Archive for the ‘Official records’ Category

Update – Nominal Roll

25 February, 2009

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…


A Sinn Fein connection?

28 February, 2008


While trawling the database for relevant Commonwealth archival records, I came across an interesting file title; ‘Officers of 56 Battalion with Sinn Fein sympathies.’

We know the 56th Battalion inherited a strong Scottish heritage from its parent battalion, the 4th, but it’s also apparent there were quite a large number of men of Irish heritage.  Indeed as Ron Austin, the author of a recent 4th Battalion history tells us, a pre-war nickname of those militia battalions forming the core of 4th Battalion was ‘The Macks and Micks.’  Of course Irish republicanism came to a head during the war, especially with the Easter Rebellion of 1916, and in Australia, the political situation of Ireland was always an ongoing sensitive issue.

This is apparently a police file held in the Melbourne branch of the National Archives, and is dated 1918.  I’ll have to request a copy and see what it reveals.  Could be interesting…

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’.