The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (6043) Private James Commins, 24th Australian Infantry Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2020.1.1.227
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 14 August 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 Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (6043) Private James Commins, 24th Australian Infantry Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Film order form
Speech transcript

6043 Private James Commins, 24th Australian Infantry Battalion, AIF
KIA: 3 May 1917

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private James Commins.

James Commins was born in Orange, New South Wales in 1875, the son of Thomas and Bridget Commins. Known as “Jim”, he attended St Stanislaus College in Bathurst, where he excelled in his studies. On finishing school, he returned to Orange and worked as a labourer at Dalton Brothers, a local large-scale retailer. He was also a member of the local rifle club.

In August 1916, Commins travelled to Dubbo to volunteer for service in the Australian Imperial Force. He completed a brief initial period of training in Australia, before sailing for England at the end of October. Once in England, he spent the winter months training in the army camps on Salisbury Plain. In the spring of 1917, he sailed for France, joining his unit, the 24th Australian Infantry Battalion, at the front in mid-April.

Commins joined the 24th Battalion as the men were preparing for a major assault on the occupied French village of Bullecourt. This village was part of the heavily fortified German position known to the allies as the Hindenburg Line. British and Australian troops had attempted to capture Bullecourt about a month earlier and failed.
Commins and his unit spent the rest of April learning how to cut barbed wire entanglements, how to use the most modern gas masks, and attending lectures on the main objectives and viewing photographs of the key points in the landscape.

Before dawn on the morning of 3 May 1917, the 24th Battalion attacked, alongside many other Australian and British units. Commins and his unit had initial successes under heavy enemy machine-gun fire. They quickly captured the first two lines of German trenches, but then experienced fierce counter attacks over the rest of the day. During the attack, Commins was killed. He was 42 years old.

After the battle, there were differing stories of how Commins had died. Some men in his unit said he had been killed in the first charge, but one remembered having been isolated in a captured German trench with Commins, who had not made it out. As a result of the confusion, Commins was initially reported as missing in action. It was only in January 1918, eight months after the battle, that his mother Bridget was given the official news that her son had been killed.

Commins’ remains were identified by his identity disc. He is now buried in Queant Road Cemetery in northern France, alongside more than 2,300 Commonwealth soldiers of the First World War.

Two of Commins’ brothers also served in the AIF. His younger brother Francis was in the 53rd Battalion, and had been killed in northern France about a month before Jim was killed. His older brother Sergeant Patrick Commins served with the Australian General Base Depot in France, and returned to Australia in 1918.

Private James Commins 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 James Commins, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Thomas Rogers
Historian, Military History Section

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