In military tradition, the Last Post is the bugle call signalling the end of the military day. Historically, it was part of ‘Tattoo’, thought to have originated with British troops stationed in Holland during the 17th century.
The custom included the First Post which marked the start of evening inspection (beginning at the first sentry post). In between the sounding of First and Last Post, a drum was beaten to call off-duty soldiers in from local hostelries. The word tattoo comes from the Dutch for “turn off the beer taps”.
The Last Post was eventually incorporated into military funerals where it symbolises that the duty of the dead is over and that they can rest in peace. It is an equally important and moving component of commemorative services held each Remembrance Day and ANZAC Day in Australia.
On these occasions the Last Post is followed by a minutes silence, which is broken by another bugle call – either Reveille, or more usually, the Rouse.
Reveille derives from the old French word meaning ‘wake up’ and for hundreds of years has been sounded to awaken soldiers at sunrise. While the Last Post is associated with death, Reveille symbolises resurrection.
A shorter call, the Rouse, was the signal for soldiers to arise and attend to their duties. While the Rouse is most commonly used in conjunction with the Last Post at remembrance services during the daytime, Reveille is the bugle call heard at ANZAC Day dawn services.
This year’s ANZAC Day $1 uncirculated coin marks 100 years since Gallipoli. Portraying a line of diggers with the inscription Lest We Forget, the coin is housed in a display card illustrated with a silhouetted Australian trumpeter sounding the Last Post and Reveille.