An online nominal roll

Abbott, Frank
Abbott, Samuel
Abbott, William
Adams, Bert
Adams, Frank
Adams, James                               
Alchin, Charles…

In most good unit histories, a substantial chunk of paper at the end of the book is taken up by long lists of thousands of men who served in the unit.  Such nominal rolls are essential I believe, and not only simply record the names, but also form a part of commemorating the men and the unit as a whole.  However…

… they do indeed have their drawbacks and limitations.  For one, they take up quite a bit of precious space in the book.  Secondly, compiling nominal rolls takes considerable time and effort, and there’s no point doing it at all if you’re not going to do a good and thorough job.  And finally, as soon as you go ahead and print and publish the book, you can be sure that someone (perhaps many somones) will pipe up and demand, ‘Where is my Grandfather’s name?’ or ‘The info on great-uncle Freddy is all wrong!’

So, to get to the point of this post, we’re considering avoiding these pitfalls by producing a nominal roll for the 56th online, rather than actually in the book.  That way we can have a ‘living’ nominal roll; one that can be maintained, i.e. updated if we find new info and can have errors fixed.  We see other benefits aside.  Photographs (expandable thumbnails) could also be added, as well as additional brief biographical details.

Other online supplements

We’re also thinking of other possible supplements to the book which could be carried online.  These could include the following:

  • More detailed footnotes
  • Research notes
  • More detailed maps
  • Scans of personal correspondence
  • Photos that didn’t make it into the book
  • Ordering information

Anyway, were just thinking about the scope of our online supplements at this stage.  It will depend on time, money, resources and of course our IT skills as well.  We’re pretty certain we’ll go ahead with the online nominal roll though.  Not sure when we’ll put it up, nor if it will go up on this blog.  It might have to sit on a proper web site, but can of course easily be linked to this blog. 

Any thoughts, comments or suggestions from interested parties on this?




20 Responses to “An online nominal roll”

  1. Robert McIntyre Says:

    G’day Craig,

    Well still trying for more information on Harold W. Russell, No 5447. DOW 25/2/1917. doing some good but having trouble finding living relatives, been searching Goulburn, Gunning, Yass, Young and elswhere.

    How much time do I have please.

    Also how did you go with his mate A.E. Ellis No 3191 or 3971 (remember you said there may have been a typo). Also another person who gave a version of the wounding was Pte J.H Brown No 5248.

    Did I tell you about the two brothers from down Tumut or Tumbarumba way that were from Russell’s unit and were killed shortly after him and they may have known each other?

    anyway really imterested as to how much longer I can continue to research.
    oh have some photos coming of his grave site in France, courtesy of my son who visited the cemetery.

    regards, Bob Mcintyre, phone 02 47511773 or 0417 792239 idf you need to talk

    Editor’s response: Hi Bob, nice to hear from you again. Plenty of time for researching – we don’t anticipate finishing the book until the second half of 2009. Yes, I have all the boys you mentioned above listed on the nominal roll we’re compiling. The brothers were Herbert and George Heineke of Tumbarumba, killed in March and May 1917 respectively.

    Arthur Ellis’s number was definitely 3791. He joined the AIF in Oct 1915, originally with 9th reos fo 20 Bn. He was a tall man, just under 6′. Joined 56 Bn in Apr 1916. Wounded in late 1916. Went to mining and sniping schools through middle of 1917. Detached to tunnelling company in late 1917, wounded and gassed a few times, then rejoined 56th in 1918. Killed in action 17th April, 1918, must have been somewhere near Villers-Bretonneux.

    James Brown joined the AIF in Nov 1915, originally with 16 reos for 4th Bn. Transferred to 56 Bn in May 1916. Transferred to 5th Div Depot at end of 1916. Continually in trouble for disciplinary problems and AWOL, he eventually got court martialled in 1918. Transferred to 1st Machine Gun Battalion in mid 1918. Returned to Australia 1919.

    Thanks again for your interest and assistance


  2. Christopher Stear Says:

    I’ve just started researching the AIF history of my Grandfather Victor John Canty (2606) whose service record says he was posted to the 56th Bn from 6th Rein 20th Bn on 16/2/16.

    No doubt your work will be of valuable assistance. If I can help let me know.

    Christopher Stear
    Gold Coast

    Editor’s response: Hi Christopher, thanks for contacting us. We hadn’t yet identified your Grandfather as a 56th man, so thanks for letting us know about him. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about him, or need assistance with your research.

    Do you have any of his photos or personal papers?


  3. Damien Newton Says:

    Hi Craig

    I was interested to read about Arthur Ellis as he was my great uncle, the information above is correct. He was killed near Villers-Bretonneux and is buried in the Crucifix Corner cemetery which is about a mile from the Villers-Bretonneux railway station.

    Editor’s response: Thanks for your comment Damien. Next week I’ll be touring the Western Front battlefields. If we go to Crucifix Corner Cemetery I’ll look him up and pay my respects.

    Did any of his photos or personal papers survive? The Memorial would at least like a photo of him for his online Roll of Honour entry.


  4. Damien Newton Says:

    Hi Craig

    We may have a photo of Arthur that could be used, where would you like it sent? It will be a scanned copy. I hope your trip goes well I visited the area and Arthurs’ grave in 1991.

    He also had a brother, Thomas Ellis 4107 19th Battalion, who was killed on 14th November 1916 in Bullecourt. Is there a project similar to this one for the 19th Battalion?

    Editor’s response: Hello Damien, if you’d like to send a copy of the photo, please send it to my work email,

    I haven’t heard of any current history projects about the 19th.



    • John Gray Says:

      Hello Damien, saw your comments on the 56th site. there is currently a book in progress on the 19th battalion. If you have a photo of your relative you would like included, I can send you the details. contact – regards John Gray

  5. Glenn Mason Says:

    My opinion is that the book should come with a nominal roll and I know of plenty of other people that feel the same way. A simple errata can fix any problems up down the track.

    Online supplements is a great idea.

    I have referred someone who has material that you may be interested to you today.

    Look forward to the book launch.


    Editor’s response: G’day Glenn, many thanks for your comment and for referring people to us. Haven’t heard from anyone new in the past couple of days, but hope to soon anyway. See the next comment in this category for our consolidated response on the topic of nominal rolls.


  6. Mick Martin Says:

    Hi Craig,

    I think the idea of an online nominal roll is interesting however as someone who collects books and uses them for research, I like to have a nominal roll as part of the book – especially when I am not near a computer and the internet.

    A lot of people (especially elderly) also don’t have internet access or are comfortable accessing it.

    Just my 2 cents worth…




    I am looking forward to when it will be out.

    Editor’s response: Hi Mick, many thanks for your comment on this blog. We do value all your opinions and are really pleased to see the level of interest in the book out there.

    On the issue of nominal rolls, what a coincidence, you’ll notice another person made a similar comment within the same hour you did. Perhaps a lobby group at work !!!

    To be honest, I have heard the same thing from one or two other individuals (as well as yourself and Glenn), and on the other hand I’ve had quite a few positive responses to the idea of a purely online nominal roll. So opinion is divided and that’s not surprising I suppose.

    Personally I’m not a fan of printed lists of names as they’re so inflexible and can realistically only convey very elementary details. I work a lot with this sort of thing at the Memorial and out-of-date and incorrect lists are the bain of my life it seems – well at times anyway.

    As Glenn pointed out in the previous comment, sure, an errata can address errors, but really only those discovered in time to slip the errata into the book. I don’t imagine our book will go to second editions or more, so our first printing will likely be our only chance to get it right. Honestly I would anticipate finding errors and new names for perhaps years after the book is published, and would like to fix the roll up over time and enhance it. It really is mind-boggling even when compiling a roll for a battalion, how much time and effort has to go into a nominal roll if you want it to be accurate and complete.

    Not sure that I agree with you about lack of access to the web among older people. My experience has been that a really surprising amount of older people are online and quite web-savvy – particularly those with an interest in history and genealogy.

    Anyway, I’ve discussed this with Nick and we will certainly take onboard these concerns about not having a roll in the book itself. We’ll discuss it with our publisher and editor, who of course will influence the outcome considerably. If we can fit a nominal roll in the book we will, however if it boils down to space and having to make cuts, I reckon the roll would have to go in favour of more important material. So here’s hoping – if we can get away with it, the best outcome might be to have a nominal roll in both the book and a “living” updateable one online.

    Craig & Nick.

  7. Andrew Burton Says:

    Dear Craig,

    Please include a nominal roll in your work on the 56th Battalion it would be such a shame not to. Many people buy unit histories due to family interests and look forward to seeing their family member mentioned in the book.

    Further, the doyern of unit history writers and collectors Syd Tregellis Smith (now deceased but whose collection amounted to more than 10,000 books) stated that a unit history with out a nominal roll is not a true unit history.

    Regards Andy Burton

  8. Andrew Burton Says:

    P.S. Dear Craig,

    I hope I did not offend you with the quote of Syd Tregellis Smith I did not mean to sound as if I putting your work down. I commend anyone who endeavours to keep alive the memory of our first AIF.

    It is just that to most collectors I know look forward to a nominal roll in a unit history, as do a number of researchers.

    Please let me know when you finish your work as I would like to purchase a copy when it is available.

    Editor’s response: Hi Andy, no worries mate, definitely no offence taken. Nick and I are happy to hear the opinions and advice from all interested parties. In fact we’re delighted to see people so keenly interested in our project. As you’ll see from earlier discussion on this nominal roll topic, others have expressed views the same as yours and we do take this advice seriously. Probably the best outcome would be if we can manage to have a roll both in the book and online.



    1.I am trying to find the name of a Digger for a friend and I hope that you might be able to assist or give me a few pointers as to where I might go next.

    2. My limited information is as follows:

    * His first name was George and it is understood that he came from the Moree region.(Therer were quite a few “Georges ” from the District !!)

    *I have a photo posted from England dated 30 August 1916 that shows George as a Corporal holding a swagger cane.I could pass this vide email if required.

    * He was a member of the 13 Training Battalion (A Coy) at Rollestone Camp at Salisbury England in August 1916.If indeed the 56th was at Rollestone in August 1918 and a nominal roll exists ,then I might be able to narrow my research.

    * The Colour Patch on his right shoulder would indicate to me that he was probably a reinforcemment for the AIF 5th Division and probably the 56th Battalion but this is just a guess on the possible colours from the photo.

    3. I have scanned the list of WW1 diggers from the Moree War Memorial website that is attributed to Donna Briggs. In this context I would appreciate advice if anyone has a record of those Moree WW1 Diggers -such as full names,official numbers,battalions to which they were assigned etc that I might be able to access to find “George”.

    4. Hope you can assist.


    Peter Hugonnet

    Editor’s response: Hi Peter, please go ahead and email me the photo and I’ll see if I can figure it out. Can you also let me know how or where you obtained each piece of info you’ve mentioned above? For example, how do you know he was in A Coy, 13 Trng Bn in August 1916?


  10. Len Muir Says:

    Hi Craig. I have photos of the sergeants of the 56th taken at Cootamundra Showground 23/11/1939 and Walgrove Camp May 1940, my father Thomas PB Muir is in them, he enlisted in the Militia at Temora on the 15/03/1938 ( No431687) LC. – AIC 28/06/1940 ( 92 40 ) WO2. – Joined the School Staff O.T.S 19/02/1942 (NX 161 577) WO1. There are some other photos of training on Temora Showground as well as other camp photos. If they are of value to you I would be happy to provide you with some copies. I now live at Nowra, PO Box 1420 Nowra 2541 M 0412380946. Look forward to hearing from you.

    Kind regards,

    Len Muir

    • Craig Tibbitts Says:

      Hi Len,

      Many thanks for the offer but our history focusses only on the First World War AIF 56th Battalion.


  11. Donna Hayward Says:

    Hi Craig

    Just found this site about the 56th Batt which my grandfather was in his name is Leslie Batten Hill… so can you tell me..have you written a book on the 56th batt if so where can I purchase it?? as I don’t know much about him in the war as he never spoke much about it… I just got interested in all of this as they have just discovered my GreatUncle in the graves at Fromelles he was George V Benson 30t Batt we are going over for the service in July…I have bought many books on the 30th Batt but can’t find anything on 56th…

    • Craig Tibbitts Says:

      Hi Donna,

      Thanks for contacting us and for your interest in our book. We’re still actually writing it and hope to finish later this year. I will add you to our list of people to be contacted when it’s ready for sale. Otherwise just keep checking this blog site for updates on progress.

      I’ve checked our nominal roll and we do indeed have your grandfather listed. It appears he joined the 56th Battalion on the Western Front a few days after the Battle of Fromelles in July 1916 and was with them until war’s end. More details about him are available on his service record which you can view online here.

      Do you know if any of his letters, diaries or photos of him have survived? If so, please let me know as we’d be interested in seeing them.


  12. Alison Says:

    Hello Craig & Nick

    My Great Grandfather, Alfred Barclay served in the 56th. I have been following your work with interest over recent months, while I have been researching his history.

    I am currently living in France and will be in Villers-Bretonneux next week for the ANZAC day ceremonies and hope to visit many of the sites where the 56th fought. Your research has been very helpful in assisting me with planning this.

    I would greatly appreciate being added to the list of people you will notify when the book is complete and if you could check if Alfred is included in your nominal roll.

    Thank you for all your hard work so far.

    • Craig Tibbitts Says:

      Hi Alison,

      Nice to hear from you. We have your great grandfather listed on our nominal roll and also have noted that he died in April 1938. Would that be correct according to your research? Our info for that date came from a post-war journal, Reveille.

      I hope you have a nice Anzac Day over there in France and that the weather will be fine. Just remember when you stand in the car park at the bottom of the Villers-Bret Cemetery, you’ll be practically on the very ground the 56th held when they fought off the German attack on 24 April 1918.

      I will definitely add your contact details to our list.


  13. K. Chambers Says:

    Just come accross this for the first time and am most impressed by the work you have done. I hope you have finished the book but where can I buy it?
    My Great Uncle was in C Co. 56th Btn. and died at Polygon Wood on Sept. 26th 1917. His name was David Howarth, I beleive he was a Buglar. I have a few extracts from letters from a Pte. Harold Woodley 5480 who says he died by being hit with a “dud” shell and was bured in a shell hole in Polygon Wood.
    His regimental number was 2412 and enlisted on 21 March 1916 was a private and embarked from Sydney on board HMAT A60 Aeneas on 30th September 1916.
    I have not got much more info on him than that he was 19 y.o. 5.3in tall.
    I would love to know more but am not able to find anything.
    I will get on this blog from time to time to see how its going.
    Good luck with the book.
    Any info would be appreciated.
    Kind Regards
    K. Chambers

    • Craig Tibbitts Says:

      Hello and thanks for your comment on the 56th Battalion blog. The info I have on your great uncle comes from his personal service record and also the Red Cross Wounded and Missing files. In the latter, Private Harold Woodley describes him as being ‘about 16’ years old, which I think would have close to his true age.

      On his service record it shows that David joined the AIF in March 1916 and said he was 19 yrs and 11 months old. It also records that his mother’s name was Ellen and that he was born in Narrandera. When I checked the NSW historical births, deaths and marriages registers I found that David Howarth (parents Isaac and Ellen), was indeed born in Narrandera, but in 1900.

      So that means David would have only been between 16 and 17 when he enlisted and between 17 and 18 years old when he died.

      I don’t suppose you have any photos of him do you?

      The book has not yet been published by the way, but I’ll put you on the list of people to be contacted when it’s ready.


      Craig Tibbitts
      Senior Curator
      Official & Private Records
      Research Centre
      Australian War Memorial

      Ph: (02) 6243 4248
      Mob: 0439 603 051

  14. john f murphy Says:

    would there be a picture of the 9th reinforcement for the 20th bn as I understand they became part of the 56th

    • Craig Tibbitts Says:

      Hi John, yes a portion of 9/20th Battalion did transfer into the 56th, but sorry, I’m not aware of any group photo of them.


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