corporal Robert Simpson Baird, 14th Australian Infantry Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2018.1.1.359
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 December 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 (7196) Corporal Robert Simpson Baird, 14th Australian Infantry Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

7196 Corporal Robert Simpson Baird, 14th Australian Infantry Battalion, AIF
KIA 24 March 1918
Story delivered 26 December 2018

Today we remember and pay tribute to Corporal Robert Simpson Baird.

Robert Baird was born to James and Norah Baird in 1896 in Blowhard, near Ballarat in Victoria. After attending the local school, he worked as a farmer in the district.

After Australia’s involvement in the First World War was announced, Baird was keen to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force, but as he was under 21 years of age, he had to have his parents sign their consent. He joined in July 1916 and undertook a brief period of training in Australia. Before leaving for overseas service, he took home leave to visit his family a final time. During this visit, Baird contracted meningitis and had to spend some time convalescing in hospitals in Ballarat and Geelong.

Having recovered fully, Baird embarked from Melbourne in February 1917 on the transport ship Ballarat, arriving at Devonport, England, in April. After three months of training in England, he sailed to France in July.

He joined the 14th Australian Infantry Battalion, which was moving over the border from northern France into Belgium. It was the beginning of the campaign that would become known as the Third Battle of Ypres. In late September, the unit went into battle at Polygon Wood, and Baird was wounded when a shell fragment struck his head. He was evacuated to the Canadian General Hospital in Boulogne, France, where he recuperated for a month. Late in October, he returned to his battalion in Belgium.

After the Australian involvement in the Third Battle of Ypres concluded in October 1917, the 14th Battalion spent time in northern France and Belgium over the winter. Baird and the other men of the 14th undertook training behind the lines, as well as spending two weeks in the front line during January and February. At the end of February, the 14th Battalion moved into billets at Neuve Église, near the French border.

In March 1918, German forces launched what was to be their last great Western Front offensive of the war, known as the German Spring Offensive. In the north, the German army attempted to retake the ground they had lost in the fighting around Ypres. German forces shelled the town of Neuve Église regularly in order to disrupt Commonwealth supply lines. On 24 March 1918, Baird was hit by a German shell and killed instantly. He was 21 years old.

Baird was buried at Westhof Farm Cemetery in Belgium, alongside 130 Commonwealth First World War servicemen. His grieving parents had his headstone inscribed with the epitaph, “Father in thy gracious keeping, leave we now our loved one sleeping”.

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

Thomas Rogers
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (7196) Corporal Robert Simpson Baird, 14th Australian Infantry Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)