Last Post honour for WWI Jewish Digger Levy

MPs Michael Danby (front) and Mike Kelly lay a wreath for Sergeant Albert Levy during his Last Post ceremony at the Australian War Memorial.

THE Australian War Memorial (AWM) has honoured a World War I Jewish Digger on the centenary of his death in the Battle of Amiens.

On March 29, 1918, Sergeant Albert Levy of Melbourne led a patrol of 15 in advance of their unit, the 39th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force, to take on a German machine-gun post firing on them.

Levy was wounded in the leg by machine-gun fire. Stretcher bearers reached him but as he was carried back, he tried to sit up in the stretcher and was killed by an enemy sniper’s bullet.

Levy’s great-nephew Phil Lipshut of Melbourne joined several members of the Digger’s extended family at the AWM in Canberra on March 29, the centenary date of Levy’s death, for a Last Post ceremony at which his story was told.

Lipshut was at the ceremony with his son Jeremy, his sister Barbara Zmood and her husband Phil, his brother Clive Lipshut and Clive’s wife Regina, Clive and Regina’s son Mark, and Mark’s children Noah and Benjamin.

The family was joined by Melbourne Ports MP Michael Danby and Eden-Monaro MP Mike Kelly, who laid wreaths, as did Squadron Leader Phil Creagh and others from the Canberra Jewish community and Federation of Australian Jewish Ex-service Associations (FAJEX). After the ceremony, the MPs joined Lipshut in reciting Kaddish.

Kelly noted on Facebook that the ceremony occurred “poignantly on the eve of Pesach where we commemorate the fight for freedom”.

The 39th Association, representing descendants of soldiers from the 39th Battalion, were present for the wreath laying ceremony for Levy, one of 102,000 soldiers on the AWM’s Roll of Honour.

A 2003 article on Levy in The AJN was part of a submission by Lipshut to the AWM in nominating his great-uncle for a Last Post ceremony.

The submission included postcards Levy had sent home. In one, he confided to his mother that when he returned to Australia, he would ask his sweetheart Doris to marry him, but tragically his plans remained unfulfilled.

The postcards, along with a citation for bravery, became his legacy. Written in pencil, the cards, portraying the battlefields of France and Belgium, were discovered by Lipshut in his parents’ home and have become a treasured keepsake.

Levy was born in Ascot Vale in 1895. Joining the war in 1916, he was wounded twice in France and Belgium the following year. But he survived to make it to that fateful March day in 1918 at Amiens.

He had received a Military Medal for his bravery during a raid on a German camp in 1917, citing “his example of courage, determination and complete control of his men while under heavy fire helped largely in the success of the operation”.

After Levy’s death, his family would grieve again when the sergeant’s cousin, Alwyn Levy, was killed in a training accident with the Royal Flying Corps in London on April 25, 1918. “So Anzac Day this year marks the centenary of his death,” Lipshut reflected.

Lipshut has visited his great-uncle Albert’s grave marked by a Magen David among the crosses in the war graves’ extension of the Mericourt-L’Abbe Communal Cemetery in northern France.

Paying his respects to Levy for his bravery, FAJEX president Keith Shilkin added, “There are 102,000 names on [the AWM’s] walls but there can be only 365 Last Post ceremonies each year at the AWM, so it is a tribute to Phil Lipshut’s submission that Albert Levy is to be remembered this way.”

PETER KOHN

Sergeant Albert Levy.

A LETTER TO MUM

Excerpts from a postcard sent by Sergeant Albert Levy to his mother, a little over two months before he was killed in action.

20 January, 1918

Dear Mum,

My usual few lines to let you know I am OK and hope you are all the same, I’m pleased to say I got a lot of letters this mail, it’s a treat to hear from Aussie, you have no idea how we all look forward to home mails.

I have been in this place and am sending you these cards . . . you will get some idea of what the towns near the line are like, of course this is only one place of many but I will try and send some of all places I have been in . . .

I believe there are all sorts of tales going around about Doris and myself, of course you know how much is in them as far as people talk, but please God if I get back safe and sound and get on alright, she is my choice. I’m telling you this so you won’t think me underhanded.

Well Mum dear, I must close, with tons of love to all.

Your loving son,

Albert