The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (67) Corporal Rowland Edward Harkus, New South Wales Lancers, Boer War

Accession Number PAFU2014/130.01
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 20 April 2014
Access Open
Conflict South Africa, 1899-1902 (Boer War)
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 Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (67) Corporal Rowland Edward Harkus, New South Wales Lancers, Boer War.

Speech transcript

67 Corporal Rowland Edward Harkus, New South Wales Lancers
DOD 4 April 1900
No photograph in collection

Story delivered 20 April 2014

Today we remember and pay tribute to Corporal Rowland Edward Harkus.

Rowland Harkus, better known as Ben, was born in the colony of New South Wales in 1869. While employed as a postman in Parramatta, he was also a part-time trooper in the New South Wales Lancers. Ben Harkus enjoyed a great deal of fame as a competitor in military tournaments, representing the lancers in competitions such as tilting the ring, in which mounted horsemen tried to spear a small ring with a lance at a gallop, and the Victoria Cross race, where men rode their horses over a series of obstacles while carrying a straw-filled dummy.

Eventually, Ben Harkus's accomplishments as a soldier led him to join a detachment of lancers who went to England to participate in military tournaments in honour of Queen Victoria's Jubilee. There he experienced considerable success, returning to New South Wales with a number of awards and an Empire Medal.

Two years later, Harkus again went with the lancers to England, this time taking his wife and two children. While they were in England, war broke out in South Africa, and the commanding officer of the lancer detachment promised their services in the war. Their steamer would have to stop in Cape Town on the way back to Sydney anyway, so this seemed a straightforward proposal.

However, some of the men on board opted to return to Sydney rather than leave the boat to fight in South Africa. One of these men was Trooper Ben Harkus. His wife had taken ill on the journey, and rather than leave her and his two children to the mercy of some rough characters in steerage, he accompanied them back.

Trooper Harkus found himself the centre of controversy on his return. Parliament asked questions about the motives of the returning lancers, who were jeered and derided in the streets for their decision to come back.

Soon, however, a second detachment was formed to join the first in South Africa. The newly promoted Corporal Harkus was among the first to volunteer, and was put in charge of the contingent.

Ben Harkus had little chance to prove himself on the battlefield. The man at the centre of a scandal for simply protecting his family contracted typhoid fever at Bloemfontein and died in the early hours of 4 April 1900. His comrades-in-arms mourned the loss of such a skilled and talented cavalryman who willingly went to serve his country when asked.

The name of Rowland Edward Harkus is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, along with 605 others who lost their lives in the Boer War. There is no photograph of Harkus in the collection to display beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is but one of the many stories of courage and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Corporal Rowland Edward "Ben" Harkus, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in service of our nation.

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (67) Corporal Rowland Edward Harkus, New South Wales Lancers, Boer War (video)