Head Military History Section

Ashley Ekins

Ashley Ekins has worked as a military historian at the Memorial since 1990 and was appointed Head of the Military History Section in 2007. A graduate of the University of Adelaide (First Class Honours degree in history), he specialises in two areas of military history: the First World War and the Vietnam War. He has published widely on Australian military history and has delivered numerous research papers at international conferences as well as popular presentations to visitors and veterans organisations. Ashley is frequently consulted by the media and delivers interviews and commentary on military history issues for radio, television and the press, and he has appeared in a number of major documentary films. He has studied the Gallipoli campaign extensively, visiting Gallipoli on over twenty occasions to explore the battlefields with Turkish, Australian and British historians. Since 1996 he has led the Memorial’s annual battlefield tours to Gallipoli as tour leader and historical guide.

Ashley researched and wrote two volumes of the Official History of Australian Involvement in Southeast Asian Conflicts 1948-1975, covering Australian Army ground operations in Vietnam: volume eight, On the Offensive: The Australian Army in the Vietnam War, 1967-1968 (co-authored with the late Dr Ian McNeill) was published in 2003; and the ninth and final volume in the series, Fighting to the Finish: The Australian Army and the Vietnam War 1968-1975, was released in February 2012.

His other recent books include 1918 Year of Victory: The end of the Great War and the shaping of history (published in 2010 and shortlisted for the Templer Medal) and War Wounds: Medicine and the trauma of conflict (co-edited with Elizabeth Stewart, published in 2011). Ashley also compiled new contributions and wrote the introduction to the Memorial’s third edition of The Anzac Book (published in 2010). His latest book is Gallipoli: A ridge too far (released in April 2013).

Ashley is the supervising editor of Wartime, the Memorial’s military history magazine and has been a regular contributor of articles to the magazine since its first issue in 1997. He was the principal organiser of three highly successful history conferences at the Memorial in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and he is currently involved in planning a major conference, Gallipoli 1915: a century on, to be jointly hosted in partnership with the Australian National University on 23-25 March 2015.

Books published

Ashley Ekins (ed.), Gallipoli: A ridge too far, Exisle Publishing, Auckland, 2013

Ashley Ekins with Ian McNeill, Fighting to the finish: the Australian Army in the Vietnam War 1968–1973, Sydney, Allen and Unwin in association with the Australian War Memorial, 2012 (the ninth and final volume of The official history of Australian involvement in Southeast Asian conflicts 1948–1975)

War Wounds: Medicine and the trauma of conflict (co-edited with Elizabeth Stewart), Exisle Publishing, Auckland, 2011

1918 Year of Victory: The end of the Great War and the shaping of history (compiled and edited), Exisle Publishing, Auckland, 2010

Ian McNeill and Ashley Ekins, On the offensive: the Australian Army in the Vietnam War, January 1967 – June 1968, Sydney, Allen and Unwin in association with the Australian War Memorial, 2003 (volume eight of  The official history of Australia’s involvement in Southeast Asian conflicts 1948–1975)

A guide to the battlefields, cemeteries and memorials of the Gallipoli Peninsula, Canberra, Australian War Memorial, 1998 (revised edition 2000, third revised edition 2002, fourth revised edition 2008, fifth revised edition 2012)

Chapters in books

“A ridge too far: the obstacles to allied victory”, chapter 3 in Ashley Ekins (ed.), Gallipoli: A ridge too far, Exisle Publishing, Auckland, 2013

“‘Chewing cordite’: self-inflicted wounds among soldiers of the Great War”, chapter 2 in Ashley Ekins and Elizabeth Stewart (eds), War Wounds: Medicine and the trauma of conflict, Exisle Publishing, Auckland, 2011

“A ‘precious souvenir’: the making of The Anzac Book”, Introduction, The Anzac Book, Third edition, University of New South Wales Press, Sydney, 2010

“Fighting to exhaustion: morale, discipline and combat effectiveness in the armies of 1918”, chapter 7 in Ashley Ekins, (ed.), 1918 Year of Victory: The end of the Great War and the shaping of history, Exisle Publishing, Auckland, 2010

“A ridge too far: military objectives and the dominance of terrain in the Gallipoli campaign”, in Kenan Çelik and Cehan Koç (eds),The Gallipoli campaign: international perspectives 85 years on, Çanakkale, Turkey, Atatürk and Gallipoli Campaign Research Center, Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University, 2002

“Australians at the End of the Great War”, chapter 9 in Hugh Cecil and Peter H. Liddle (eds), At the eleventh hour: reflections, hopes and anxieties at the closing of the Great War, 1918 (London, Leo Cooper, 1998)

“The Australians at Passchendaele”, chapter 15 in Peter Liddle (ed.), Passchendaele in perspective: the third battle of Ypres (London, Leo Cooper, 1997)

Articles and papers

"Hueys, slick, Albatross and Possum: the ubiquitous helicopter in the Vietnam War" (with Elizabeth Stewart), Wartime, issue 61, January 2013, pp. 54-7

“Surrounded by enemy: last stand in Vietnam”, Weekend Australian, 3-4 March 2012, Inquirer, p. 17

“‘A very close thing indeed’: the battle of Long Tan”, Wartime, issue 55, July 2011, pp. 34-38

“Unique memorial – the Long Tan Cross”, Wartime, issue 55, July 2011, pp. 39-41

“Unravelling the riddles of Long Tan” (with Ian McNeill), Wartime, issue 55, July 2011, pp. 42-47

“Battle for hearts and minds”, Wartime, issue 55, July 2011, pp. 57-59

“Leaving Gallipoli: perceptions from the Turkish side”, Wartime, issue 53, January 2011, pp. 36-41

“Bloody Ridge: the assault on Lone Pine”, Wartime, issue 47, July 2009, pp. 24-29

History under fire”, Wartime, issue 46, April 2009, pp. 6-7

“The worst war in history”, in Insight, The Age, 8 November 2008

The battle of Fromelles”, Wartime, 44, October 2008

“Gallipoli – the eternal battlefield”, Capital, 35, September–October 2008

“The battle of Operation Bribie”, in Sunday Focus, Canberra Sunday Times, 18 February 2007

“Ghosts of Vietnam”, in Forum, Canberra Times, 19 August 2006

“VC ambush plan backfires”, in Vietnam 40 years on, Canberra Times, 18 August 2006

“Against all odds”, The Bulletin, 26 April 2005

“Exploding the myths of Gallipoli”, The Bulletin (Cover story), 27 April 2004

“The Unknown Australian Soldier”, Wartime, 25, 2004

“Attack from within: A ‘fragging’ incident at fire support base Bravo ... what did happen?”, Wartime, 24, 2003

“The life and trials of the 106th Battery”, Forum, Canberra Times, 13 September 2003

“Killing ground”,The Bulletin, 16 September 2003

“One step from death”, history page, Daily Telegraph, 18 August 2003

“Minefield of misery”, Herald Sun, 16 August 2003

“Luck, valour, victory”, Weekend Australian, 16–17 August, 2003

No known grave”, Wartime, 23, 2003

“Death in the minefield”, Wartime, 22, 2003

“Death due to friendly fire: the life and death of WO Jack Kirby”, Wartime, 21, 2003

“Lessons of a lost war”, The Bulletin (cover story), 8 October 2002

“Without question, a hero”, Wartime, 18, 2002

“Our dashing hero”, Sunday Age [Melbourne], 6 January 2002

“The Turkish hero of the Dardanelles”, Wartime, no. 9, 2000

“One Australian’s grave on Gallipoli”, Wartime, no. 8, 1999

“A Private War”, The Age [Melbourne] 14 November 1998

“The end of the Great War: Australian soldiers and the armistice of November 1918”, Wartime, no. 4, 1998

“Farewell to arms”, Daily Telegraph [Sydney], 11 November 1998

“Australia celebrates”, The Age [Melbourne] special feature supplement to mark the 80th anniversary of the end of the Great War, 10 November 1998

“Slaughter in France”, Daily Telegraph, 4 July 1998

“Gallipoli: lest we forget”, Sunday Telegraph, 4 January 1998

“Date with destiny”,Daily Telegraph, 13 November 1997

“Byways to hell: Australian soldiers in the battle of Passchendaele, 1917”, Wartime, no. 1, 1997

“‘Not one scintilla of evidence’? The media, the military and the government in the Vietnam water torture case”, Australian journal of politics and history, 42, 1996

“The Unknown Australian Soldier: memory and meaning”, La grande guerre: pays, histoire, mémoire. Bulletin du centre de recherche, Historial de la grande guerre, 7, 1994

Public talks and academic conference papers

“A unique memorial: the Long Tan cross and the battle of Long Tan”, talk delivered to Friends of the Memorial, volunters and sponsors, BAE Systems Theatre and galleries, Saturday 1 September 2012

“Lessons from a long war – the Australian Army in Vietnam”, presentation delivered to the United Services Institute of the ACT, R1 Theatrette, Russell Offices, Department of Defence, Wednesday 20 June 2012

“Vietnam, the battle of Long Tan 45 years on – unravelling the riddles”, presentation delivered to the United Services Institute of the ACT, Spender Theatre, Australian Defence College, Weston Creek, Wednesday 3 August 2011

“The history of the Australian War Memorial and Charles Bean’s vision”, talk delivered to the Canberra International Music Festival, Australian War Memorial, 19 May 2011

“A ridge to far: the obstacles to allied victory”, paper delivered at international conference, Gallipoli: a ridge too far, BAE Systems Theatre, Australian War Memorial, 5 August 2010

“Gallipoli, the enduring legend”, public talk as part of a joint with Peter Burness and Peter Pedersen, “Gallipoli – courage, controversy, catastrophe”, BAE Systems Theatre, 5 April 2009

“Fighting to exhaustion: morale, discipline and combat effectiveness in the armies of 1918”, paper delivered to international conference, 1918 Year of Victory, BAE Systems Theatre, Australian War Memorial, 27–28 November 2008

Interview on the history and significance of the Gallipoli campaign, ABC Television, interpretive program, ANZAC Day Dawn Service, ANZAC Commemorative Site, Gallipoli, 25 April 2008, broadcast live on ABC2 digital TV

“Why did the US lose in Vietnam?”, paper delivered to Strategic Studies course at the Australian Command and Staff College, Canberra, 26 March 2008

“Official history in conflict: writing the soldiers’ war”, paper delivered to the Australian government summer school for teachers of Australian history, Australian National University, Canberra, 22 January 2008

“The Australians at Passchendaele, 1917”, research paper delivered at international conference, Dead Reckoning: Passchendaele 1917, convened at In Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres, 16 November 2007

“On writing official history”, Memorial Anniversary Oration, Telstra Theatre, Australian War Memorial, 9 November 2007

“Operation Bribie: a pivotal battle”, presentation delivered to the 40th anniversary reunion of Vietnam Veterans of 6RAR and A Squadron 3 Cavalry Regiment, Bribie Island RSL Club, Queensland, 17 February 2007

“‘I order you to die’: Atatürk as military commander on Gallipoli, 1915”, presentation delivered at the conference on the occasion of the 125th birthday of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Turkish Embassy, Canberra, 8 December 2006

“The battle of Long Tan: winners and losers, 40 years on”, public presentation, Telstra Theatre, Australian War Memorial, 18 August 2006

Interview on the battle of Long Tan for feature story, “The forgotten heroes”, broadcast on Sixty Minutes, Channel Nine, 13 August 2006

“Revisiting the battle of Long Tan”, presentation delivered to Australian War Memorial Voluntary Guides, Telstra Theatre, Australian War Memorial, 2 August 2006

“Five myths of the ANZAC landing”, presentation delivered to Families and Friends of the First AIF conference, Telstra Theatre, Australian War Memorial, 21 February 2004

“Dilemmas of a long war: the Australian Army in Vietnam”, talk delivered at Speaker’s Luncheon, The Commonwealth Club, 21 August 2003

“Lessons from a long war: writing the official history of the Australian Army in the Vietnam War”, public lecture, Telstra Theatre, Australian War Memorial, 5 October 2002

“The assault on Lone Pine, 6 August 1915: feint or folly?”, paper delivered at symposium, Gallipoli: the August Offensive, Telstra Theatre, Australian War Memorial, 5 August 2000

“A ridge too far: military objectives and the dominance of terrain in the Gallipoli campaign”, paper delivered at international conference The Gallipoli Campaign: International Perspectives, 2000, convened by Onsekiz Mart University, Çanakkale, Turkey, 24 April 2000

“Master of the battlefield: the dominance of terrain in the Gallipoli campaign, 1915”, paper delivered at international conference Terrain in Military History, convened by the University of Greenwich, London, 6 January 2000

“‘A new basis for discipline’? Military crime and punishment among Australian soldiers on the Somme, 1916”, paper presented at the Colloque international (international history conference) convened by the Historial de la grande guerre in Péronne, France, 1–4 July 1996, on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the battle of the Somme

“Larrikins, criminals or victims? Australian soldiers and military discipline in the First World War”, paper presented before the Canberra and District Historical Society, Canberra, 14 April 1992

“‘Not one scintilla of evidence’? The water torture case of October 1966”, paper presented at the Australian War Memorial History Conference, Canberra, 15 November 1991

“Crime and punishment on Gallipoli: Australian soldiers under British military law”, paper presented at the Australian War Memorial History Conference, Canberra, 12 July 1990

“Taming the Diggers: the other face of the ANZAC legend”, paper presented at the Australian Historical Association Conference, University of Sydney, 9 February 1988

Contributions to television documentary films

Historical advice and filmed interview for television documentary on Australian VC winners, For valour, by Bearcage Productions, broadcast on The History Channel, beginning on ANZAC Day 2009, and DVD available publicly

Historical advice and extended interview on the Gallipoli campaign and the experience of visiting Gallipoli for documentary feature, Gallipoli: brothers in arms, by Andrew Denton, Enough rope, ABC Television, 26 April 2007

Historical adviser, contributed to script development and recorded extensive interview for Foxtel-commissioned documentary, “The battle of Long Tan”, directed by Damien Lay, premiered on the History Channel, 16 August 2006

Interview on the battle of Long Tan for feature story, “The forgotten heroes”, Sixty Minutes, Channel Nine, 13 August 2006

Historical adviser, contributed to script development and extensive interview for feature-length documentary film, Gallipoli: the frontline experience, directed by Tolga Örnek, premiered at Australian War Memorial, April 2005

Historical adviser and recorded extensive interview for documentary, Simpson, the man with the donkey, produced and directed by Ed Skelding, Granada Television, UK, 2001–02

Historical adviser and extensive interview for documentary feature film, 1918 remembered: brothers in arms, by Chris Masters, broadcast on Four Corners, ABC Television, 9–10 November 1998

Historical adviser and extensive interview on discipline and punishment among Australian soldiers in the First World War and executions by firing squad, for documentary feature story, “ANZAC tragedies revealed after 80 years”, by Ross Coulthart, Sunday, Nine Network, 8 November 1998; updated program, “ANZAC pardons”, broadcast as lead story on Sunday, Nine Network, 13 November 2005

 

 

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