Aboriginal Tasmanian Anzac honoured at Australian War Memorial

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2nd Lieutenant Alfred John Hearps

Studio portrait of 2nd Lieutenant Alfred John Hearps, the only known Aboriginal commissioned officer to die during the First World War, in uniform.

Studio portrait of 2nd Lieutenant Alfred John Hearps, who is the only known Aboriginal commissioned officer to die during the First World War. Photo supplied by family.

The Australian War Memorial in Canberra will be commemorating the service and sacrifice of 2nd Lieutenant Alfred John Hearps, the only known Aboriginal commissioned officer to die during the First World War, at the Last Post Ceremony on Tuesday 9 July.

“Alfred Hearps was born on 6 March 1895 on Tommeginne Country in the northern Tasmanian town of Forth, the eldest surviving child of Palawa man Alfred Hearps and his wife Eva,” Australian War Memorial historian Rachel Caines said.

“When Alfred junior enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Pontville Army Camp on 20 August 1914, he was the second Aboriginal Tasmanian to join the AIF.”

“Alfred was allotted to D Company of the 12th Australian Infantry Battalion with the rank of sergeant and left Hobart in HMAT Geelong on 20 October 1914. He landed on Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, and was evacuated on 28 July to hospital in Egypt. He returned to Gallipoli in September, staying until the 12th Battalion’s withdrawal in late November.

“The Battalion arrived in France in early April 1916, moving south to the Somme in July. 2nd Lieutenant Alfred John Hearps died of wounds between 19 and 22 August 1916 at Mouquet Farm near Pozières. He was 21 years old.”

The family of 2nd Lieutenant Hearps from across Australia will be attending the Memorial to honour his service.

“My family has always been proud of Alfred, who we knew as Uncle Jack, and his service,” said his great-niece, Libby Maskey. “His mother treasured his memory for the rest of her life, his medals having pride of place in the family home. We are honoured to gather together from across Australia to remember him at the War Memorial.”

Alfred is commemorated on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial in France and on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial, among almost 62,000 Australians who died while serving in the First World War.

The Last Post ceremony is held at 4.30 pm every day except Christmas Day in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial.

Each ceremony shares the story behind one of 103,000 names on the Roll of Honour. To date, the Memorial has delivered more than 3,800 ceremonies, each featuring an individual story of service from colonial times to recent conflicts. It would take more than 280 years to read the story behind each of the 103,000 names listed on the Roll of Honour.

“The Last Post Ceremony is our commitment to remembering and honouring the legacy of Australian service,” Memorial Director Matt Anderson said.

“Through our daily Last Post Ceremony, we not only acknowledge where and how these men and women died. We also tell the stories of who they were when they were alive, and of the families who loved and, in so many cases, still mourn for them.

 “The Last Post is now associated with remembrance, but originally it was a bugle call to sound the end of the day’s activities in the military. It is a fitting way to end each day at the Memorial.”

The Last Post Ceremony honouring the service of 2nd Lieutenant Alfred John Hearps will be live streamed to the Australian War Memorial’s YouTube page: https://www.youtube.com/c/awmlastpost.

The stories told at the Last Post Ceremony are researched and written by the Memorial’s military historians, who begin the process by looking at nominal rolls, attestation papers and enlistment records before building profiles that include personal milestones and military experiences.


More information: www.awm.gov.au/alfred-hearps

HANDOUT images: Link


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