The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (5608) Private Rufus Charles Lansdown, 20th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.340
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 6 December 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

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 (5608) Private Rufus Charles Lansdown, 20th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

5608 Private Rufus Charles Lansdown, 20th Battalion, AIF
KIA 25 March 1917

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Rufus Charles Lansdown.

Rufus Lansdown was born in December 1887, the second of six children of Robert Henry and Mary Jane Lansdown. He was born in Harden, in New South Wales, but when he was young his family moved to Teralba, near Newcastle, where his father took up the position of railway stationmaster. His father later remembered his son as a studious young man who enjoyed collecting stamps. Rufus mastered shorthand and typewriting, and when he left school he worked as a clerk in the Teralba railway station. During this time, he also spent three and a half years in the NSW Irish Rifles, a volunteer citizen militia.

Lansdown enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in February 1916. After preliminary training, he sailed from Sydney on board the troopship Euripides in September 1916, arriving in England in late October. Perhaps because of his prior military experience, Lansdown was appointed acting corporal in his training battalion. In December, he sailed to France and joined the 20th Australian Infantry Battalion in the Somme sector of the Western Front.

In February, Lansdown spent a short time in hospital for a back injury. When he rejoined his unit at the end of February the conditions in the trenches were beginning to improve as winter came to an end. As the 20th Battalion advanced on the German trenches, the men found that the enemy had begun to retreat from the region. The Germans had quietly withdrawn from a large area between the French town of Arras and the River Aisne. In doing so, they had removed all items of military usefulness. Small parties of German soldiers that had been left behind with machine-guns and hand grenades hampered the British advance. Australian and Commonwealth soldiers pushed cautiously into this territory and captured it, including the town of Bapaume.

With his excellent clerical skills and experience, Lansdown was attached to the battalion headquarters, which was established in the Bapaume Town Hall. In late March 1917, most of the men of the 20th Battalion marched to the front line, but the headquarters staff remained in Bapaume.
The retreating German soldiers had started fires in 400 different places in Bapaume to destroy buildings of strategic importance, and the Australians suspected that traps had been set for them. Searching the town hall, they discovered that a bomb had been planted in the building, and successfully defused it. However, the Germans had hidden another mine in the building with a timed fuse. At 11:30 pm on 25 March 1917, it exploded and completely destroyed the town hall. Thirty-eight people had been sleeping inside, including Lansdown.

The next day, seven people were recovered alive from the rubble, but Lansdown was not among them. Although Lansdown’s remains were never recovered, he was presumed killed. He was 29 years old.

He is commemorated at the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux in France, alongside nearly 11,000 Australian soldiers who have no known grave.

Private Rufus Charles Lansdown 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 Rufus Charles Lansdown, 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 (5608) Private Rufus Charles Lansdown, 20th Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)