Update – Nominal Roll


A page from the battalion's nominal roll book. Near the top it lists the Heinecke brothers, George and Herbert, both of whom were killed in 1917.

It’s been a while since my last post, but work is still progressing steadily with research and writing of the book.  Alongside that, we’ve also continued to build the battalion’s nominal roll.  We’re hoping to make it as complete as possible (within reason), by using a variety of sources.

These include source records held by the Australian War Memorial such as nominal rolls, embarkation rolls, the Roll of Honour and personal service records (held by National Archives).  Of great help in crunching the numbers more efficiently has been assistance provided by Professor Peter Dennis and his AIF database (see Links), which brings the aforementioned sources together into one searchable database.

A lot of manual work has also gone into compiling this roll, including simply checking if names are on it when they are found in a variety of documents.  We’re also lucky to have a battalion nominal roll book in the Memorial’s collection which covers most of the battalion’s existence from about mid 1916 through to late 1918 (see image above).  I’ve actually employed my two teenage kids to go through copies of this roll and double check against what’s on our working roll (an Excel spreadsheet at this stage).

So far we’ve got almost 3,500 names and are confident that we’ve captured over 95% of the men who served in the battalion.  We’re trying to include everyone, no matter how brief their stay in the battalion was, so it’s a lot of extra work.  The men who joined the battalion late from another unit, and left it before the end of the war are the most difficult to find.  There are bound to be a few of these types that fall through the cracks but with all the sources and cross-checking I’m confident we won’t miss many at all. 

I reckon my eyes have now been over every single man’s name, to the point where if I see a name in a document, I can often say, “Oh yeah, I’ve seen him on the roll” and move on.  I really need to get a life…


One Response to “Update – Nominal Roll”

  1. David O'Sullivan Says:

    Dear Craig,

    Having read your entry I must congratualte you on your effort and “virgin” researchers such as myself will no doublt find this beneficial.

    My Grandfather : Dudely Joseph O’Sullivan
    Service Number: 3856
    Rank: L Corporal
    Unit: 20th Battalion / 56th Battalion / AAOC

    He was initially with the 20th Battalion but was then transferred to the 56th on 3/4/16 and was then tranferred to the AAOC on the 12/2/18.

    Thought I might contact you in case he is one of the “harder” ones to find.

    I might also add that while serving with the 56th he was recemended for the Meritorious Service Medal by Officers Lieut-Colonel AJC Simpson and Capt. Plomley. Although recomended he was not awarded the medal and was subsequently mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig’s Dispatch of 7/4/18. He was recomended due to his efforts on a night in October 1917 at Broodseinde Ridge where he was Temp Corporal of No. 14 Platoon – I have a copy of the recomendation form.

    I have also been to Polygon Wood and other sites around Ypres and for some reason cannot stop wanting to know more about the 56th.

    If there is any detailed info on the 56th you can point me in the direction of it would be appreciated.

    Best regards,
    David O’Sullivan

    Editor’s response: Hi David, thanks for your comment. Your grandfather is indeed in that category of more difficult men to track down for a nominal roll, having joined the battalion late, and left it early. I didn’t have him on my list so far, however I’ve just looked in old handwritten nominal roll and he is there, so we would have found him soon anyway. But many thanks for letting us know in any case, I’ll put him on the roll now.

    I don’t suppose you’ve turned up any photos of him or wartime correspondence?

    As for detailed information on the 56th, the battalion war diaries are available for you to download and read online (for free). They’re available here. They can be a bit dull to read and often difficult to understand though. When our book comes out, hopefully it will contain a reasonable level of detail, while being much more readable than the war diaires.


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