Unearthing Our Heroes: My New Service to Connect You with the Rats of Tobruk

I’ve got some news that I’ve been bursting to share with you. My passion is helping people navigate their family history, uncovering the extraordinary stories that have shaped their lineage. I’m offering you a unique opportunity to connect with the soldiers nicknamed the Rats of Tobruk through the war diary of my Great Uncle Captain Oscar Geoffrey Buring of the 2/43rd Battalion AIF. This diary provides a firsthand account of the experiences, triumphs, and challenges faced by these soldiers during the tumultuous days of World War II.

The diary is more than just a historical document; it’s a treasure trove of memories, filled with tales of camaraderie, moments of hardship, and glimpses of hope. It offers a rare insight into the lives of those who served in the blistering sands of Tobruk.

Now, if you believe your relative or ancestor was among the courageous soldiers mentioned in the war diary, you have the chance to learn more about their experiences. My mission is to assist you in finding the relevant excerpts that pertain to your loved one’s service during this critical period in history.

Here’s how it works:

Explore the Names: Take a look through the list of soldier’s names mentioned in the diary. Each one of these soldiers of the Rats of Tobruk deserves to be remembered and celebrated for their selfless dedication.

Reach Out to Me: If you find a name, get in touch with me through the provided contact form. Share the name and any additional details you may have about your relative or ancestor’s service.

Uncover Their Story: Once I receive your inquiry, I will diligently search the war diary for the relevant excerpt featuring your loved one. Upon discovery, I will freely share this invaluable piece of history with you.

I’m incredibly grateful to my cousins Margaret Rowley and Anne Woolford for allowing the use of their father’s diary for this service. Their generosity enables me to help you uncover your family’s military history and honor the memory of these soldiers.

As always, I’m here to assist you in your genealogical journey and help you uncover the stories that make your family history unique.

A Trip To Canberra And The National Library of Australia

I recently took a trip to Canberra with my Mum. Mum was attending a bobbin lace making conference in Queanbeyan, New South Wales and asked me if I’d like to go with her and do my genealogy research while she was at her conference.

Hay, New South Wales

We took two days to drive from Adelaide, South Australia. The first leg of the trip was from Adelaide to Hay, New South Wales where we stayed overnight and then Hay to Queanbeyan, New South Wales. Queanbeyan is only about 20 minutes from the centre of Canberra which is in the Australian Capital Territory. Canberra basically has its own state which is surrounded by the state of New South Wales.

The view from the National Library of Australia, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory

I did a lot of preparation for this trip so I had already pre-ordered the records I needed to see from the National Library as well as the Butlin Archives at the Australian National University. I won’t go into what I was researching and the results of my research in this post, I’ll do another one for that.

Whilst at the National Library one of the staff, a fellow Whovian, spotted my TARDIS tattoo on my left forearm and commented that there was a great TARDIS to see and photograph not far from Canberra in a cute little town called Hall. He gave me the address and I decided to go there on my ‘day off’ from research. I also got an I Love Trove badge which I have wanted for ages!

Me and the TARDIS in Hall, New South Wales

On the way back to Queanbeyan I found the National Dinosaur Museum and called in for a visit. As well as all the large dinosaurs the museum also has extensive fossil displays including real fossils as well as plaster cast replicas.

The big one in the middle is Mixopterus kiaeri

In the special collections reading room at the National Library I saw this incredible fabric wall hanging and it made me think of ways I can celebrate and commemorate my ancestors through my own fabric art.

On the way home we took the same route only in reverse. Some of Mum’s fellow bobbin lace makers were also driving back to Adelaide and staying overnight in Hay so we had dinner with them at one of the local hotels. Altogether it was a really lovely trip!

Is This A Photo of Blanka Buring?

I recently had a second look at this photo from the State Library of New South Wales. The title is “Leo Buring pouring wine from a bottle-basket; Mrs Buring is to the left.” Upon inspection I saw who I believe is Leo’s sister Blanka on the far right hand side. The picture is taken at Leo’s Ye Olde Crusty Cellar in George St, Sydney, Australia in about 1930. Blanka was living and working in Sydney at this time.


The only other photos I have of her are very poor quality ones from Trove digitised newspapers.

What do you think? Is this a picture of Blanka or am I just convincing myself because I want it to be true?

Attention Winners of the Blanka Buring Prize 🏆

I’m conducting research on the remarkable legacy of Blanka Buring, a trailblazer in social work training in Australia during the 1930s. Her dedication to the field continues to inspire, and I believe her story deserves recognition on the Australian Women’s Register.

As winners of the prize bearing her name, your insights would be invaluable in capturing the essence of her contributions. I’m eager to learn what winning the Blanka Buring Prize has meant to you, both professionally and personally.

If you’re willing to share a few sentences about your experience, please leave a comment or email me at kylie at kyliesgenes.com. Your thoughts will play a crucial role in honoring Blanka’s legacy and inspiring future generations.

Thank you for considering my request. I look forward to connecting with you.

#BlankaBuringPrize #SocialWork #AustralianHistory

Concert In A Cave At Tobruk

In October 1941, during the siege of Tobruk by German and Italian forces, the ABC Field Unit, led by war correspondent Chester Wilmot, recorded a unique concert held in an ammunition cave. This concert featured 400 Australian soldiers, who were known as the “Rats of Tobruk.” Wilmot, who was pioneering the use of recording equipment in the field, captured the event on lacquer discs, providing a vivid auditory experience of the scene. You can listen to part of the concert here.

The concert showcased various musical performances, including a short song called “Bless Them All” and an instrumental piece featuring saxophone and piano accordion. The acoustics within the cave were surprisingly good, enhancing the quality of the recording. The highlight of the concert was a stirring rendition of “The Legion of the Lost,” performed by a soldier and backed by a makeshift military choir. The massed voices brought the song to an energetic and uplifting conclusion, capturing the spirit of camaraderie and resilience among the Australian soldiers during a time of intense conflict.

I have written previously about my great uncle Oscar Geoffrey Buring whose war diary I have. Uncle Geoff wasn’t in Tobruk at the time of this concert he was away doing training in Palestine. Here is an excerpt from his diary explaining where he was going:

Conference 0930. My movement order to No3 Course Platoon Weapons Wing, AIF
(ME0 Small Arms School, Reinforcements Depot Palestine one 23 rd Sept. Warning
order to Coy re movement to perimeter again on 21/22 Sep. Changing with 2/32 on
Derna Road Sector I think. Slept during pm Boys went swimming. Had “dinner at
Coy HQ” Seemed funny to be only original A Coy Offr left. Ferrier seems a decent
sort of bloke and 100% on Reid. Packing gear after tea. Dick got some good powder
bowl souvenirs today from a bloke at MDS. Made out of 75mm shell cases Back to
Coy HQ for supper. Willie has opened his heart.

I don’t know how many of the 2/43rd went to do the training and how many were at the concert. Does anyone else know this? If you do please let us know in the comments.

How I Use ChatGPT to Craft Genealogy Reports

As a passionate genealogist, I’m always on the lookout for innovative ways to present the rich tapestry of our ancestors’ lives. In recent times, I’ve turned to a nifty tool to help me with this task: ChatGPT by OpenAI. In today’s post, I’ll share the method behind how I incorporate ChatGPT into my genealogical research to craft engaging and coherent reports.

1. The Preliminary Work: Delving into the Past

Every genealogy project begins with diligent research. I dig deep into various sources, gathering as much information as possible about each individual that my customer is keen to learn about. From birth and marriage records to newspaper articles and old photographs, I sift through the sands of time to piece together their stories.

The primary platform I use for this is ancestry.com.au. It’s a comprehensive database that allows me to meticulously construct a family tree, attaching all the relevant documents, articles, and photos to each individual. This tree becomes a treasure trove of history, brimming with details that breathe life into the names of our forebears.

2. From Raw Data to Refined Report: Enter ChatGPT

Once the family tree is fleshed out and I feel confident about the information I’ve collected, it’s time to turn this raw data into a captivating narrative. And this is where ChatGPT shines!

Here’s my process:

  • Step One: I begin by copying all the pertinent information from the ancestry.com.au family tree. This includes every detail, big or small, that will help paint a vivid picture of the individual in question.
  • Step Two: I then paste this information into ChatGPT’s interface. Think of it as feeding the system a hearty meal of historical facts and anecdotes.
  • Step Three: I pose a request to ChatGPT, asking it to craft a report based on the provided details. The beauty of ChatGPT is its ability to weave together these snippets of information into a cohesive, engaging narrative.

3. The Final Product: A Narrative to Remember

In mere moments, ChatGPT presents me with a report that reads as if it were written by a seasoned historian. The prose is polished, the story flows seamlessly, and the essence of the individual’s life is captured with grace and respect.

Of course, I always review and fine-tune the report to ensure it aligns perfectly with the tone and style I aim for. But with ChatGPT as my writing assistant, the process is undeniably smoother and more efficient.

Wrapping Up

The world of genealogy is ever-evolving, and I believe in harnessing the power of technology to make our work more impactful. By integrating ChatGPT into my workflow, I’m able to deliver reports that not only inform but also captivate and resonate with my customers.

Whether you’re a fellow genealogist or someone intrigued by their family history, I hope this post has given you a glimpse into the modern methods we use to celebrate our past.

Re: My New Service To Connect You With The Rats of Tobruk

Here are some responses I’ve had from people who have requested diary excerpts.

One user expressed deep appreciation for the diary excerpts, particularly those mentioning a relative. The timing of the entries held personal significance, as they coincided with important family events. This user also noted the value of the diary in providing context to their family’s wartime experiences, including periods of recuperation.

Another user found the diary snippets to be a poignant complement to their personal journey to Egypt for the 80th anniversary of significant World War II events. The entries provided a richer understanding of the places they visited and the experiences of a relative during the war. They were so moved by the content that they shared it with other family members.

Overall, the service has been positively received, with users finding personal and historical value in the diary excerpts. The careful indexing of people mentioned has been particularly appreciated, enhancing the personal connection users feel to the past.