The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (1406) Private John Owen, 9th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Place Europe: France, Nord Pas de Calais, Pas de Calais, Bethune, Laventie
Accession Number PAFU2015/466.01
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 16 November 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

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 (1406) Private John Owen, 9th Battalion, AIF, First World War.

Speech transcript

1406 Private John Owen, 9th Battalion, AIF
KIA 20 April 1916 No photograph in collection

Story delivered 16 November 2015

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private John Owen.

John Owen was born in 1875 to Price and Elizabeth Owen in Ventnor on the Isle of Wight. He attended school there, but little more is known about his early life or when he immigrated to Australia.

When the First World War began Owen was working as a mining prospector around Anakie in Queensland. Aged 38, he put his age down to 35 to enlist, and was accepted at Clermont on 6 December 1914. Joining the 9th Battalion in Brisbane, he was allotted to the battalion’s 2nd reinforcements.

He embarked with his unit aboard the transport ship Seang Bee on 13 February 1915 and arrived in Egypt after the 9th Battalion had already sailed for Lemnos and the Gallipoli campaign.

He joined his battalion on Gallipoli at the beginning of May, and remained on the peninsula until the end of October, when he was evacuated to hospital. He was transferred to a hospital ship and then taken, via Gibraltar, to England.

He was able to stay with his sister and her husband in Surrey during his convalescence, and would likely have been visited by his parents, who were living in Bournemouth. He was eventually sent back to Egypt and in March 1916 re-joined the 9th Battalion. At the end of the month he sailed for France and the Western Front.

In April the 9th Battalion was in reserve billets near Rouge-de-Bout, one mile behind the front line in the Armentières or “nursery” sector. Intermittent artillery fire was landing nearby. Early in the afternoon of 20 April tragedy struck, when the battalion’s C Company billets were heavily shelled.

One shell landed outside a canvas tent, wounding four. As men went to assist, another shell landed among them, killing several men and wounding others. A further shell hit a brick wall of a nearby billet, causing a further 47 casualties. C Company was decimated, suffering 50 men wounded and 25 killed, one of whom was Owen. Several others would die from their wounds over the ensuing days.

Owen and the other fallen men of C Company were laid to rest in the Rue-Du-Bacquerot (13th London) Graveyard at Laventie. He was 40 years old.

Owen’s name 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 Private John Owen, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in service of our nation.

Michael Kelly
Historian, Military History Section

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