Archive for December, 2007

District contingent publications

14 December, 2007

bathurst.jpg    wellington.jpg    parramatta.jpg    yass.jpg

I’ve been going through a few publications held in the Australian War Memorial’s library, about the contingents of men who enlisted from the various regional districts in New South Wales.  The 56th Battalion was recruited from the southeastern triangle of NSW, including Sydney, the Hunter, Central and Southern Tablelands, the Southwest Slopes and a little farther west into the Riverina districts.

I’m finding these a very useful source for checking against the nominal roll we’re compiling and for finding photographs.  They seem to be quite well researched and comprehensive, and in some cases they also provide short biographical details on individual soldiers.

Apart from the four shown above, I’d be glad for any advice on other such books people might recommend.




The Half Hundredweights – Provisional title

3 December, 2007


Naturally we’ve been toying around with possible titles for the book, although in these early days it’s not been high on our priority list.

From the above image (found at the back of a 1917 war diary), we’ve taken the provisional title for the book as The Dinkum Half Hundredweights, although we may yet drop the word ‘dinkum’.

Anyway, this nickname came from their battalion number; i.e. a hundredweight being 112 pounds, and 56 being half that.

Unit war diaries

3 December, 2007


One of the most important primary sources we’ll be using are the unit war diaries.  These were maintained by the unit on a monthly basis during the war and contain a wealth of details about a unit’s activities, both of a routine administrative and an operational nature. The original diaries are kept at the Australian War Memorial. 

Digitisation of the entire collection of First World War AIF diaries has commenced and these are progressively being made available for viewing online via the Memorial’s website.

The 56th Battalion’s and the 14th Brigade’s diaries are listed under ‘Infantry’.

Introductory Post

3 December, 2007

This blog is intended to support a research project – the writing of a unit history for the 56th Infantry Battalion,  Australian Imperial Force during the First World War.  The authors would be interested to hear from anyone who might have information about men who served in this unit.  We have access to all the official papers, but what we’re really interested in is personal stories, especially things like diaries, letters, postcards or photographs.

The authors, Craig Tibbitts and Nick Fletcher are both employees of the Australian War Memorial.  After working together on an exhibition at the Memorial called To Flanders Fields 1917, we hit on the idea of writing a unit history.  By chance a member of the public mentioned two relatives who died on the same day in 1917, both of whom were in the 56th Battalion.  An article about these men was written and it was realised that they belonged to one of the few Australian infantry battalions that never had a history written or published following the war.  By remarkable coincidence it turned out that both the authors’ grandfathers served in the unit as well.

And so the decision was made to write this wrong and honour the memory of the 56th with a published unit history.  Thanks to the Australian Army History Unit, the book is now underway and will be published sometime probably in late 2009 as part of the Australian Army History Series.