The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (678) Gunner Henry Joseph Finn, 10th Field Artillery Brigade, First World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2020.1.1.269
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 25 September 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 Tristan Rallings, the story for this day was on (678) Gunner Henry Joseph Finn, 10th Field Artillery Brigade, First World War.

Speech transcript

678 Gunner Henry Joseph Finn, 10th Field Artillery Brigade
KIA 23 September 1917

Today we remember and pay tribute to Gunner Henry Joseph Finn.

Henry Finn, known as “Harry”, was born in Melbourne around 1877, one of eight children born to John and Mary Ann Finn. He grew up in Mangalore, attended the local public school, and went on to become a certified traction engine driver. Harry was described as “a fine stamp of a young man,” and went on to work for several well-known firms in Kalandra and Tallygaroopna. He was popular in the district, and was described as being “known by a wide circle of friends from Seymour to the Murray”.

Harry Finn enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in June 1915 at the age of 38. He had already been turned down for service because of dental problems, but he seems to have had the problem resolved once he was accepted. He underwent a period of training in Australia, and in November 1915 left for active service overseas with reinforcements to the 31st Battalion.

Private Finn was first sent to Egypt, where the Australians had recently returned from the Gallipoli peninsula. In early 1916 the AIF underwent a period of expansion and reorganisation. As part of this process, Finn secured a transfer to the artillery, which probably suited his mechanical skills as an engine driver.

Gunner Finn was sent to France in June 1916, where war was raging on the Western Front, and served in the 4th Division Ammunition Column for some months. At the end of that year he transferred to the 10th Field Artillery Brigade, reporting home that he was serving on the heavy howitzers of the 37th Battery.

Finn served in France throughout the bitterly cold winter of 1916 to 1917. During this time his battery would have rotated in and out of the front line, maintaining a defensive position until the weather warmed up enough to resume active operations. However, the cold took its toll, and in April 1917 he was evacuated from the front line with rheumatism and general myalgia or muscular pain.

Gunner Finn was eventually sent to England to spend some time on base at Weymouth Camp in Dorset. He was finally deemed fit enough to return to active service in mid-August of 1917, only a few weeks after the Australians had taken part in the battle of Messines Ridge.

By September 1917 Finn’s battery was emplaced near the Belgian town of Ypres ready to fire in support of operations towards Passchendaele. Finn was acting as cook for his battery. Although usually miles behind the front line, gun positions were a prime target for enemy artillery, and often came under fire. On 23 September 1917, Gunner Harry Finn had just made some cocoa for his mates in the battery and was walking it over when they came under fire. A high explosive shell landed near the entrance of the dugout he was next to, and killed him instantly.

Gunner Harry Finn was buried near where he fell, along with Private Pullen, who was killed by the same shell. Their graves were marked by a note in a glass bottle, with the intention of replacing it with a grave marker when it was possible. However the grave was lost in later fighting. Today, with noknown resting place, Henry Finn is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres. He was 40 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 Gunner Henry Jospeh Finn, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Meleah Hampton
Historian, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (678) Gunner Henry Joseph Finn, 10th Field Artillery Brigade, First World War. (video)