A rare find leads to a mystery solved

Fort Queenscliff Museum reveals the secret identity of the author of the ‘Twelve Months with the Australian Expeditionary Force’.

Soldiers during World War 2
A rare find leads to a mystery solved
A rare find leads to a mystery solved

Many museums have an item or two that almost every other similar museum keeps. A small, dark blue book, titled Twelve Months with the Australian Expeditionary Force is one such item, found in the library of Fort Queenscliff Museum in Victoria . While the book can be found in libraries around Australia and overseas, including the Australian War Memorial and the Dakota Wesleyan University in the United States of America, this copy, which on first appearance may appear run of the mill, is in fact one of a kind. 

The author of the book, which was written in 1916, is simply noted as "An ANZAC". In the Preface, he explains why he wrote the 110 page account of his time at ANZAC Cove and other parts of the peninsula: “Lying in bed in hospital, I have just finished reading an article written by a man who has two hours on the Gallipoli Peninsula, and if an account of two hours’ work made an interesting article, then I claim that having been on the Peninsula for seventeen weeks with the First Division, in a battalion that was in every important engagement that took place on the Peninsula, my own story should be of interest.” The author considered the campaign to be a success due to keeping the Turks occupied and the subsequent high enemy casualties “easily three times as many men as we have lost”. 

As a brief account of the Gallipoli campaign the book is a product of its time. The author writes with pride about his colleagues and leaders. He shares experiences and anecdotes that readers may find familiar. His account of the discovery of a spy seems fanciful but intriguing at the same time. In his opinion, a Sergeant J. S. Duffey should have won a Victoria Cross (V.C) for rescuing two men under fire and against orders. He felt certain that an Army Medical Corps (AMC) man (whose name escaped him) was going to be “Our first V.C.” This AMC man took water and provisions to the firing line, and brought the wounded back on his small donkey. The donkey was found alone one day munching on some grass with the body of the man located a few metres away down a gully. The account contains all the well-known battles including Lone Pine, and the subsequent temporary truce with the “Turks” to bury fallen soldiers. 

While the book may be similar to those elsewhere, this cannot be said for the typed manuscript also found in Fort Queenscliff Museum. The manuscript is identical to the book except for the signature of C. G. Richardson, late of the 8th Battalion Australian Imperial Force. Museum Volunteer Archivist and Historian, Jason McGregor, found these items during his work at the Army Museum and through extensive research confirmed that C.G Richardson was indeed the author. 

Mr McGregor tracked the journey of Private Cyril George Richardson to verify if he was the author. He discovered that Private Richardson embarked from Port Melbourne at 9am on 19 October 1914 on the “Benalla’. His service records match the author’s story right down to an injury that sends him to Lewisham Military Hospital. In the book, “An ANZAC” refers to a groin injury. Private Richardson’s service record reveals that the injury was more serious but in the same region. At the time of the book’s publication his story seems to end. This coincides with when Private Richardson was sent home from the Western Front suffering from Shell Shock. Further research of public records from the era reveals little more about Private Richardson than what is available in his service record. 

Through Mr McGregor’s work, and a little luck, the author of the Twelve Months with the Australian Expeditionary Force has been revealed. The mystery of how the manuscript and the book ended up in the library is yet to be solved.