The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (411) Sergeant George Godfrey Garner, 7th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Places
Accession Number AWM2021.1.1.97
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 7 April 2021
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 Gerard Pratt, the story for this day was on (411) Sergeant George Godfrey Garner, 7th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

411 Sergeant George Godfrey Garner, 7th Battalion, AIF
DOW 14 July 1915

Today we remember and pay tribute to Sergeant George Godfrey Garner.

George Garner was born on 2 April 1891, the eldest son of William and Mary Garner of the Melbourne suburb of Moonee Ponds. George’s father held various jobs, working as the local truant inspector, and later an inspector of factories. George was educated at the local state school, and went on to undertake a carpentry apprenticeship with James Moore and sons in Melbourne. He was described as a “fine stamp of young fellow.”

George Garner had long held an interest in military matters, serving three years with the local infantry regiment in his youth. Keen not to miss out, he enlisted within a fortnight of the outbreak of war in August 1914. His military experience saw him granted the rank of lance sergeant on enlistment, and he would later be promoted to full sergeant.

Garner began his infantry training at Broadmeadows camp, leaving for active service overseas two months later. The 7th Battalion continued its training in the Egyptian desert under its commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Harold Elliott, spending some time manning defensive positions on the Suez Canal after Turkish attacks in early 1915.

The 7th Battalion landed on Gallipoli on the morning of 25 April 1915 as part of the second wave of the dawn landing. During the landing, Sergeant George Garner was wounded in the chest and face, and was evacuated almost as soon as he arrived. He wrote home to his parents to tell them of his wounds, but added that he was “well on the way to recovery… and hoped shortly to be back in the firing line again.”

Major Frederick Tubb, who would win the Victoria Cross in August 1915, but who at the time was Garner’s lieutenant, later recalled that Garner came back from hospital before he was ready. Tubb wrote, “Garner was always cheerful, and with a continual quiet smile, bucked up the other fellows.” Another of Garner’s officers wrote, “He had only been back a day or two after being severely wounded in the landing, but had done so well (as he had done at the first landing) that I was about to have him recommended for a commission.”

Garner returned to his battalion as they were undertaking a 16-day stretch holding Steel’s Post. Tubb later recalled, “they were all awfully tired, as they were doing a double shift, and a man would often drop from sheer exhaustion, just as if he had been shot. I saw Garner catch hold of one of these men, and he said to him: ‘it’s easy enough to get a smile when things are going well.’ Just then a shell burst close to Garner and blew off both his legs.”

Tubb caught hold of Garner, who had had one leg torn off above the knee, and the other “smashed to a pulp” below the knee. Despite his serious wounds, the first words he said to Tubb were, “I’ll come back, sir.”

A doctor was on hand to attend to Garner very quickly, and bandaged his wounds. Garner reportedly said to him, “now, Doc, as man to man and square dink, what sort of a sporting chance have I got?” The doctor teared up, and said gently “old chap, you have a very good chance with a spirit like that.” Garner replied, “Right oh, sir”, and, turning to a stretcher bearer said, “give us a fag, chum, and a light please.”

Although he was “perfectly calm and conscious, and greeted everyone with a jest,” another witness later recalled that “you could see [Garner’s] muscles twitch and the lips tighten as the stretcher was lifted away.” Garner survived to be loaded on to the hospital ship Gascon, but died on 14 July 1915.

Sergeant George Garner was buried at sea, and today is commemorated on the Lone Pine Memorial, on the heights above Anzac Cove. He was 24 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 Sergeant George Godfrey Garner, who gave his life for us, for our freedoms, and in the hope of a better world.

Meleah Hampton
Historian, Military History Section