The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (WX11972) Private Archie Graham Male, 2/28th Australian Infantry Battalion, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.114
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 24 April 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 Gerard Pratt, the story for this day was on (WX11972) Private Archie Graham Male, 2/28th Australian Infantry Battalion, Second World War.

Speech transcript

WX11972 Private Archie Graham Male, 2/28th Australian Infantry Battalion
Died at Sea (Nino Bixio) 17th August 1942

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Archie Graham Male.

Archie Male was born on 29 August 1911 in the town of Bridport in Dorset, England, the third child of Archie and Anna Flora Male.

The Male family was living in England when Archie was born, but later returned to Australia and lived in Broome. Archie Male senior had followed his elder brother Arthur to Australia in 1898, going into business with him managing a pearling business and the Males were prominent identities in the Broome business community. Archie senior would be Mayor of Broome from 1915 until 1918, while his brother Arthur became an MLA.

Following the death of Archie senior in 1922, only the eldest Male son, Theodore, remained in Broome; Archie junior, Gwen, Thomas, and their mother moved to Perth. Here young Archie (known to the family by his middle name, “Graham”) attended Hale School Perth, and then Geelong Grammar, before going on to work at the Commonwealth Bank at Claremont.

On 29 April 1941, Graham enlisted in the Second Australian Imperial Force. He underwent initial training with the 3rd Training Battalion, and had a period of pre-embarkation leave in early May 1941.

On the night of 31 August Private Male was absent without leave. For this breach in discipline, he was confined to barracks for a week and forfeited a day’s pay.

In early September Graham was sent to the Middle East. His introduction to the area was somewhat inauspicious, being hospitalised with fever less than a week after landing, and then sent to a convalescent depot to recover from pneumonia. It wasn’t until the end of December 1941 that he joined the 2/28th Battalion.

Throughout early 1942, the 2/28th Battalion served in a garrison role in Syria and Lebanon, part of the Allied occupation force established in the aftermath of the Syria–Lebanon campaign.

In late April and then May, Graham was in hospital with hip problems and sciatica, but he had returned to his unit by the middle of the year, when German and Italian forces began advancing towards Egypt. The 9th Division – including the 2/28th Battalion – was recalled to help check their progress, and took positions near El Alamein in Egypt’s Western Desert.

Just after midnight on 27 July, the 2/28th attacked Ruin Ridge, and by 1 am they were on the feature. Despite this early progress, poor planning and lack of support saw the battalion become in danger of being surrounded. An attempt by British tanks to relieve the battalion was abandoned after 22 vehicles were “knocked out”, and shortly before 10 am enemy tanks began moving in on from three directions. The battalion’s commander had little choice but to surrender. The Australians were rounded up and marched through the British artillery barrage, resulting in more casualties, as they moved behind the German lines.

Sixty-five officers and men from the battalion and its support units were killed or wounded; nearly 500 were captured and became prisoners of war. From those who participated in the attack, only 92 men remained.

Initially reported as missing, Graham Male was later confirmed as a prisoner of war.

On 16 August 1942, two Italian cargo ships, Nino Bixio and Sestriere, embarked several thousand prisoners of war from the North African Campaign at Benghazi in Libya. The prisoners were divided alphabetically by surname: A–L were aboard Sestriere; the remaining 3,200 prisoners, including Private Male, were aboard Nino Bixio.

Escorted by two destroyers and two torpedo boats, the ships sailed for Brindisi in Italy.

The British submarine HMS Turbulent sailed to intercept the convoy, and on the afternoon of 17 August fired four torpedoes at the cargo ships before diving deep to evade counter-attack. One torpedo suffered a gyroscope fault and went in circles, passing above the submerged submarine three times. The three other torpedoes hit Nino Bixio. One exploded in her No. 1 Hold, another in the engine room, the third did not explode but grazed her rudder badly enough to disable her steering. Nino Bixio settled in the water but her bulkheads held and she remained afloat.

The attack killed 336 Allied prisoners: New Zealanders, Britons, South Africans, and Australians, including Private Male.

He was 30 years old.

Archie Graham Male had no grave but the sea, and today he is commemorated on the Alamein Memorial.

His name is also listed on the Roll of Honour on my left, among some 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 Private Archie Graham Male, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Duncan Beard
Editor, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (WX11972) Private Archie Graham Male, 2/28th Australian Infantry Battalion, Second World War. (video)