The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (658) Private Nain Singh Sailani, 44th Battalion (Infantry), First World War

Accession Number PAFU/856.01
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 26 June 2013
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 every 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 Troy Clayton the story for this day was on (658) Private Nain Singh Sailani, 44th Battalion (Infantry), First World War.

Speech transcript

658 Private Nain Singh Sailani, 44th Battalion
KIA 1 June 1917
No photograph in collection.

Story delivered 26 June 2013

Today, we remember and pay tribute to Private Nain Singh Sailani.

Nain Singh Sailani was born in Simla, India, in 1873. Very little is known about his arrival in Australia, although he may be the "N. Saliaani" who arrived in Geraldton, Western Australia, in 1895. He would have been 22 years old.

Sailani worked in Western Australia as a labourer, and used the Perth General Post Office to receive his mail. He was friends with Mr Cyril Coleman, a tobacconist in Perth, whom Sailani nominated as the executor of his will.

Sailani volunteered for the Australian Imperial Force in February 1916 as a British subject. He was 43 years old when he was allotted to the 44th Battalion, and went on to have a clear military record except for one training accident in early 1917.

Otherwise he earned no particular censure or praise, but instead was one of thousands of Australians and new Australians who served their battalion quietly. In the period in which Sailani was with the 44th Battalion in France, they were mostly involved either with holding the front line or in working parties in or near the front line. Working parties could be particularly dangerous, as they had to work under enemy fire while either repairing or constructing trenches, or carrying ammunition and supplies to the front.

In late May and early June 1917 the battalion was involved in working parties for more than a week in the area around Ploegsteert Wood. On 1 June 1917 the whole Australian front line and reserve area came under heavy German artillery and machine gun fire. Somewhere in this fire, Nain Singh Sailani was killed in action.

There are no records of the manner of his death, nor was his mother, Ranjore Singh, sent any details in Simla. However, he was clearly a remarkable man. Not only did Sailani, an Indian man, enlist and fight as a private in the Australian Army during the period of the White Australia Policy but he also did so at the age of 43. He arrived in France during one of the harshest winters on record, and yet there is no record of him visiting hospital for any reason, unlike the many stricken by influenza or pneumonia. The silence of his records remains a testament to a strong man. Nain Singh Sailani was buried as an Australian solider in the Strand Military Cemetery in Ploegsteert Wood, Belgium.

His 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 courage and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Private Nain Singh Sailani, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in the service of our nation.