Wednesday 4 July 2012 by Stuart Bennington. 7 comments
Anzac Connections, Collection, News

On occasion a totally unexpected document walks in the front door and into Official Records.  Recently a report made at Gallipoli was generously donated by Cindy Osborne to the Memorial.  The document in question is a handover report from the Commanding Officer 26th Infantry Battalion to the Commanding Officer of the 28th.  The Russell Top handover report is a most welcome addition to the Official Records held at the Memorial, for although we hold the War Diaries of the units involved, supporting reports such as this one are rarely present in the Gallipoli records.

The front page of the report from Russels Top. AWM255 [51]

The report was written when the Battalion commanders would have been unaware that they were only weeks away from being evacuated.  It is a detailed set of instruction on how the position (Russells Top) should be maintained and held against the enemy.  Of particular interest is the page regarding “Works proposed and in course of construction”, this mentions deepening trenches and providing overhead shelter for the fire trenches.  Activities that would be unlikely to be undertaken if it were known the positions would be abandoned almost two weeks from the date of the report.

Two unidentified soldiers at a sandbagged position near Russells Top in 1915. Behind them is the prominent landmark that was dubbed The Sphinx.

The report was authored by Lieutenant Colonel George Andrew Ferguson DSO VD, who had been a long serving militia officer prior to joing in the AIF, hence the VD post-nominal for the Volunteer Officers' Decoration, and was to later become the recipient of the Distinguished Service Order.  He commanded the 26th Battalion for the duration of the Gallipoli campaign and also in France until wounded in September 1916.  Due to the severity of his wounds he was discharged from the Army and returned to Australia in February 1917.  For his efforts he was awarded the DSO and was mentioned in despatches.  He lived for another 16 years after returning to Australia and passed away at the age of 60 on 20 April 1933.

Looking towards Russell's Top 1915.

The report has been digitised and can be viewed via the link below:



Jason Porter

Thank you Cindy Osborne for sharing this report. The AWM will look after it.

Gordon Hill

The author's comment regarding Colonel Ferguson's Volunteer Decoration (VD) sounds awkward in that it appears as if he's trying to make a link between 'volunteer defence officer' (itself an awkward phrase) when in fact VD stands for Volunteer Decoration. The abbreviation for the decoration is VD - not V.D. a convention which is followed with all our honours and awards both Imperial and National. Thus the abbreviation for the Distinguished Service Order is DSO, not D.S.O.

Stuart Bennington says:

You are quite correct Gordon, the offending full stops have now been removed. Also I've amended the post to clarify the VD postnominal was for the receipt of the Volunteer Officers' Decoration.

David Belham

Stuart, Does the Memorial hold a map of the 7 Bde position that includes the names LTCOL Ferguson includes in his report? I am aware that 7 Bde relieved a New Zealand position in September 1915 at Cheshire Ridge and many of the original maps and drawings are held in NZ archives and I understand it is difficult to locate Australian copies. Kind regards David Belham

Stuart Bennington says:

Hi David I've replied via your email address

Trevor Williams

Wow. What a gem of a document. I have walked Russell's Top on a number of occasions and although heavily overgrown with Gallipoli's ubiquitous thorn bushes the trench lines can still be followed albeit with some difficulty. The construction of a path from Walker's Ridge across the Top to Rest Gully and into Monash Gully ending at Shrapnel Valley Cemetery would give visitors a real feel for how tenuous the Anzacs toe hold was. Thankyou for making this document available. Regards Trevor

Stuart Bennington says:

You're most welcome Trevor, I'm glad you found it interesting. And once again the Memorial says thank you to Cindy Osbourne for the kind donation of this document.