The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (NX41087) Private Leo Clieve John McCosker, 2/18th Battalion, Second World War.

Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.195
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 14 July 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 Dennis Stockman, the story for this day was on (NX41087) Private Leo Clieve John McCosker, 2/18th Battalion, Second World War.

Speech transcript

NX41087 Private Leo Clieve John McCosker, 2/18th Battalion
Presumed dead 9 February 1942

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Leo Clieve John McCosker.

Leo McCosker was born on 6 June 1914, the eldest son of Clieve and Catherine McCosker, of Inverell, New South Wales. McCosker worked as a farmhand around Inverell, and in June 1937 married Lucy Palmer.

He enlisted in the Second Australian Imperial Force in Tamworth on 12 July 1940 and eventually joined the 2/18th Battalion. He trained at Ingleburn and Bathurst, and in February 1941 sailed from Sydney to Singapore aboard the ship the Queen Mary.

Soon after arriving in Singapore, McCosker and the 2/18th Battalion transferred north to the Malay Peninsula to continue training, and acclimatise to the hot and humid tropical conditions. The battalion was stationed at various bases across Malaya, and by September 1941 were on the east coast of the peninsula at Mersing. At the Mersing base, McCosker and his unit established extensive defences in preparation for a Japanese attack, and it was while they were at this base that Japan officially declared war.

The Australians based at Mersing did not come under immediate attack, but were a likely target for aggression due to their closeness to Singapore. On 17 January, the 2/18th Battalion withdrew from Mersing to Jemaluang further to the south. The withdrawal from well-fortified Mersing was forced upon the unit by the threats to their flanks posed by Japanese attacks on the west of the Malay Peninsula.

In the early hours of 27 January 1942, McCosker and the 2/18th Battalion conducted a successful ambush of advancing Japanese forces at Nithsdale Estate. Despite the success, the engagement was not decisive and the battalion withdrew further south to Singapore.

McCosker and his unit were tasked with defending a section of Singapore’s north–west coast when, on 8 February 1942, the outnumbered and overstretched Australians came under an intense Japanese mortar and artillery barrage. During this 16-hour long barrage, one company from the battalion reported an average of 55 shells falling per minute on their locality. Australian casualties were relatively light on account of the men sheltering in well-dug slit trenches, but all they could do was lie and endure the shelling. The bombardment was followed by a major Japanese landing in which Australian forces were completely overrun.

McCosker was reported as missing after this devastating attack, and he was not heard from again. He was officially declared presumed dead after the war in 1946, and is buried in the Kranji War Cemetery in Singapore.
His name is 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 Leo Clieve John McCosker, 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 (NX41087) Private Leo Clieve John McCosker, 2/18th Battalion, Second World War. (video)