Our Students Wrote a Book
Time for a reassessment…..To speed up the research the group leaders and I would go through the files at home and print off the attestation sheet, the medical page and the soldier’s casualty form- active service. Progress took a giant stride as the number of confirmed names rapidly increased. It also allowed the students to have a hard copy of each man’s service record to use later to write up their research.
However it also confirmed what Neil Smith had pointed out in his book. His research had limitations. His book was printed in 1993 when the internet was in its infancy and individual files had yet to be digitalized. Some of men were not at Beersheba as he had indicated and Ethan Schilling told us that his family believed that his great grandfather, JC Hunter 3241, had been in the charge, but not acknowledged as such in Neil Smith’s book. Jack Hunter’s file was accessed and it showed that he was with the 4th LHR on 31 October 1917. Neil had overlooked him. Were there others?
Possibly. Not to be a concern at the moment. Press on with this first step, print off the necessary sheets from the NAA website and confirm or reject the men who Neil Smith had suggested as chargers. We accomplished this before the unit ended. Our list at the end of term in 2005 had reduced possible chargers to 454. Logic suggested that not all these men took part in the charge. Some were shoeing smiths, drivers and cooks. They probably didn’t, but they could have. We kept them on our list.
As each charger was confirmed students worked in pairs to complete a template that included year and place of birth, occupation, residence, place and date of enlistment, height, weight, facial description, religion, marital status, next of kin and their address. A relatively easy task. The embarkation roll from the Australian War Memorial website was used to add the date, port and vessel of departure.
Compiling the service record was the most difficult task. Only four students were able to navigate their way through this part of file and I finally realised that I would have to assist them to compile this part. We would only do each man’s war service details to Beersheba. But enthusiasm and interest was waning.
When the unit ended at the midyear of 2005 we had our list of chargers and about 120 half completed profiles. Not a bad effort I thought. When the unit is offered again in 2006 I would be better prepared having a clearer understanding of student capability and if a couple of the keen students from 2005 came back we could just about finish the task.
My elective class in 2006 had been scheduled for second semester and 21 students had enrolled. All were Year 10. Eight of them had returned to continue the research, which was most gratifying. All were keen, willing and able and I knew they would persist with the task. Over the break I had perused all 441 files and sorted them into two piles. Those that had relatively easy service records to follow, then the rest. The class would do the first group and I would do the second group. I set up 3 groups of six, each with two students from 2005 as leaders. The other three would work on mapping the towns associated with each man and compile the table that would go with each map.
By the end of the unit we had a profile on each of the chargers up to 31 October 1917. Twelve maps and accompanying information were half completed. We had achieved far more than our initial step, which was to find out who from our part of the Wimmera was in the charge. We discovered that twenty-three of the chargers came from our area. And that the great grandchildren of two of them, Fred Robinson and Jack Hunter, were students at our college!
2007 arrived and it would be ninety years since the charge at Beersheba. The federal government announced that this event would be commemorated at Remembrance Day ceremonies on 11 November. It would also be acknowledged at Reserve Forces Day at Horsham on 24 June. Perhaps we could do something with our research…… Maybe a booklet……. We should apply for a grant……
Most of the material had been researched. The middle school elective unit timetable for second semester could put the finishing touches to it. Six students from 2006 were in my Year 11 Twentieth Century History class of ten and four of them were also studying Studio Art. If we received our grant they offered to finish off the maps and design a front cover…. Nothing like being positive.
I would complete each soldier’s war record and write up the historical details surrounding the charge.
Getting funding and other assistance
In May 2007 the college submitted an application for $3000.00 under the federal government’s Saluting Their Service Commemorations Grants. This was the maximum amount available under the two sections our project addressed- Public Awareness Activity and Schools Initiative. (In 2003 the college had been successful in obtaining that amount from this source to assist with publishing a book commemorating the men from the western half of Victoria who died at Gallipoli. We hoped that members of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Commemorations Grants Advisory Committee would be familiar with that book and look favourably at our application). Our local member, John Forrest MHR, also wrote a letter of support to the minister.