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"At a mile distant their thousand hooves were stuttering thunder, coming at a rate that frightened a man - they were an awe inspiring sight, galloping through the red haze - knee to knee and horse to horse - the dying sun glinting on bayonet points..." Trooper Ion Idriess

The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre aims to present an accurate history as chroniclers of early Australian military developments from 1899 to 1920.

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Monday, 9 February 2009
Swan Barracks History, Part 1, the Site
Topic: Gen - St - WA

Swan Barracks


Swan Barracks, Francis Street, Northbridge, Western Australia


The following history, Swan Barracks, Francis Street, Northbridge is extracted from a booklet produced by the 5th Military District in 1992. It is well researched and put together for anyone to read.


Part 1, The Site

The present site of Swan Barracks would be all-but unrecognisable to Perth's earliest inhabitants.

An 1833 plan of the colony shows the ground occupied by the barracks (half a hectare) was once covered by a system of "fresh water swamps with rushy margins".

The swamps restricted early development but by the 1870s the area had been subdivided, some lakes drained or built over, and market gardens were flourishing.

The low-lying land was, however, regularly flooded. The resulting health risks and crop destruction prompted construction of a large drain connecting Lake Kingsford (now the railway station) to Claise Brook in East Perth.

With the physical barrier of the lakes removed expansion to the north was made practicable, but a town planning decision was about to establish a more lasting barrier.

Construction of the Perth railway system in 1879-81 linked Perth with Guildford and Fremantle but cut the northern part of the city from the well established commercial centre.

Erection of the Barrack Street Bridge in 1894 and the Horseshoe Bridge in 1903 did not bring the area out of economic depression as planned, and it gradually gained an unsavoury reputation.


Museum building at the corner of Beaufort and James Streets


At the time the barracks was being built the area was better known for its trade in intimate services than in goods. In 1900 most of Perth's 45 brothels were in Northbridge.

While prostitutes were hard at work so too were the builders. Gold rushes in the Kimberley, Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie brought money and people to the colony along with a public building boom.

The boom saw construction of the barracks, the art gallery, the library, law courts and the Perth Boys School but it was short lived and by 1910 construction had all-but ceased.

Calls for the development of the area as a "cultural precinct" in 1955 were ignored and the red lights of the older professions blazed ever more brightly in Roe Street.

The unseemly reputation of the area was eventually buried beneath another public building boom in the 1970s which saw construction of the museum administration building (opposite the barracks) and the new Art Gallery.

The cultural base was extended again in the 1980s with development of the Alexander Library and Perth Technical College (immediately north of the barracks).

Swan Barracks' near-Gothic facade may now seem out of place in the present cosmopolitan landscape. That notwithstanding, the buildings continue to provide a tangible Army link with Northbridge's colourful past.


Swan Barracks, 1992


Further Reading:

Swan Barracks History, Part 1, the Site

Swan Barracks History, Part 2, the Building

Swan Barracks History, Part 3, the Soldiers


Citation: Swan Barracks History, Part 1, the Site

Posted by Project Leader at 11:01 PM EAST
Updated: Friday, 13 February 2009 2:24 PM EAST
Amiens, France, August 8, 1918
Topic: BatzWF - Westn Front


France, 8 August 1918


Amiens, or the Third Battle of the Somme, is the name given to the blow delivered on 8 August 1918 against German forces by the British Fourth Army and the French First Army. The British part of the operation - aimed at driving the enemy east, away from Amiens, for a distance of' up to eleven kilometres-was launched by three corps: the British 3rd north of the Somme River; the Australian south of that river and north of the Amiens-Chaulnes railway line; and the Canadian on the Australian right, between the railway and the Amiens-Rove road. The Canadians were brought down from Arras in great secrecy, while the Australian Corps was augmented by the return of its 1st Division from the Lys front. Guns were silently registered onto their targets rather than ranged by firing a few rounds. Also assisting the success of the attack were 430 British tanks, whose assembly was carefully masked using aircraft noise-a device successfully employed by Monash at Hamel (q.v.).

The battlefield was thickly covered in fog when massed British guns brought down the creeping barrage which signalled the start of the advance at 4.20 a.m. Little more than three hours later the enemy's front trench system had been overrun. In the Australian Corps sector, the 4th and 5th divisions passed through the 2nd and 3rd divisions, who had led the assault until then, and pushed ahead to the second line of objectives another three kilometres further on. By midafternoon these, too, had been taken. For a time the British corps in the north had fallen behind the required rate of progress, thereby allowing the 4th Division's left flank to be exposed to fire from enemy forces north of the Somme around Cérisy, in what was called the Chipilly peninsula. Despite this, the Australians pressed their advance to the second objectives - catching in the process hundreds of German support and reserve troops in the Morcourt valley - Allen continued on with the third and final stage, still with the enemy firing into their flank and rear.

By nightfall both the Allied armies had reached their final objectives south of the Somme. A shattering blow had been dealt to the enemy, who suffered 27,000 casualties (including 16,000 prisoners, 7,925 taken by Australians) and 450 guns captured. Among the latter was an 11-inch gun mounted on a railway carriage, with which the enemy had been shelling Amiens from near Harbonnières; this was attacked by a British aircraft, then British cavalry, and finally secured by Australian infantry. All this had been won for a cost to the attackers of 9,000 casualties (about 2,000 of whom were Australian). In the words of General Erich Ludendorff, 8 August had been the German Army's 'black day' of the war which showed the conflict's final outcome now to be inevitable.

The advance was continued on 9 August, the main emphasis being on the southern front with the Australians mainly engaged in pushing out apace to cover the Canadians' northern flank. This gave rise to further actions over the next three days (see Lihons, Etinehem and Proyart), however, in the face of stiffening enemy resistance, progress was not as spectacular as on this first day, nor were arrangements so well co-ordinated. As a consequence, by 14 August AIF losses climbed to 6,000 (1st Division 1,931: 2nd Division 1,295; 3rd Division 1,095; 4th Division 784; and 5th Division 886)-most of these being incurred during 9-12 August.

Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, pp. 151-152.


Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:

H.S. Gullett (1944) The Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine, Sydney: Angus & Robertson.


Further Reading:

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: Amiens, France, August 8, 1918

Posted by Project Leader at 11:01 PM EAST
Updated: Sunday, 5 April 2009 12:08 PM EADT
Ottoman Records - Serviceman's death records
Topic: Tk - POWs

Ottoman Service Records and the treatment of Mehmet

Within Turkey today when examining war memorials devoted to the Great War, one absence is quite noticeable. There are no individual names recorded. At first this was tied to the cult of personality in the form of Ataturk.

In the last decade beginning in the mid 1990's, there has been a relaxation of this cult and the names of individuals are rising to the surface. To its great credit, the Turkish General Staff has put together a five volume work called "Sehitlerimiz" or "Our Martyrs" which provides the details of the Ottoman and Turkish soldiers who have died in service to that state. There are many names missing from this list but it is a good foundation and the Turkish General Staff are to be commended for putting forth this research into the public arena.

There were two chronic problems with Ottoman record collection regarding those who died in service during the Great War.

The first related to the fact that record keeping was decentralised. The initiating roll book of the town in the province from whence the soldier was the solitary only record within the Ottoman system which maintained something akin to a service file. All actions that related to that particular soldier that generated a record ended up with that particular roll which was amended accordingly to keep in line with the change in status. In theory, this is most the most effective way of keeping contact with the soldier and the relatives and finally any post war entitlements. However, it relies upon three variables which the Ottomans rarely had under their control:

1. The location of the record within the Ottoman Empire;

2. The ability to maintain that roll through the postal and delivery service within the Ottoman Empire; and,

3. The ability of the unit to which the soldier belonged to make such a report.

Post war Turkey had many provinces and towns severed from it and distributed to other nations. With this dismemberment went also the roll books held by those towns. Many disappeared or were deliberately destroyed. Within Anatolia, similar events occurred, especially during the periods of expulsion of various invaders. That we have any surviving records is in itself testimony to those few Turkish clerks who understood the value of their records and protected them accordingly.

During the war, the lines of communication were poor at the commencement and as the war ground on, were degraded considerably further. Thus it was a hit and miss affair for a piece of information to arrive at the appropriate destination.

The back of a captured Ottoman document used for a report


Finally, if the unit to which the soldier belonged was destroyed, captured or fled without their records, then anything relating to casualties would not be transmitted. When records fell into Allied hands, they went to the Inteligence Section for translation and analysis. The records were not returned to the Ottoman authorities afterwards.

The capture of Ottoman documents was always a good day for the fortunate Regiment involved in receiving them. Paper that was obviously of no value to the Intelligence Section were snapped up as writing paper as there was a huge shortage of paper in the units. Above illustrates the situation. This captured Ottoman page contains a proforma accounting document originally set in a book with perforations that allowed the original to be separated and sent to the relevant authority. It was captured at Damascus and this particular page including others from this book were recycled as part of a report on the action at Kunietra in September 1918. This illustrates how Ottoman paper was employed once it was captured and formed part of war booty for the Allied Regiment.

An example of how this played out. Two battalions of the 81st IR were captured at Magdhaba on 23 December 1916. While there were nearly a hundred Ottoman deaths at this battle, not one death has been recorded within the Ottoman files. Hence we have no idea as to who these men were or where they came from. All the records relating to this Regiment were captured and so nothing was sent to the town rolls and so they were not amended to reflect the status post 23 December 1916.

To give an illustration of the enormous proportions of this problem, when 12,000 Ottoman troops surrendered at the Baramke Barracks in Damascus, 1 October 1918, they were confined to a POW camp which was poorly administered. Quite quickly, a cholera epidemic broke out killing many people, Allied and Ottoman alike. However, because of the conditions at the POW camp, at the height of the epidemic, over 100 deaths per day were recorded. Once the epidemic had been controlled and no one died of cholera any more, nearly a thousand Ottoman soldiers had died. To dispose of the bodies, mass graves were dug and the men tossed in. Below is a contemporaneous picture of this event.

The picture was taken at Damascus in October 1918 at the height of the cholera epidemic.

The reality is that none of the men in this pit was ever recorded for the Ottoman rolls. They are just nameless men buried in a pit.

Ottoman soldiers, who were cholera victims, buried in a mass grave, Damascus, October 1918


This was the fate of many Ottoman soldiers who died as a consequence of service to the empire.

At the end of the day, the records held by the current archives dealing with the deaths of Ottoman soldiers during the Great War reflect at most about 10% of the total deaths leaving about 90% of the Ottoman casualties without a name or a known place of burial.

As remains of Ottoman soldiers are found around the old battlefields, we can only guess as to the origin and unit of these men. They too will remain nameless as individuals.

The German records are a little better but the KuK (Austro-Hungarian) are just as good as the Ottoman records.


Citation: Ottoman Records - Serviceman's death records

Posted by Project Leader at 4:45 PM EAST
Updated: Monday, 9 February 2009 4:50 PM EAST
Bert Schramm's Diary, 9 February 1919
Topic: Diary - Schramm

Diaries of AIF Servicemen

Bert Schramm


During part of the course of his military service with the AIF, 2823 Private Herbert Leslie Schramm, a farmer from White's River, near Tumby Bay on the Eyre Peninsular, kept a diary of his life. Bert was not a man of letters so this diary was produced with great effort on his behalf. Bert made a promise to his sweetheart, Lucy Solley, that he would do so after he received the blank pocket notebook wherein these entries are found. As a Brigade Scout since September 1918, he took a lead part in the September 1918 breakout by the Allied forces in Palestine. Bert's diary entries are placed alongside those of the 9th Light Horse Regiment to which he belonged and to the 3rd Light Horse Brigade to which the 9th LHR was attached. On this basis we can follow Bert in the context of his formation.

 Bert Schramm's Diary, 9 February 1919


Bert Schramm's Handwritten Diary, 9 - 13 February 1919

[Click on page for a larger print version.]


Bert Schramm

Sunday, February 9, 1919

Bert Schramm's Location - Tripoli, Lebanon.

Bert Schramm's Diary - Sun. I received two letters today. One from mother and one from Lucy No. 14 dated the 19th December. Everything was well at home.



9th Light Horse Regiment War Diary

9th Light Horse Regiment Location - Tripoli, Lebanon.

9th Light Horse Regiment War Diary -  1000 Short Church of England service held in the YMCA. Other denominations had their church service in Recreation Tent.



Darley, TH, With the Ninth Light Horse in the Great War, Adelaide, Hassell Press, 1924.

No Entry

Previous: Bert Schramm's Diary, 8 February 1919

Next: Bert Schramm's Diary, 10 February 1919


Further Reading:

9th Light Horse Regiment AIF War Diary - Complete day by day list

Bert Schramm Diary 

Bert Schramm Diary - Complete day by day list


Additional Reading:

Darley, TH, With the Ninth Light Horse in the Great War, Adelaide, Hassell Press, 1924.


Citation: Bert Schramm's Diary, 9 February 1919

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Sunday, 3 May 2009 9:47 PM EADT
The Battle of Rafa, Sinai, 9 January 1917, 3rd Light Horse Brigade, AIF Roll of Honour
Topic: AIF - 3B - 3 LHB

The Battle of Rafa

Sinai, 9 January 1917

3rd Light Horse Brigade, AIF

Roll of Honour


Poppies on the Roll of Honour, Australian War Memorial, Canberra


The Roll of Honour contains the names of all the men from the 3rd Light Horse Brigade, AIF, known to have given their lives during the Battle of Rafa, Palestine, 9 January 1917.


Roll of Honour 


William GILBERT, 10th Light Horse Regiment


Frederick Edward HICKS, 3rd Light Horse Machine Gun Squadron


Walter Douglas KNOWLES, 10th Light Horse Regiment

George MCCURDY, 3rd Light Horse Machine Gun Squadron


Cecil Helary SINCLAIR, 10th Light Horse Regiment


Lest We Forget



Further Reading:

3rd Light Horse Brigade, AIF

3rd Light Horse Brigade, Roll of Honour

The Battle of Rafa, Sinai, 9 January 1917

The Battle of Rafa, Sinai, 9 January 1917, Roll of Honour

The Palestine Campaign, 1917 - 1918

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: The Battle of Rafa, Sinai, 9 January 1917, 3rd Light Horse Brigade, AIF Roll of Honour

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Tuesday, 1 February 2011 7:10 AM EAST

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