Guest post by Kim Phillips, the historian behind Spirits of Gallipoli
In November 2000 when I first walked the beach at Anzac Cove, I had little idea of the effect that visit would have on me, or the journey it would take me on. There is an aura at Anzac, a ‘spirit’. Those who have visited will know.
When I returned to Australia I wanted to learn more about Gallipoli and the Australian soldiers who were commemorated there. There is no shortage of books about the campaign. However, I found it difficult to find the names of the Australian soldiers who were buried or commemorated there, our First Anzacs.
I decided that the only way, really, to obtain an accurate list of the names was to visit and photograph every headstone and memorial. I began putting a list together. It would also be great if I could match a photograph of the soldier to the name on the memorial or headstone. Also, were the men commemorated on memorials in Australia and elsewhere? Photos of those memorials could also be added to the list. What about their families, what happened to them?
And so, the Spirits of Gallipoli Project was born. And now you can search the 7,249 Australian Imperial Force [AIF] men researched and laid to rest at Gallipoli on Ancestry.com.au, and view not only their records but also, where available, their portraits, headstones, and memorials. Click here to start searching today.
For nearly 15 years I gathered together all this amazing information and felt that I wanted to put it all together in a book. But I could not decide on the focus of the book, what would I write about? How would I set it up? Then I met Garrie Hutchinson. Garrie suggested that I write about 100 of the men….and call the book “A Centenary of Anzacs”. The pieces fell into place and I had a plan.
The Spirits of Gallipoli, A Centenary of Anzacs looks at 100 of the 7,249 Australian soldiers who died serving their country. Their stories are in chronological order of their dates of death, and tell the story of the Gallipoli Campaign.
But, it is not a military history, it is the story of Australian men, of what happened to them, and of what happened to their families. Back in Australia, families and friends were devastated by the deaths of these men. They spent the rest of their lives trying to deal with the trauma. Sons, whose graves could never be visited; children who would grow up missing a father; wives who could never forget. Their stories too, needed to be told.
While the Spirits of Gallipoli focuses on men who died, thousands more served, suffered and returned home. I have endeavoured to locate, use and reference as many different resources as I can when telling the stories of the men. My hope is that if other families had men serving at Gallipoli then the references would assist them in their research.
Another great source of information has come from family members. For them, the grief is still raw. They have shared their stories and photographs with me. They have allowed me into their families and have shared that grief. They have brought the soldiers to life, told me about who they were and how their families suffered. I am proud to have had the chance to meet them and to get to ‘know’ their soldiers.
The CD that accompanies this book contains around 50,000 files. There are photographs for two out of every three Australian soldiers who died. Nearly 1,100 war memorials and honour boards have been located and photographed. Hundreds of newspapers and books have been searched.
Now, with the book and CD available, and the collection accessible on Ancestry.com.au, I feel a sense of relief. To have my work available to relatives and researchers has always been my ultimate goal.
The Gallipoli Campaign of World War I is often seen as a defining moment for Australian and New Zealand national consciousness. This collection includes records of soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) who died at Gallipoli in WWI. You’ll find a digital database of service records, plus digital images of portraits, headstones, and memorials. Details from the records can include:
- service number
- embarkation and enlistment data
- death date
- cause of death