Combat Colonels of the AIF in the Great War


Combat Colonels
of the AIF in the Great War
by David Clare Holloway

Published by Big Sky Publishing
In conjunction with the Army History Unit
RRP $34.99 in hardback
ISBN 9781922132970

Sadly David Holloway did not live to see the book he had toiled over for 6 years come to fruition, although he knew it was to be published. He died, aged 87, on 15 October 2014 after a series of strokes.

So what prompted him to attempt this project? In his preface, he says that over 50 years ago he asked his father, who had been an 18-year-old in the 41st battalion, who his colonel had been and the reply was that he had been ‘too busy to worry about such a thing’. So this became a retirement project. Having started with one battalion, he went on to include them all.

When I look at the work it has taken to research this book – and the author himself described the difficulties and the inconsistencies he encountered – it’s no surprise that the sources and further reading pages are substantial.

He has divided the book into six key sections reflecting the AIF organisation:

  • Infantry
  • Cyclist, Miner, Tunneller and Pioneer Units
  • Australian Light Horse
  • Imperial Camel Corps
  • Australian Artillery
  • Australian Flying Corps

Age, exhaustion, wounds, death and promotion all contributed to the rotation of battalion and formation COs. By the end of the war, CO appointees for the 60 infantry battalions, 15 light horse regiments, 25 artillery brigades, 5 machine-gun, 5 pioneer, 2 cyclist, 4 camel corps battalions and 5 ammunition columns reached almost 500; the number of individual appointments numbering close to 2000.

I think David Clare Holloway has done an excellent job in addressing the lack of documented history of Australia’s combat colonels from the Great War. From these pages emerge the men who shaped Australia’s battlefield history – both the professional soldiers and the former teachers, accountants, salesmen, clerks, farmers and others from a broad range of occupations whose leadership on and off the battlefield proved so crucial.

Another book for your bookshelf!

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