Hearing The Last Post is always special

Peter Williams gets ready to play The Last Post at this year's Digger Day.
Peter Williams gets ready to play The Last Post at this year's Digger Day.

His bugle is a bit battered but Peter Williams loves this instrument and playing The Last Post at local memorial services – here is his story.

“I am Peter Williams, a Nasho (National Service) bugler and I would like to share some thoughts with you which I trust will not only be of interest but also answer some questions.

My first recollection of participating in a defence forces celebration was in 1946, marching down Hunter Street, Newcastle, playing with the Salvation Army Band in the Second World War victory celebration march and here I am now, 70 years later in my 80s well past the brass players ‘use by date’ still playing The Last Post and Reveille at over 30 Shoalhaven remembrance and funeral services a year, including 20 Anzac services in April, sometimes three a day at schools, churches Masonic Lodges and cenotaphs.

The Last Post is often confused with ‘Taps’ the American equivalent which we often hear on television, movies and even sung - there are no words to The Last Post.

There is only one Last Post for the British Empire and Commonwealth but there are many and varied Reveilles for the different country’s armed services and even sections of the services.

In Nowra I play the Navy Reveille or ‘Wakey Wakey’ as it’s affectionately known because Nowra is a Navy Town and with many serving and ex-service navy personnel residing in the district it’s more recognisable.

The Last Post and Reveille are generally played on the cornet or trumpet by a local member of the officiating brass band, sometimes only a recording.

I use a battered 120-year bugle from the Boer War and First World War and although harder to play it’s most fitting for the occasion.

Although the trumpet and bugle are similar in sound the trumpet because of its three valves or buttons can play over 36 different musical notes where the bugle only plays five - the least number of any musical instrument including strings reed or brass.”

Mr Williams is passionate about The Last Post and his bugle – see video below.

Peter Williams plays The Last Post

More about The Last Post

In military tradition, the Last Post is the bugle call that signifies the end of the day's activities. It is also sounded at military funerals to indicate that the soldier has gone to his final rest and at commemorative services such as Anzac Day and Remembrance Day.

The Last Post is one of a number of bugle calls in military tradition that mark the phases of the day. While Reveille signals the start of a soldier's day, the Last Post signals its end.

The call is believed to have originally been part of a more elaborate routine, known in the British Army as "tattoo", that began in the 17th century.

In the evening, a duty officer had to do the rounds of his unit's position, checking that the sentry posts were manned and rounding up the off-duty soldiers and packing them off to their beds or billets.

The officer would be accompanied by one or more musicians. The "first post" was sounded when he started his rounds and, as the party went from post to post, a drum was played.

The drum beats told off-duty soldiers it was time to rest; if the soldiers were in a town, the beats told them it was time to leave the pubs.

The word "tattoo" comes from the Dutch for "turn off the taps" of beer kegs; Americans call this "taps" or "drum taps".

 Another bugle call was sounded when the officer's party completed its rounds, reaching the "last post" – this signalled that the night sentries were alert at their posts and gave one last warning to the other soldiers.

The Last Post was eventually incorporated into funeral and memorial services as a final farewell, and symbolises the duty of the dead is over and they can rest in peace.

Source Australian War Memorial