|Object type||Last Post film|
Australian War Memorial
|Place made||Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell|
|Date made||6 October 2019|
First World War, 1914-1918
Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
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 commemorating the service of (3739) Private Thomas James Albert Potter, (3738) Private Edward Wilfred Potter and (3740) Private Hurtle Francis Potter, of the 52nd Battalion, First World War.
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 Joanne Smedley, the story for this day was on (3739) Private Thomas James Albert Potter, (3738) Private Edward Wilfred Potter and (3740) Private Hurtle Francis Potter, of the 52nd Battalion, First World War.Film order form
Private Thomas James Albert Potter, Private Edward Wilfred Potter and Private Hurtle Francis Potter, of the 52nd Battalion.
Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Thomas James Albert Potter, Private Edward Wilfred Potter and Private Hurtle Francis Potter, of the 52nd Battalion.
Four sons of Benjamin and Eliza Potter’s large family served in the First World War. Thomas, known as “Bis”, was born on the 6th of July 1885. Edward, who went by his middle name ‘Wilf’, was born on the 7th of March 1891. Ralph was born on the 10th of June 1892, and Hurtle was born on the 15th of June 1894. They were born and raised in Yongala [pronounced “yong-lah”, South Australia, where their father was a local building contractor. All four of them were educated at the local state school, and became well-known in the northern districts of South Australia as keen sportsmen. Wilf was once awarded a medal for being the most unselfish player in the Terowie [rhymes with “yowie”] Football team, and all of the brothers were known for their “upright and straightforward characters”, which made them popular on and off the field. Each of the brothers went on to work in areas related to the building and contracting trade. Thomas worked in a wood yard, Ralph became a carpenter, and Wilf and Hurtle became masons.
The four Potter brothers enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force together in August 1915, signing the papers one after the other and being issued consecutive enlistment numbers. Originally posted to reinforcements to the 12th Battalion in December 1915, they were first sent to Egypt where the AIF was undergoing a period of reorganisation following the evacuation from Gallipoli. As part of this process, the four brothers were transferred to the 52nd Battalion, and arrived in France to fight on the Western Front in mid-June 1916.
In August 1916 the 52nd Battalion was close behind the front lines near the French village of Pozières. Members of the battalion served in carrying parties taking rations and supplies to the front line under extremely heavy artillery fire. It was not until early September that the Battalion would conduct its first major operation on the Western Front during an attack on fortified German positions at Mouquet Farm.
The 52nd Battalion launched their part of the attack on Mouquet Farm at 5.14 am on the 3rd of September 1916. It was later reported that “the assault was delivered with much spirit and dash... [and] each company seized its objective.” The battalion’s success, however, quickly deteriorated as the men came under heavy fire and they suffered heavy casualties, particularly among the officers. By 8 a.m. it was reported that at least half of the battalion had ceased to exist as a tactical unit. Messages could not get through, and although the remnants of the battalion strove valiantly to hold on, eventually they were forced back to their original positions.
Three of the Potter brothers did not return that day. Wilf was reported to have been killed in action, shot through the head while standing on top of a trench, and was left where he fell. Thomas and Hurtle, however, were reported missing and it would take some time to formally determine their fate.
Even Ralph Potter, the only survivor of the four, could not be sure what had happened to all his brothers in the confusion of the battle. He had continued to search for them, even walking back over the battlefield in March 1917 looking for clues. He later reported that he had found a decomposing body in the open there, which he thought might have been Wilf because of with letters and a gas mask he found with the body. Because there were burial detachments working in the area, he could do little but expect they would get to his brother.
Ralph went on to serve with distinction, earning a promotion after the disastrous battle at Mouquet Farm. In April 1917 he was severely wounded in the leg at Bullecourt, and evacuated to England. It was only while he was in hospital that investigators seeking information on the fate of his brothers Thomas and Hurtle were able to catch up with him to see what he knew. There was little he could add, however.
Thomas and Hurtle Potter were later determined to have been killed in action on the battlefield at Mouquet Farm on the 4th of September 1916. To this day, Thomas and Wilf have no know grave, and Hurtle’s was the body found. He was later interred at Courclette British Cemetery, where he lies today under the simple epitaph “greater love hath no man”. Hurtle died aged 22, his brother Thomas was 31 and Wilf was 25.
The names of Thomas, Wilfred and Hurtle Potter are 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 Privates Thomas James Albert Potter, Edward Wilfred Potter and Hurtle Francis Constable Potter who gave their lives for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.
Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (3739) Private Thomas James Albert Potter, (3738) Private Edward Wilfred Potter and (3740) Private Hurtle Francis Potter, of the 52nd Battalion, First World War. (video)