The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (1089), Corporal Thomas Alan Shepley, 16th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2020.1.1.278
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 4 October 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 Craig Barelle, the story for this day was on (1089), Corporal Thomas Alan Shepley, 16th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

1089, Corporal Thomas Alan Shepley, 16th Battalion, AIF
KIA 2 May 1915

Today we remember and pay tribute to Corporal Thomas Alan Shepley.

Thomas Shepley, known by his middle name “Alan”, was born on 18 May 1895, the eldest son of Harry and Alice Annie Shepley of the Adelaide suburb of Goodwood. Alan was educated at the Goodwood Public School, and then at Adelaide High School, Prince Alfred College and Muirden Business College. He went on to work as a member of the clerical staff of the South Australian railways, working in the Locomotive Department at Islington. He was an active member of the local militia, and was closely connected with St George’s church at Goodwood.

Alan Shepley enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force shortly after the outbreak of war in 1914, sharing a tent with Willie Harris from North Adelaide. Because of his previous military service, Shepley was given the rank of corporal shortly after enlistment, and was posted to the 16th Battalion. He was described as having “an innate sense of modesty”, something that some of his friends thought prevented him from further promotion. He underwent a period of training before leaving Australia for active service overseas, and continued training in Egypt. He was given the nickname “Shep”, and Harris later told his parents “a cleaner, straighter, manlier fellow than your son never donned khaki, and everyone whose opinion was worthwhile loved and admired him.” Shepley was a devout Christian, and deplored the actions of some Australians in Cairo, saying, “It beats me … that fellows can risk losing eternity for the sake of a few years of wrongdoing here.” He put his strong Christian beliefs into everything he did, and Harris later said “he was not ashamed to carry his Christianity into his daily life.”

The 16th Battalion landed on the Gallipoli peninsula on the afternoon of 25 April, incurring minimal casualties. Almost immediately the battalion was divided and called forward to reinforce a weak front line in the vicinity of Pope’s Hill. Over the following days, the front line was slowly organised, and on 30 April the battalion was withdrawn to Monash Valley for a brief rest. There it was under constant enemy sniper fire, and the exhausted men received little respite.

On the morning of 2 May, the 16th Battalion received word that they would assault a Turkish trench as part of a general forward movement. As they advanced, the men were reportedly “in overflowing spirits”, advancing under a bombardment of artillery fire. As they reached their jumping off positions the bombardment eased, and it was later recalled that “scarcely a sound penetrated the depths of the valley.” But as the men reached the top of the ridge, a heavy fire from the Turks opened on them, causing many casualties. The attack crumbled as the 16th Battalion suffered heavy casualties, even as the men continued to make more attacks from hastily-prepared positions over the following days.

Corporal Alan Shepley did not survive. Willie Harris wrote to Alan’s parents, saying, “he was in the thick of a charge when he was hit, and was gone instantly … knowing how dear your boy was to us, who loved him, I can dimly realise how great is your sad loss … those who remain of the old battalion will be better and purer men for having known him.”

Alan Shepley was buried in Beach Cemetery at Anzac, where he lies today under the simple inscription “His duty done.” He was 20 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 Corporal Thomas Alan Shepley, 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 (1089), Corporal Thomas Alan Shepley, 16th Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)