The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (235407) Lieutenant John William Wheeler, 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, First World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2019.1.1.345
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 11 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
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 Tom Rodgers, the story for this day was on (235407) Lieutenant John William Wheeler, 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, First World War.

Speech transcript

52 Leslie Walter Day, 30th Australian Infantry Battalion, AIF
KIA 23 March 1918

Today we remember and pay tribute to Leslie Walter Day.

Leslie Day was born in 1893 in the Newcastle suburb of Islington, the youngest son of Thomas and Susannah Day. He attended school in nearby Hamilton, and after leaving completed an apprenticeship as a carpenter. Day was an active member of the Hamilton Methodist Church choir, and was secretary of its Sunday school.

In July 1915, Day enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force. He joined the 30th Australian Infantry Battalion and undertook training at Liverpool camp outside Sydney. Most of the men of the 30th Battalion, like Day, came from the Newcastle region. In early November 1915, he embarked from Sydney on board the transport ship Beltana. After arriving in Egypt in December, over the next six months he trained at Tel-el-Kebir and became a driver in the transport section of his unit. In June 1916, Day and his battalion sailed to France to join the British forces fighting on the Western Front.

In addition to the front-line fighting men, each battalion had a small transport section as part of its headquarters. As a driver in the transport section, Day was in charge of the horses that drew the cooking wagons for “D” Company of the 30th Battalion. His comrades remembered him as a cheerful character who they knew by the nickname of “Lionel”.

The 30th Battalion had its first experience of Western Front warfare at the disastrous battle of Fromelles in northern France. Within 24 hours more than a third of its men were killed, wounded, or missing. The 5th Division, of which the 30th Battalion was a member, was taken out of the front line and spent the rest of the year regrouping and training to bring it back to its former strength.

During 1917, the battalion occupied the French town of Bapaume when the Germans retreated to a stronger defensive position along the Hindenburg Line. It also saw action at the second battle of Bullecourt and at Polygon Wood later in the year. The battalion was in a reserve role, and Day’s role included moving material to the troops in the front line. The unit spent the winter of 1917 and 1918 in Flanders near the French village of Messines.

In spring 1918, the Germans launched what would be their final offensive of the war, known as the German Spring Offensive. The 30th Battalion were stationed behind the front line in northern France, close to the Belgian border. Although the men were not in the front line, they were still subjected to German artillery shelling. On 23 March 1918, Day and another member of his unit, Corporal Vivian Bailey, were in a transport wagon when it was hit by a German high velocity shell. Both men were killed. Day was 24 years old.

He was buried in Westhof Farm Cemetery near Ypres in Belgium, alongside Corporal Bailey and 129 other Commonwealth soldiers of the First World War. His mother had the epitaph “Peace perfect peace” inscribed on his headstone.

There was a further loss to Day’s grieving parents when they asked why his personal effects had not been returned to them. The package containing his personal effects was bound for Australia on the steam ship Barunga, which was torpedoed by a German submarine off the coast of Cornwall in July 1918. British destroyers were soon on the scene and managed to rescue all aboard, but Day’s personal effects, and those of about 5,000 other Australian soldiers who had died on the Western Front, were lost.

In Australia, Day’s church held a memorial for the soldiers of Hamilton who had been killed in the war. Members of the choir wore badges with the purple and yellow colours of the 30th Battalion in memory of their former colleague.

Leslie Walter Day is 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 Leslie Walter Day, 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 (235407) Lieutenant John William Wheeler, 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, First World War. (video)