Training for War – The History of Headquarters 1st Division 1914-2014 by Michael Tyquin – Book Review

Most Australian Army unit histories are based on units: infantry battalion, artillery regiments, engineer squadrons and the like. There are several at a lower level (such as infantry platoons or companies) and some at higher (divisions and brigades). This volume is perhaps the first in a new category – a history of a headquarters.

Big Sky Publishing 2017 Hardback 276pp RRP: $39.99
Big Sky Publishing 2017
Hardback 276pp RRP: $39.99

Michael Tyquin is a capable and prolific military author, particularly in the field of medicine. This book is a fine complement to Robert Stevenson’s To Win the Battle: the 1st Australian Division in the Great War 1914-1918 (2013).

The divisional headquarters has had an uneven history. Its ‘glory days’ were when the division fought at Gallipoli and the Western front. The inter-war years were uneven and far less challenging.
The division did not fight in the Second World War. As the Army reformed from 1946 onwards the division had an increasing role in guiding the field Army structure, though the importance of the headquarters varied greatly from year to year.

The book examines several main themes, some more prominently than others. The need for a divisional structure is a constant. The importance of a trained staff to exercise command is another. Particularly in the more recent period, the role of the headquarters in relation to altering strategic assessments and increasingly joint operations is a further governing factor. Tyquin melds these factors into his well-judged narrative.

The book is well written and well-illustrated and Tyquin can be justifiably proud of this volume.

The author’s task has been exacerbated by the paucity of archived records and the more recent habit of lack of preservation of electronic records. Will sufficient records exist to write the history of this (or any other unit) in the next one hundred year? I suspect that unless there is a large attitudinal change such history will evaporate rather then be recorded. Those who read this volume will judge it to be an important and indeed necessary contribution to our military history. Let us also hope that its successor is feasible!

Reviewed for RUSIV by Mike O’Brien, November, 2017

Contact Royal United Services Institute about this article.

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