Archive for the ‘The book’ Category

Project Update

19 August, 2009
Birthplace of the 56th: Tel el Kebir camp between Cairo and the Suez Canal in early 1916 (AWM photo C00207).

Birthplace of the 56th: Tel el Kebir camp between Cairo and the Suez Canal in early 1916 (AWM photo C00207).

Sorry I’ve been a bit of a slack blogger – as you might have noticed I haven’t made a post since March. I guess I’ve just been devoting all my spare time to the book and have kept pushing the blog to a lower priority.  Anyway, I thought I’d better provide a quick update on where we’re up to with the book.  As I can see from the blog stats there are quite a number of people who check it out.  I’m always happy to see and hear of the number of people interested in our project.

Over the past few months I’ve been concentrating on 1917 (a very eventful year) and have now finished writing the chapters on that whole year.  The major battles were Louverval, Bullecourt, and the biggest was Polygon Wood.  It literally took me months to properly research and write this, their biggest battle, in the sort of detail I wanted to. Since then I’ve moved into researching and writing about the first few months of 1918 and am now writing about the German spring offensive of March.  Meanwhile, Nick has been beavering away on the earlier period; i.e. 1916 and the Egypt days. He is currently writing about Fromelles, the battalion’s first big battle. (more…)


Progress update – slowly but surely

18 June, 2008

Fletch and Dan coming back to Igri Corner from Lagnicourt

Well I haven’t posted anything on the blog for three months which is probably a bit slack of me, so I thought I’d provide this quick update – just so you know we haven’t turned up our toes or anything…

Nick and I have both been very busy with work commitments, managing our sections at the Memorial, preparing the next Memorial exhibition, Advancing to Victory, 1918  (due to open late October), and Nick has also been over in France and Belgium for a couple of months, leading battlefield tour groups.

But anyway, work continues on the 56th Battalion book, slowly but surely.  Nick’s been working on 1916, while I’ve been concentrating on 1917.  I’ve been reading a lot about Bullecourt, just going over the events to get them firmly in mind so I can get a better perspective on it.  Not that the 56th played a very large role there – they didn’t, really only coming in for the last week of fighting there during mid May.  Still, it was a very hot few days in the cauldron where they suffered quite a few casualties and played a small part in repulsing the seventh and final counterattack of the Lehr Regiment.  I’ve also been piecing together events of a milder nature, during the so-called ‘long rest’ between the end of Bullecourt and Polygon Wood, and working on expanding the lead-up to the Polygon Wood battle.  Last year I wrote a short article about this battle which will form the nucleus of the chapter on one of the unit’s key events.  You can read this article online.

Apart from that, I’ve also been reading my way through several collections of personal letters and diaries which always make fascinating and fulfilling reading.  I’ll make a few brief posts on some of these individuals over the next couple of months I imagine.  Another task has been the ongoing compiling of a nominal roll.  So far we’ve identified about 2,000 men.

It’s great to hear from relatives and other interested parties who have, over the past few months, been steadily emerging as they hear about this project, and offering up photos, letters and diaries.

Writing about Louverval

15 January, 2008


Recently I’ve been writing about the battalion during the early months of 1917.  Most of the events seem fairly mundane, but interesting nonetheless.  They started the year on the Somme, slowly pushing forward through the mud, then the frost and snow towards Bapaume.  Then during March they were pursuing the Germans as they retreated back to the Hindenburg Line.  As April rolled around, the battalion became involved in their first set-piece, full battalion attack on the small hamlet of Louverval.

Well, I’ve found researching and writing about ‘my first battle’ very interesting, and also very challenging.  I was able to find quite a good amount of information to work with, however I think I made it harder for myself because I approached it from the wrong end, so to speak. (more…)

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.

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.