30 January, 2010

1918 Cornet Found And Played At Soldiers Reburials

A story I saw on the UK television news today and, after doing a search, also on Australia's Sidney Morning Herald.

It goes back to World War I and the battle of Mont St Quentin in 1918. Many Australian soldiers were killed and now some of their unidentified bodies are to be reburied, along with some British soldiers. With the help of DNA samples some of the soldiers will now be named on their headstones.

The story I want to mention is about an old cornet musical instrument which will be used in the ceremony to play the Last Post.


Today's reburials of the lost men of Fromelles, conducted with full military honours, will unfold to the haunting sound of the Last Post - played on a battered old cornet which belonged to the 31st Battalion and was found and bought by a soldier's descendant on eBay.

Peter Nelson, whose grandfather survived Fromelles, had been researching the 31st Battalion when he spotted the cornet which was clearly inscribed with the name of the company as well as the instrument's donor, a Queensland grazier.

"It was three or four months back and I saw a dealer in NSW put it up for sale. I'm a member of the 31st Battalion association. … the battalion is still current in Townsville and in service," he told the Herald yesterday.

"It's battered and bent and seen quite a few years gathering dust somewhere but the dealer who saw it saw the inscription and a dollar in it. I had it restored, a few spare parts and it's back to working order. I got in touch with Tim Whitford, [a descendant] of one of the men, who put me in touch with General Mike O'Brien. They checked their musicians could play it and now it's on its way to France with the Federation Guard contingent."


May they rest in peace.

More information on the reburials:
WWI war dead reburied in special service

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