The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (1175) Sergeant David John Anderson, 8th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Place Asia: Turkey, Canakkale Province, Gallipoli Peninsula, Shrapnel Valley Cemetery
Accession Number AWM2020.1.1.78
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 18 March 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 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 Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (1175) Sergeant David John Anderson, 8th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

1175 Sergeant David John Anderson, 8th Battalion, AIF
KIA 16 June 1915

Today we remember and pay tribute to Sergeant David John Anderson.

David Anderson, known as “Jack”, was born on 30 July 1896 to David and Jessie Anderson of Bendigo, Victoria. His father was a chemist in Bendigo, and Jack passed examinations in pharmacy before taking an apprenticeship in his father’s shop to become a chemist himself. He was also interested in military matters, holding a commission as a lieutenant in the local Senior Cadets. He also maintained his links to his high school, serving as the secretary of the Bendigo High School Old Students’ Society.

When war broke out, Jack Anderson was extremely keen to be involved, and despite his young age, his parents supported his enlistment. He went to the recruiting office in Bendigo in September 1916, and enlisted as a private soldier in order to get to the front as soon as possible. He proved an able soldier, and was promoted to sergeant almost straight away. He left Australia for active service overseas with the 8th Battalion on 22 December 1914.

Sergeant Anderson was first sent to Egypt, where he continued training with his battalion in the desert. At some point in the new year he cut his thumb on the cover of his fob watch by accident. He later wrote “I took no notice of it, and [went on] performing my usual duties … guard… trench digging, etc.” In the days before antibiotics, even the smallest wound could prove dangerous, and in this case, Sergeant Anderson’s small cut led to general septicaemia. He had to be operated on and took several weeks to recover.

Anderson had just come out of hospital when he heard that his battalion was going into action. His doctor “absolutely refused” to recommend his discharge, so Anderson went to his colonel who allowed him to serve on the landing craft during the Anzac landing.

Anderson later wrote, “While I was in the boat assisting the dying and the wounded, shrapnel burst within 20 yards from us. I luckily escaped it all … after waiting for two days we sailed back with the wounded to Alexandria and I am still hoping to get into battle next week, alongside my comrades.”

Anderson was sent back to Lemnos, where he wrote that he had been “put in charge of all stores and equipment of the 8th” Battalion, the result of which, he added, was that “[I] am becoming an expert sailor.” Each time he found himself off the coast of Gallipoli, he was “watching and itching to get in.”

Sergeant Jack Anderson finally got the opportunity he wanted when he joined the 8th Battalion on the Gallipoli peninsula on 12 June 1915. Shortly after his arrival he wrote to a friend, “We are having a splendid time. The only thing is that if the Turks continue to pelt such big bits of lead about as they are doing they are liable to hit someone, and then there will be a row … today one piece went through my hat, and another floored the man next to me.”

Anderson had been in the firing line for just four days when a high explosive shell landed near his position, quickly followed by another. Harold Jackson, probably serving with the Medical Corps, later wrote “he must have been killed outright, wounded head, body and thigh. He would have been quite unconscious of anything happening … He was probably not even conscious of the noise of the explosion … On the morning of his death I saw him. He was in splendid heart and really seemed to enjoy the excitement of it.”

Like most soldiers, Anderson wrote regular letters to his parents at home. David Anderson received a letter “full of cheery optimism” on Monday evening, 5 July. The following morning he was showing the letter with pride to a commercial traveller in his shop, when the Reverend J. Crookston entered the shop. He was there to tell David Anderson the news that his son had been killed in action two weeks earlier.

Sergeant Jack Anderson was buried in Shrapnel Valley Cemetery where he lies today under the simple epitaph “Thy will be done”. He died aged 18.

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 Sergeant David John Anderson, 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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