"Last Post" was originally a bugle call used in British Army camps to signal the end of the day. The name derives from the practice of inspecting all the sentry posts around such a camp at the end of the day, and playing a bugle call at each of them. The "last post" was thus the last point of this inspection, and the bugle call signalling that this post had been inspected marked the end of the military day. This custom dates from at least the 17th century, and originated with British troops stationed in The Netherlands, where it drew on an older Dutch custom, called Taptoe. The Taptoe was also used to signal the end of the day, but has more prosaic origin. Taptoe originated signalling the moment that beer barrels had to be shut, hence that the day had ended. It comes from the Dutch phrase Doe den tap toe, meaning "Turn the tap off" (not to be confused with "Taps" which has a similar function but different tune and origin).
During the 19th century, "Last Post" was also carried to the various countries of the British Empire. In all these countries it has been incorporated into military funerals, where it is played as a final farewell, symbolising the fact that the duty of the dead soldier is over and that they can rest in peace.
Last Post is used in public ceremonials commemorating the war dead, particularly on Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth of Nations and The Netherlands (known as Veterans Day in the United States). In Australia and New Zealand it is also played on ANZAC Day.
Since 1928 "Last Post" has been played every evening by buglers of the local Last Post association at the war memorial at Ieper (Ypres) in Belgium known as the Menin Gate, commemorating the British Empire dead at the Battle of Ypres during the First World War. The only exception to this was during the four years of the German occupation of Ypres from 20 May 1940 to 6 September 1944, when the ceremony moved to Brookwood Cemetery in England. On the evening that Polish forces liberated Ypres, the ceremony was resumed at the Menin Gate, in spite of the heavy fighting still going on in other parts of the town. These buglers are quite often mistaken as being from the local fire brigade; however, they are present every day representing the Last Post Committee. They are indeed members of the fire brigade, and can sometimes be seen wearing the uniforms, but it is not the Fire Brigade that organizes "Last Post".
"Last Post" was incorporated into the finale of Robert Steadman's In Memoriam, a choral work on the subject of remembrance. "Last Post" is also incorporated into Karl Jenkins's mass The Armed Man and Peter Sculthorpe's chamber orchestra work, Small Town from the Fifth Continent.