The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2023) Private Cyril Ralph Finch, 12th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2021.1.1.341
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 December 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 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 Gerard Pratt, the story for this day was on (2023) Private Cyril Ralph Finch, 12th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

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Speech transcript

2023 Private Cyril Ralph Finch, 12th Battalion, AIF
KIA 19 August 1916

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private Cyril Ralph Finch.

Cyril Finch was born on 6 October 1898 to William and Charlotte Finch of Hobart. He was educated at the Trinity Hill State School in Hobart, and went on to work as a dairyman. Cyril was 15 years old when war broke out in August 1914. He enlisted for active service six months later at the age of 16, presenting at the enlistment office with a signed letter of permission from his mother Charlotte and putting his age up by two years to do so.

Cyril followed in the footsteps of his brother William who, although below regulation height, was deemed a “strong sturdy fellow” and accepted as a driver in the artillery. Unlike Willie, however, Cyril was considered fit for the infantry, and was posted to the 12th Battalion. He underwent a period of training in Australia before leaving for active service on board the troopship Hororata on 17 April 1915.

Private Finch was first sent to Egypt, but spent little time there before being sent on to Gallipoli to try to make up for the heavy casualties of the dawn landing. He wrote home in September to say, “we have taken part in several engagements since landing at the Peninsula, the most important of which was just before I left. We made a charge at a place called Lone Pine. Our losses were pretty heavy, but we captured three trenches, and succeeded in keeping the Turks back until fresh troops came to our assistance, when they got a lively time from our boys.”

After ten weeks in the trenches, Finch’s health gave out and he was evacuated for treatment. He wrote, “They have sent me out of the trenches at Gallipoli on account of sickness. I thought we were being sent to Lemnos Island, but luck was with us, as they sent our lot on to Malta.” He added, “it is a relief for me to be away from the noise of the big guns.”

After a week on Malta, Finch was sent to St. Thomas’s Hospital in London. Diagnosed with some form of rheumatism, Finch was not fit to return to his battalion until March 1916, spending just a few days with the 12th Battalion in Egypt before they were sent on to France.

By mid-May the 12th Battalion was in the front line in a quieter sector of the Western Front, gaining valuable experience in trench warfare conditions. Finch later wrote home to say that he had taken part in some raids on German positions during this time, and apparently was due to receive a month’s furlough in England as a reward.

In August 1916 the 12th Battalion took part in its first major operation on the Western Front near the French village of Pozieres. On 21 August, two companies of the 12th Battalion attacked German positions near Mouquet Farm, successfully capturing their objectives. Further waves of the battalion advanced to bring up tools and help consolidate the position.

At some point around this attack, Private Cyril Finch was killed in action. Although his official date of death is listed as 19 August, two days before the attack near Mouquet Farm, it is likely to have been two days later. His cousin, Private Stanley Carrick, who was also in the 12th Battalion, later wrote home to say, “poor fellow, I was not more than 20 yards away from him when he fell. I would [have] liked to have gone to him to render what assistance I could, but we were charging at the time and I could not stop.”

Finch was killed, and his body was lost in the artillery fire. Today he is commemorated on the Australian National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux.

Cyril Finch was deeply mourned by his family, particularly his brothers and sisters, who posted notices to his memory for many years after the war. In August 1919, with the war over, Cyril’s brother Willie and one of his sisters put the following words in the local newspaper:

Victory is with our dear Allies,
Oh, those words sound nice,
But oh, the sad, sad hearts of those
Whose loved ones paid the price.

When I see the brave boys returning
My heart throbs with pain,
To think you are not there, dear Cyril,
And will never come home again.

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 Private Cyril Ralph Finch, 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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