Unexpected audience for the Last Post

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Celeste Ecuyer (author)

Location(s): Canberra, Australian Capital Territory

Topic(s): Last Post Ceremony

Warrant Officer Phil Robertson with his wife Angela and Olympian Catherine Skinner at the Australian War Memorial Last Post Ceremony. (photo: Unknown)
Warrant Officer Phil Robertson with his wife Angela and Olympian Catherine Skinner at the Australian War Memorial Last Post Ceremony.

Almost every evening of the year a member of the Australian Defence Force dons their ceremonial attire in Canberra and honours one of the 102,000 Australians who have given their life in war and other operations.

In early September, Warrant Officer Maritime Logistics Personnel Operations Phil Robertson was one of those volunteers, preparing to give a reading at the Australian War Memorial’s Last Post Ceremony.

Victorian First World War Australian Army Flying Corps member, Air Mechanic Class II Guy Bucknall, who died 4 December 1917 was the focus for the ceremony and Warrant Officer Robertson spoke about his life to the assembled crowd.

Mechanic Bucknall died at the age of 22 from an illness when posted in the United Kingdom during the war and is buried at Harefield (St Mary) Churchyard, Harefield, Hillingdon, England.

"I was surprised, but pleased by the school children cheering as I took my place, but then I noticed the members of the Australian Olympic Team, who were also in attendance," he said.

A group of about twenty Olympians were there to lay a wreath during the Ceremony, and also pay their respects to those Australians who had given their all for their country. 

“Normally there isn’t quite so much excitement at the Last Post Ceremony, as it's about honouring the fallen," Warrant Officer Robertson said.  

“It was special to meet some of our Olympians, but even more so was that all of my family were there to watch me read the tribute.” 

The Australian Olympic Team was in Canberra as part of their national welcome home celebrations. After the Ceremony the Olympians took time to talk to the crowd.

Warrant Officer Robertson and his wife Angela even got a photo with Catherine Skinner, who won a gold medal for shooting. 

Each evening at 4.55pm the ceremony begins with the singing of the Australian National Anthem, followed by the poignant strains of a Lament, played by a piper. Visitors are invited to lay wreaths and floral tributes beside the Pool of Reflection. A story of one of the fallen is read and The Ode then recited, and the ceremony ends with the sounding of the Last Post.

For more information about the services or to watch on the live video stream visit https://www.awm.gov.au/events/last-post-ceremony/.