The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (606) Lance Corporal Hector Merton Cornish, 31st Australian Infantry Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Place Europe: France, Picardie, Somme, Albert Bapaume Area, Flers
Accession Number PAFU2015/379.01
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 9 September 2015
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 Meredith Duncan, the story for this day was on (606) Lance Corporal Hector Merton Cornish, 31st Australian Infantry Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

606 Lance Corporal Hector Merton Cornish, 31st Australian Infantry Battalion, AIF
DOW 13 March 1917
No photograph in collection

Today we remember and pay tribute to Lance Corporal Hector Merton Cornish.

Born in South Melbourne to Joseph and Elizabeth Jane Cornish, Hector attended the Dorcas State School. He was working as a printer machinist when he enlisted in July 1915, aged 20.

He was assigned to the 31st Battalion, which was made up of Queenslanders and Victorians. While at camp in Broadmeadows Cornish was made the bugler for his unit.

The 31st Battalion sailed for Egypt in November and became part of the 8th Brigade of the newly raised 5th Australian Division. Cornish proceeded to France, destined for the Western Front, in June 1916.

The battalion had been in the front-line trenches for just three days when it fought in its first major battle at Fromelles on 19 July 1916. The attack was disastrous: the battalion suffered 572 casualties, or more than half of its strength. Although it still spent periods in the front line, the 31st played no major offensive role for the rest of the year.

In November 1916 Cornish was appointed lance corporal. He was given leave in January 1917 and spent most of the month in England. Not long after his return he became ill and spent some time in hospital, re-joining his unit on 1 March.

On 13 March the 31st Battalion was undertaking “vigorous patrols” in the Flers region in France. At some point on this day Cornish was wounded, and he later died of his wounds. No other details of his death were given in the official records. He was buried in the Guards Cemetery and Lesboeufs in France. He was 21 years old.

Cornish was a Salvationist, and was in the band of the Hawthorn Salvation Army congregation. In a tribute from a fellow soldier, published later in the Salvation Army’s record of service for the First World War, Cornish was described as “a true Christian boy, never once wavering in his faith”. The solder went on:

I shall always remember him as an example, not only to myself, but also
to many who came into contact with him. I admired him the first night in
the show ground when he said his prayers in the face of so many
strangers, and all the time I was with him he never once forgot his bible.

The name of Lance Corporal Hector Cornish is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, along with more than 60,000 others from 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 Lance Corporal Hector Cornish and all those Australians who have given their lives in
the service of our nation.

Emma Campbell
Writer, Military History Section

  • Video of The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (606) Lance Corporal Hector Merton Cornish, 31st Australian Infantry Battalion, AIF, First World War. (video)