The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (705) Private Harold William Burn George, 16th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Place Middle East: Ottoman Empire, Turkey, Dardanelles, Gallipoli
Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.272
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 29 September 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 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 Joane Smedley, the story for this day was on (705) Private Harold William Burn George, 16th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

705 Private Harold William Burn George, 16th Battalion, AIF
KIA 27 April 1915

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Harold William Burn George.

Harold George was born in 1894 in Perth, the son of William and Mary Ann George. His father was a well-known Western Australian businessman and politician.

George grew up in Claremont and attended Scotch College where he was regarded as “a young man of great ability.” After completing school and passing his exams with high marks, he began a career as a clerk, with McLean Brothers & Rigg ironmongery and hardware store. He also served for two years in the 86th Infantry Regiment (Western Australian Rifles).

Following the outbreak of the First World War, George enlisted for service in the Australian Imperial Force at Blackboy Hill camp on 19 August 1914. As he was still six months short of his 21st birthday, he enlisted with his father’s written consent.

George joined the newly-raised 16th Battalion, three-quarters of which came from Western Australia. For his training, he was sent to the battalion’s machine-gun section.

Among his friends in the battalion were Private Percy Black, who would go on to gain a reputation as one of the AIF’s finest and bravest soldiers before he was killed at Bullecourt in May 1917 – and Private Harry Murray, who would be awarded the VC in France in 1916 and become the most decorated member of the AIF.

In November the companies of the 16th Battalion travelled to Melbourne where they formed for the first time, along with the rest of the 4th Infantry Brigade commanded by Colonel John Monash.

On 22 December, the 16th Battalion embarked aboard the transport ship Ceramic, bound for Egypt. It was a relatively short stay for the battalion, as in March Australian units began shipping to the island of Lemnos in preparation for the Gallipoli Campaign.

The 16th Battalion arrived at Lemnos on 15 April. The men trained hard, practising disembarking from ships and rowing ashore as well as some field manoeuvres.

The Australian troops began landing at what became known as Anzac around 4.30 am on 25 April. Fighting throughout the day was fierce. At around 5.30 pm, two companies of the 16th Battalion, along with the machine-gun section, came ashore. The battalion’s commander, Lieutenant Colonel Harold Pope, was ordered to take all available troops to hold a vital part of the line.

He led his men along with two platoons from the 15th Battalion and a half-company of New Zealanders to a spur between Courtney’s Post and Russell’s Top. By the time the men were in their positions, night had fallen. The feature would become known as Pope’s Hill. Fighting remained intense throughout the night and the following days as the ANZAC troops fought to consolidate their precarious toe-hold.

On 27 April, Ottoman artillery fire was heavy and numerous counter-attacks were launched, attempting to drive the Australians and New Zealanders into the sea. During the day’s fighting George was shot and killed by a sniper. He was 20 years old.

His remains were initially interred in a solitary grave about halfway up Pope’s Hill. After the war, his remains were re-interred in Pope’s Hill Cemetery. However, torrential rains and flooding forced the relocation of the graves and closure of this cemetery in 1923. George’s remains were interred in the nearby Quinn’s Post Cemetery. To his headstone was added the epitaph:

“Just a boy cut off in his flower”

His name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, among more than 60,000 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 Harold William Burn George, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (705) Private Harold William Burn George, 16th Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)