INSPIRED by research for her first book Postcards from the Front, author Margaret Clark has now written Carmichael's 1000 due for release this week. The book is the result of three years of research in the 36th Battalion AIF and will be the first time the history of the unit has been published.
It all started with a box found in the archives of the Wingham Museum. Margaret wrote Postcards from the Front after discovering more than 200 postcards from WW1 while volunteering her time at the museum. The book was published by the Manning Valley Historical Society in 2010 and started Margaret on a path of curiosity and emotional turmoil as she became immersed in the lives of the men who served. Reading their journals, letters and postcards took Margaret on a journey that didn't always have a happy ending. "It can be heart rending to discover on turning a page that there are no more entries and the soldier has been killed," said Margaret.
Margaret received a grant from the Army History Unit which helped with the cost of researching and travel. Putting an advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald was hugely successful and Margaret said she received an amazing response. She was sent stories and photographs as well as journals of men who served in the 36th Battalion.
Margaret traced all the men through the national archives. Researching the battles took Margaret to the War Memorial three times for a week each time and she put in considerable hours cross referencing the information contained in soldier’s journals to ensure the facts were accurate.
Margaret is now taking three months off to travel but has already begun the preliminary work for her next book. Moving on to WW2, Margaret will explore the experiences of her father who served with the 2nd/30th Battalion in Malaysia. While a prisoner of war (POW) of the Japanese he kept a journal of letters that couldn't be posted. Margaret's father also collected more than 60 poems from men in Changi which will also be published shortly.
Carmichael's 1000 - Their Triumphs and their Trials, A History of the 36th Battalion AIF will be available soon at the Wingham Museum as well as online including www.books-forever.net.au.
The 36th Battalion AIF by Margaret Clark
The 36th Battalion owes a lot to one man, Ambrose Carmichael. He was a member of parliament on the outbreak of war and decided to put his considerable talents to use in raising a battalion. Carmichael went to France with the battalion, serving as a Lieutenant. The battalion was raised partly among rifle clubs throughout NSW and partly through the use of posters. The men came from the four corners of the State, although the majority enlisted in either Sydney or Newcastle. There were two young teachers from Wingham in the battalion and a number of the men joined the North Coast Marchers as they marched south from Grafton. The men tended to be older than earlier battalions raised at the commencement of war and given the number of wounded who had already returned home had no illusions about the conditions that they were to encounter.
The battalion trained (in Newcastle) before leaving for Europe in May 1916. Their training continued at Lark Hill and they finally arrived in the Armentieres sector just in time for one of the coldest winters in 30 years. They suffered through the winter and were in place, acting as the carry party for the Battle of Messines Ridge. Their next major engagement saw them trudging through the mud and slime of the Passchendaele campaign, where, although they reached their objective, were forced to turn back. The conditions were against them and they lost a large percentage of their force. After yet another winter they were rapidly deployed to combat the German breakthrough on the Somme. Here they gained their greatest victory as they definitively arrested the German advance in front of Villers Brettoneux. This was to be their final major battle as at the end of April 1918 the battalion was disbanded and the men distributed among other battalions in the 9th Brigade. Their story as a battalion ends here but the men fought on – Amiens, the Hindenberg Line, the St Quentin Canal – in all of these engagements the surviving men of the 36th participated. Finally Victory and the long wait for a ship home for the survivors. Some, having survived the war fell to the scourge of the Spanish Flu.