The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (2104) Company Quartermaster Sergeant Herbert Henry Bartley, 53rd Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Accession Number AWM2022.1.1.2
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell, Australian War Memorial
Date made 2 January 2022
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC

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 , the story for this day was on (2104) Company Quartermaster Sergeant Herbert Henry Bartley, 53rd Battalion, AIF, First World War.

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Speech transcript

2104 Company Quartermaster Sergeant Herbert Henry Bartley, 53rd Battalion, AIF
KIA 19 July 1916

Today we remember and pay tribute to Company Quartermaster Sergeant Herbert Henry Bartley.

Herbert Bartley, known as “Herb,” was born in 1890 to Michael and Janet Bartley of Delegate, New South Wales. His father was an old pioneer of the Delegate district, and Herb and his three brothers and four sisters were raised in the town.

Herb went on to work as a butcher in the family business in Delegate, eventually taking on the running of the business Messrs M. Bartley and Sons. He became an integral part of Delegate society, being “always ready and willing to act on any committee in any public bodies or functions of any kind.” At various times he served as secretary of the Delegate Rifle Club, the Parents’ and Citizens’ Association, and the Progress Association; master of ceremonies for various socials, representative of the Star of Delegate Order of Odd Fellows at regional meetings, and captain of the Delegate football team. He was so busy it was once reported that “we cannot see an who will fulfil their duties, both as a townsman and in business, as Mr. Bartley has done in the past few years.”

Herb Bartley made the decision to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force in the weeks before the dawn landing on Gallipoli. He went to Sydney to enlist, and entered Liverpool Camp. He wrote home to say, “we were lined up and the first thing the officer called out was for men who understood training and musketry and willing to leave here before a month. There was only six wanted so I stepped out and I am now in the 6th Reinforcements, 1st Battalion, and am liable to go at any time at all.”

Bartley took his final leave home in early June 1915. Just before he left, a social was held in his honour in the Delegate Lodge Hall.

Private Herb Bartley left Sydney on board the troopship Karoola on 16 June 1915. He wrote a long letter on the journey, adding to it periodically until he could post it at Suez. Midway through the voyage he wrote, “I am feeling grand, in fact I don't think I ever felt better in my life and I am putting on condition too. Most of them now call me “Fatty” or “Tiny.”

Private Herb Bartley arrived on Gallipoli in the early hours of 6 August 1915. He and his comrades were rushed forward to the trenches as soon as they arrived. That afternoon he took part in the attack on Lone Pine. He later wrote, “It was a great initiation for me to arrive here that morning and the same day go into battle, but, thank God, I came through it all safe and sound… I was in the trenches all that night into which the Turks were continually throwing bombs, which were wounding a great many of our men; and I had many narrow escapes. There were men killed and wounded all around me and I came out without a scratch.” Bartley was happy to admit that he was nervous for the first hour of battle, but then, he said, “after I got a go on and fired a shot or two it would have taken a lot to stop me, and now I am quite used to it. It was a terrible sight to see the dead lying about and in the trenches, and to see the wounded being carried out… I'll never forget Friday, August 6th, as long as I live.”

Private Bartley spent Christmas 1915 in Egypt, which he described as “a very crook Xmas, but I hope to be home for next Xmas. I wonder will I?”

After the evacuation from Gallipoli the AIF underwent a period of expansion and reorganisation. As part of this process, Bartley was transferred to the 53rd Battalion, and later promoted to Quartermaster Sergeant of C Company. He left the desert for the battlefields of northern France in late June 1916. The 53rd Battalion was one of the last to arrive in France, but one of the first committed to action. On 19 July 1916, it took part in the battle of Fromelles, a costly disaster that is one of the greatest losses by a single division in 24 hours during the entire First World War.

Private Herb Bartley never reappeared after the battle, and was posted missing. He was one of 5,500 Australians to become casualties during the operation, with so many missing it took months of investigation to find out the fate of many. As many as ten different men were interviewed by investigators working on Herb Bartley’s fate, and, although the reports were enough to determine that Bartley was dead, many of them told differing stories. In August 1917, investigators found James Richardson, who knew what had happened.

James Richardson reported, “on the night of [19 July 1916] ... I went back from our front line for ammunition, and met … [Bartley], who said he was coming over, and he agreed to come over with me. As all the communication trenches were blown in, we had to go across the open. About midway between our front line and the German front line … [Bartley] and I were in a shell-hole when he got wounded in the back of the head or neck … I fixed him up as well as I could and had to leave him … I do not think he could have lived long.”

The body of Company Quartermaster Sergeant Herbert Bartley was never identified, and today he is commemorated on the special memorial in VC Corner Cemetery at Fromelles. In Australia Bartley’s life was celebrated at a memorial service in the Presbyterian church in Delegate. The preacher said, “I expect nothing from Australians but bravery—fearless bravery. So our lads proved themselves to be when put to the test.” Herb Bartley was 26 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 Company Quartermaster Sergeant Herbert Henry Bartley, 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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