|The Last Post
Post" call signals the start of the duty officer's inspection of
Army camp's sentry posts,
sounding a call at each one. First published in the 1790s,the
Post" call originally signalled merely that the final sentry
post had been inspected, and the camp was secure for the
night. In addition to its normal garrison use, the "Last
Post" call had another function at the close of a day of battle.
It signalled to those who were still out and wounded or
separated that the fighting was done, and to follow the sound of
the call to find safety and rest.
Its use in Remembrance Day ceremonies in Commonwealth nations has two generally unexpressed purposes: the first is an implied summoning of the spirits of the Fallen to the cenotaph, the second is to symbolically end the day, so that the period of silence before the "Rouse" is blown becomes in effect a ritualised night vigil. The "Last Post" as played at the end of inspection typically lasted for about 45 seconds; when played ceremonially with notes held for longer, pauses extended, and the expression mournful, typical duration could be 75 seconds or more.
This custom dates from the 17th century or earlier. It originated with British troops stationed in the Netherlands, where it drew on an older Dutch custom, called taptoe, from which comes the term tattoo as in Military tattoo. The taptoe was also used to signal the end of the day, but originated from a signal that beer taps had to be shut, hence that the day had ended. It comes from the Dutch phrase Doe den tap toe, meaning "Close the tap". The Dutch bugle call Taptoesignaal, now used for remembrance events, is not the same tune as the "Last Post".
The "Last Post" was used by British forces in North America in colonial times, but was replaced by the different "Taps" by the United States Army, first used in 1862 and officially recognized in 1874