The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (VX14689) Lieutenant John Albert Angus, 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.31
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 31 January 2019
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 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 Sharon Bown, the story for this day was on (VX14689) Lieutenant John Albert Angus, 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion, Second World War.

Speech transcript

VX14689 Lieutenant John Albert Angus, 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion
KIA 27 June 1941

Today we remember and pay tribute to Lieutenant John Albert Angus.

John Angus was born on 8 September 1915 in the Melbourne suburb of Northcote, to Hugh and Catherine Angus. In his teens, Angus trained as a carpenter and served in a senior cadets group. In March 1934, he joined the Australian Permanent Forces, and began his career in the Australian military. He served in the Royal Australian Artillery, receiving several promotions, and eventually serving as a warrant officer with the Australian Instruction Corps.

On 30 April 1936, he married Hilda Lambert, and the couple had two children: William, born in 1937, and Julie, born in 1938.

On 10 May 1940, Angus enlisted into the Second Australian Imperial Force, a move that would allow him to serve the Australian war effort overseas. On the day of his enlistment he joined the 2/2nd Pioneers Battalion, and on account of his previous military experience, was immediately promoted to the rank of warrant officer.

While training with the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion at Puckapunyal to the north of Melbourne, Angus was again promoted, this time to lieutenant. He was an active and popular member of his unit, running the Sergeants’ Mess in the Puckapunyal Camp, and winning numerous trophies at army sporting events. When his promotion to lieutenant came through, he was heartily congratulated by all the men of the battalion.

In April 1941, Angus and the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion sailed from Sydney. In May, they disembarked at Port Tewfik on the Suez Canal, and encamped at Hill 95, a camp to the north east of Gaza in Palestine. Angus and the men of his battalion passed the time there training and exercising, adjusting to the arid conditions, and when on leave, travelling to see cities such as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Angus commanded No. 11 Platoon of D Company of the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion, a group of around 30 to 60 men who assisted their unit by carrying out regular infantry duties, as well as light engineering work such as repairing roads and bridges.

In June 1941, the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion joined Exporter Force, a combination of Australian and British units tasked with fighting against Vichy French forces in Syria and modern-day Lebanon. On 6 June, the four companies of the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion were split up to allow them to support different units in the campaign.

D Company was placed under command of the Australian 25th Brigade. From 10 June it provided security for the 2/25th battalion at Banias, and set to work repairing bridges and roads sabotaged by Vichy French forces as they retreated from the area. This engineering work was never free from danger: as they were repairing roads, they routinely came under machine-gun attack from enemy aircraft.

On 17 June, Angus and the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion were present for the unsuccessful Australian attack on Fort Merdjayoun, a well-defended fort with 6-metre high walls, described in one record as “impregnable”. In this attack, A and B Companies of Angus’s battalion were ordered to conduct a frontal attack in the face of enemy machine-guns and mortars. They suffered heavy casualties. Angus and D Company did not take part in the main attack, but did help to search the battlefield for wounded soldiers after the fighting.

Australian soldiers eventually occupied the fort on 22 June 1941 after it was abandoned by the Vichy French forces. Angus and his unit were among the first into the structure, and came under attack from enemy artillery and aircraft fire as they entered.

On 26 June, Angus and D Company of the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion moved north to the village of Balate. They made this move in preparation for an attack on Vichy French positions at the top of a rocky ridge overlooking a road vital for movement and supply in the difficult terrain. Angus’s No. 11 Platoon formed the centre of the attack, which was ordered to attack up the steep terrain with the support of Allied artillery and machine-gun fire.

Soon after midnight on 27 June 1941, Angus and his men marched out from camp and moved into positions designated for the start of the attack. The artillery barrage commenced at five past four in the morning. Ten minutes later, Angus and the troops of 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion began their advance across hundreds of metres of flat ground before beginning to make their perilous climb. The section of this hill that Angus’ platoon attacked was relatively free from natural cover such as crags and boulders, and thus did not offer sufficient cover from the enemy machine-gun, mortar, and artillery fire.

In this dangerous and costly assault, Angus was killed in action. Twenty-five years old, survived by his wife and young children, he was buried in the Damascus Commonwealth War Cemetery in Syria, where over 1,000 Commonwealth soldiers of the Second World War now lie.

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among almost 40,000 Australians who died while serving in the Second World War.

This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Lieutenant John Albert Angus, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

David Sutton
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (VX14689) Lieutenant John Albert Angus, 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion, Second World War. (video)