The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (1621) Private James Joseph Fisher, Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.179
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 28 June 2019
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 Copyright restrictions apply. Only personal, non-commercial, research and study use permitted. Permission of copyright holder required for any commercial use and/or reproduction.

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 (1621) Private James Joseph Fisher, Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force, First World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

1621 Private James Joseph Fisher, Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force
Illness 28 June 1918

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private James Joseph Fisher.

James Fisher was born on 14 April 1883 in Emerald Hill, South Melbourne. He was one of 11 children born to John and Annie Fisher, eight of whom were boys.

James grew up around Footscray and attended school locally. He was a member of his school’s cadets and would go on to serve in the 5th Australian Infantry Regiment with at least two of his brothers, Walter and John.

After leaving school, he was apprenticed to W.M. Griffiths in North Melbourne for three years, and gained his qualification as a sheet metal worker.

By the time the First World War began, Fisher had married and he and his wife had welcomed five children into the world. The family lived at Sunshine and Fisher worked as a tin smith.

Fisher enlisted for service with the AIF on 29 March 1915, joining the newly-raised 23rd Battalion. He became a member of C Company and with his previous experience in the militia he was promoted to sergeant a little over a month later.

Two of his brothers, Walter and John, enlisted at the outbreak of the war. Both had joined the 7th Battalion and were already abroad with the AIF.

Fisher embarked with the 23rd Battalion from Melbourne on 10 May aboard the transport ship Euripides, bound for Egypt. While in Egypt he would likely have had the chance to meet up with Walter, who had been badly wounded during the battle of Lone Pine in early August and was recovering in Egypt. Walter would be sent back to Australia aboard Euripides, which had brought James to Egypt. Sadly John had been mortally wounded during the battle of Lone Pine and had died on a hospital ship en-route to Egypt. He was buried at sea.

The 23rd Battalion arrived on Gallipoli in early September, and was sent to occupy positions at Lone Pine. Lone Pine remained so dangerous, that the occupying battalion was relieved every day. The 23rd Battalion alternated its stints in the line with the 24th Battalion.

On the evening of 5 November Fisher was sitting in C Company’s headquarters dugout at Brown’s Dip with Lieutenant William Cull and Sergeant Major James Purcell when a Turkish shell hit their dugout. Cull later wrote of the incident that “I was giving instructions to Sergeant Major Purcell and Sergeant Fisher, when a Turkish bomb found us … It burst immediately on piercing the roof. Purcell, standing a little way off, was killed instantly. Fisher had, amongst other wounds, one of his hands badly mutilated.”

Fisher’s left hand was badly damaged, though no bones were broken, and he was evacuated via Malta to England. Here he was admitted to the 3rd London General Hospital at Wandsworth on 8 of January 1916.

The severity of the wound to his hand meant that he was no longer fit for front line service and in August 1916 he was sent home to Australia for home service. Fisher was discharged from the AIF on 2 February 1917. He continued to serve however, working in the recruiting deport in Melbourne.

Despite having a hand that barely worked, Fisher once again enlisted on 30 September 1918 Fisher enlisted into the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force for a period of two years. He embarked
Sydney on 18 December bound for Rabaul.

Service in the tropics had a detrimental effect on Fisher’s health and in April 1919 he was diagnosed with malaria. He arrived back in Sydney on 14 June and was sent via rail to Melbourne.

After arriving in Melbourne, Fisher, who was suffering the effects of malaria, which was further compounded by pneumonia and influenza, was admitted to No. 11 Australian General Hospital at Caulfield. His condition deteriorated over the ensuing days and on 28 June, the day the Treaty of Versailles was signed in France, James Fisher died. He was laid to rest in the Footscray Cemetery. He was 36 years old.

Along with James, Walter and John Fisher, the remaining five Fisher brothers also served during the First World War. Edward, a decorated veteran of the Boer War would serve in France with the 21st and 24th Battalions. Eli, Terrence and George served together on the Western Front with the 3rd Pioneer Battalion. Cecil served with the 58th Battalion and was awarded a Military Medal in August 1918 for repeatedly rescuing wounded men under shell fire during a heavy German bombardment near Bray. These five brothers returned to Australia during 1919.

A ninth son, Robert also tried to enlist no less than five times, but was rejected due to his poor eyesight.

The Fisher family stands amongst but a few to have sent so many family members to war. The Handcock family of Myrrhee, Victoria also sent eight sons abroad and the “Fighting” Leane family of South Australia sent 11 family members to the war. All were committed to defending the British Empire.

Each of these families suffered loss and provide a small window in time of Australian society in 1919, where not one family around the nation had remained unaffected by the war to end all wars.

James Fisher’s 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 Private James Joseph Fisher, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

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