The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2281) Private Maurice Lewis Aarons, 16th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2020.1.1.51
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 20 February 2020
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 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 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 Troy Clayton, the story for this day was on (2281) Private Maurice Lewis Aarons, 16th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

2281 Private Maurice Lewis Aarons, 16th Battalion, AIF
KIA 8 August 1915

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Maurice Lewis Aarons.

Maurice Aarons, known as “Morrie”, was born in 1886 to Lewis and Letitia Aarons of Melbourne. His family were involved in Melbourne’s Jewish community, and Morrie was raised in that faith. He attended the Model School in Spring Street, Melbourne, but later went to Broome and sought his fortune in the pearling industry. Aarons was very successful, and formed a pearling company, Aarons & Co, which ran a fleet of pearling ships from Broome. He then formed a partnership with another Jewish pearler, Abraham Davis, and turned his attention inland. The two bought a station and were attempting to set up as pastoralists by 1912. That year Abraham Davis died in the shipwreck of the RMS Koombana, and it seems that Aarons continued in the endeavour on his own.

Two years later war broke out in Europe, and Aarons spent time organising his business interests before enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force in May 1915. He underwent a period of training in Australia before leaving from Fremantle for active service overseas with reinforcements to the 16th Battalion.

Private Aarons continued training for a few weeks after arriving in Egypt, but was quickly sent on to the Gallipoli peninsula, where the Anzac forces were preparing to participate in what would become known as the August Offensive.

On the night of 6 August, two days after Private Aarons arrived on Gallipoli, his battalion left its position in Reserve Gully and made its way along the beach to the north. Over the following day the men dug into a new position, all the while taking casualties under Turkish artillery fire. In the early hours of 8 August three Australian battalions, including the 16th, attacked Turkish positions near Hill 971. One man who was there later wrote, “The men fell under furious fire. It was terrible; the men were falling like rabbits. Many were calling for mothers and sisters. They fell a good way, in many cases, from the Turkish lines.”

Aarons was originally with a man called William Otley, but Otley later left to go with General Monash. Otley later said, “Afterwards I ascertained from our two other chums that ‘Morrey’ was not to be found anywhere and the stretcher bearers could not answer to his description – so we counted him as killed.”

While his best mates assumed Morrie Aarons had been killed, the military posted him as missing and began an investigation into his fate. A rogue report that he was seen alive at Christmas 1915 seems to have delayed an official decision to post him as “killed in action”. Meanwhile, it was reported that “Aaron’s death is so persistently reported by men at the front that anxiety is felt by his Broom friends, who, on inquiry from his sisters ascertained that there is no official report of his death, but his sisters had not heard from him since 28th July.” A letter from Private Maher in December 1915 said that he had had “his head blown off”. Letters from Private Linton and others also indicated that he had been killed.

Finally, in mid-1916, nearly a year after he went missing, Private Morrie Aarons was officially determined to have been killed in action on the 8th of August 1915.
Aarons’ many friends and family members placed in memoriam notices in the newspapers to him for many years. Friends in Broome wrote in 1918:
He fought his fight,
He stood the test.
We all remember him
As one of the best.

Morrie Aaron’s body was never identified, and today he is commemorated on the Lone Pine Memorial on the heights above Anzac Cove. He was 34 years old.

His name 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 Private Maurice Lewis Aarons, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Meleah Hampton
Historian, Military History Section

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