Peter Stanley

A Stout Pair of Boots

All You Need To Know

As it is understandable, Australians are becoming more fascinated by what makes their military history. And every year, an increased number of people visit the scenes of Anzac battles. From the Long Tan all the way to Gallipoli. And just like many people visit historical battlefields all over the world, many Australians also visit these battlefields just to see the way they look. And perhaps take a few pictures. 

Peter Stanley had stood on top of Baby 700 and watched the sunrise over the Dardanelles. There, he tried to work out how and where the lost Australian parties disappeared into. That aside, he had been to France; strolling in the gentle sunshine trying to find the spot where the trio Victorians might have died in 1918 afternoon. After each of these cases and many others, he would go back home and write a book. 

This wealth of experience is not as easy to come by. For him, his drive to better understand the Australian Military History has kept him up and going. In essence, after listening to what other people say about war, he reads archives, listen to those that experienced the war. It is after all these that he goes to the battleground to look, think and imagine what could have happened and how it could have happened. 

He believes that the kind of battlefield research work he did could be done by anyone else as well. But to do so, whoever is interested might need a guide. The title of this book of his was quoted from a popular British Historian and a Veteran at Somme – Richard Tawney. This man said that historians need not a lot more documents but ‘a stout pair of boots’.

Sadly, this statement of Tawney’s has been misquoted by some people. But this statement got even Peter Stanley bemused. This is owing to the fact that Richard Tawney was an economic historian himself – one hardly known for his exploits doing field works. 

But still, his advice has continued to be a beacon for several other historians during his lifetime and after his demise. Talk, for instance, Historians like Russell Ward, Keith Hancock and Manning Clark who have taken the time to write about the years old Tawney’s admonition. There have been historians of different fields following this admonition. Among them, the most determined followers have been the military historians. 

Years ago, Peter got a job after his article on the explorations he made on Borneo was posted online. After that, his boss was so sceptical on whether visiting battlegrounds would really be worth the time – a question of value. This doubt was easily debunked when a few weeks after, Peter Pederson showed up, then captain of the Royal Australian Regiment. But more importantly, he is one of the most important Military Historians produced during the 1980s. 

He plainly expressed that he wanted to visit Gallipoli and the Western Front. He requested a grant to go ‘sniff the ground’ and Peter Stanley’s boss granted it after much scepticism. When this was done, all three did not see much until after 30 years – Now that they understand how important it is to sniff the ground.