VILLERS-BRETONNEUX, France, April 23 AAP – Whether it’s at a state funeral, a sporting event or a nursing home, every rendition of the Last Post is equally important to veteran bugler Ashley Thomson.
But performing the haunting call during the Anzac Day dawn service in France, at a site of family significance, will be especially moving for the 55-year-old Tasmanian.
When Army Reserve Corporal Thomson stands high on the tower of the Australian National Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux on Friday, he’ll be within sight of the land where his grandfather bravely fought almost a century ago.
Arthur Leonard Thomson was wounded on day one of the landing at Gallipoli, but recovered to return to service on the Western Front.
He was severely wounded in Pozieres, 30 kilometres from Villers-Bretonneux, but survived a bloody battle that claimed the lives of around 23,000 Australians in 1916.
“He was buried alive with two others who died,” Cpl Thomson told AAP.
“He was severely injured with internal organs moved and disabled for the rest of his life.
“But he went on to serve in the Second World War on the home front.
“This event is a special one for me.”
Cpl Thomson performed the Last Post at the state funeral for the last living Gallipoli veteran, Alec Campbell, in 2002.
He also played at the Anniversary of the Battle of El Alamein in Egypt in 2012 and an AFL match in Launceston in 2009, among many other events.
With almost 35 years experience, Cpl Thomson won’t be overwhelmed on Friday, but performing the Last Post is always emotional.
“I treat every one the same,” he said.
“If I do a nursing home with six people and I’m seeing them face-to-face you still get a chill, or if it’s at an AFL match it’s insane and there are people everywhere,” he said.
“Big or small, I just hope it means something to them.”
Many who are part of Friday’s service have strong personal ties to the event.
Private Aleksei Raymont, a soldier who served in Afghanistan in 2012 and 2013, is a member of Australia’s Federation Guard and will form part of a catafalque party during the ceremony.
His father Warwick has compiled a list of 21 extended family members who died in combat, several of whom are buried in cemeteries on the Western Front.
“The family history is very important to me and I’m here to pay my respects to them,” Pte Raymont said.