The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (28) Private Thomas Joseph Rogers, New South Wales Naval Contingent, Boer War.

Place Asia: Hong Kong
Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.300
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 27 October 2019
Access Open
Conflict China, 1900-1901 (Boxer Uprising)
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 , the story for this day was on (28) Private Thomas Joseph Rogers, New South Wales Naval Contingent, Boxer Rebellion.

Speech transcript

28 Private Thomas Joseph Rogers, New South Wales Naval Contingent
Died of illness 6 October 1900

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Thomas Joseph Rogers.

Thomas Rogers was born about 1881, the youngest son of Thomas and Ellen Rogers. His parents ran a grocery shop in Yarraville, Victoria.

In 1900, the British Empire was involved in two wars to which the Australian colonies sent troops: the South African or Boer War, and the Boxer Rebellion in China. The Boxer Rebellion was a Chinese nationalist uprising begun by a secret society called the Righteous and Harmonious Fists, known to Westerners as “Boxers”. The Boxers violently opposed European influence, missionary activity, and property interests in China. In response, an international force had been formed to protect Europeans and their property in China.

Australian colonies had sent mounted infantry to South Africa, and had committed naval servicemen and ships to China. Rogers had enlisted in the third contingent of New South Wales infantry bound for the Boer War, but had not yet sailed for South Africa. He now volunteered for a new unit, the New South Wales Marine Light Infantry, the first soldiers to be committed by the colony to the campaign in China.

The New South Wales Marine Light Infantry consisted of 26 men, most of whom were in their early twenties. With them sailed New South Wales naval officers and men, and a Victorian naval contingent. The men sailed from Sydney to Hong Kong on the transport Salamis in early August 1900. Rogers contracted rheumatic fever on the voyage, and his superiors debated whether to invalid him out of the unit at their stopover in Hong Kong. However, he recovered sufficiently to continue with the unit to Tianjin, the port city closest to the Chinese capital Beijing.

The Marine Light Infantry arrived in Tianjin in mid-September. The Australians came under the command of the newly-established International Relief Force, headed by the German Field Marshal Count Alfred von Waldersee. Von Waldersee inspected and complimented the Australian troops when he arrived in Tianjin in mid-October.

Rogers, however, did not live to take part in this inspection. He had contracted influenza soon after arriving in China. On 6 October 1900, after a brief hospitalisation, he died in Tianjin. He was the first of the Australian contingent to die. The Sydney Morning Herald’s correspondent reported that the death of this young and well-liked soldier cast a gloom over the Australian camp.

Rogers was buried in the graveyard of the English church in Tianjin. It was a military funeral, and his Marine comrades fired a salute over his grave. The English church was destroyed in an earthquake in 1977 and the site has since been built over.

Back in Melbourne, his grieving parents had the following poem published in the Age:
Ah, little we thought when he bade us good-bye
That he left home for ever, he left home to die,
That alone in this world his loss we would mourn;
Not even his poor lifeless form did return
The Australian colonies sent about 600 men to the Boxer Rebellion. Rogers was one of six who died, all of whom died from illness or injury, and none as the result of enemy action.

Private Thomas Joseph Rogers is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right. This is but one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Private Thomas Joseph Rogers, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Thomas Rogers
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (28) Private Thomas Joseph Rogers, New South Wales Naval Contingent, Boer War. (video)

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