Sounding the "Last Post"
The Last Post is one
of a number of bugle calls in military tradition which mark the
phases of the day. Where "Reveille" signaled the start
of a soldier's day, the "Last Post" signaled its end. It
is believed originally to have been part of a more elaborate
routine, known in the British Army as "tattoo", that had
its origins in the 17th century. During 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. He would be
accompanied by one or more musicians. The "first post"
was sounded when the duty officer started his rounds and, as the
party proceeded from post to post, a drum was played. The drum
beats told off-duty soldiers it was time to rest - if the soldiers
were billeted in a town, the beats told them it was time to quit
the pubs. "Tattoo" is a derivation of doe den tap toe,
Dutch for "turn off the taps", a call which is said to
have followed the drum beats in many a Dutch pub while English
armies were campaigning through Holland and Flanders in the 1690s.
(It is also from this routine that American practice of
"taps" or "drum taps" originated.) Another
bugle call was sounded when the party completed their rounds, when
they reached the "last post": this signaled the night
sentries were alert at their posts and gave one last warning to
any soldiers still at large that it was time to retire for the
evening. "Last Post" was incorporated into funeral and
memorial services as a final farewell and symbolises that the duty
of the dead is over and that they can rest in peace.
Sounding the Last Post,