Posted by Booksforever on March 10, 2014
Lieutenant Colonel Neil C SMITH, AM
Mostly Unsung Military History Research and Publications
Lieutenant Colonel Neil SMITH spent 24 years in the Army throughout Australia and overseas including active service in Vietnam and Explosive Ordnance Disposal duties for which he was decorated with the Order of Australia. Since resigning 20 years ago Neil and his wife Sylvie have developed Mostly Unsung, a unique military history research business using resources in London and around Australia.
Neil has researched and compiled scores of publications and articles on servicemen and women, various regiments and conflicts ranging from the British garrison in Australia through the Boer War, both World Wars and post 1945 conflicts such as the Malayan Emergency. He is well known for his media and documentary work and frequently provides presentations on military history, where the emphasis is always on those who served.
For those who seek to trace the service of their military ancestors in Australia and Great Britain, Neil Smith and Mostly Unsung will have the solution.
Some Books By Author Neil C Smith at our bookstore.
1/ Neil, what was your very first publication? and what year was that released?
Neil/ I was attending a senior officer staff college in 1989 when I realized that military history was starting to mean more to me than what had previously been a successful Army career. As a result I researched, compiled and self-published 100 copies of my initial project which I called ‘Mostly Unsung’, dealing with the Malayan Emergency and those Australian soldiers who served. It was a hit and I have now sold thousands of this simple, photocopied, card cover book.
2/ What was it specifically that got you started on the track to becoming an author? Was it planned or did it just happen naturally?
Neil/ I certainly had no intention of developing a second career researching military history but first became really interested whilst serving in the UK in the early 1980s. I bought a few medals in antique markets and discovered the joy of researching the recipients. I soon became hooked on identifying and fleshing out the story behind those who served.
3/ You have published a long list of titles over the years. Out of them all – which one was the most enjoyable to research for you? And which one are you most proud of? (My favourite is the RED & BLACK DIAMOND on the 21st Battalion AIF).
Neil/ The most rewarding projects I have undertaken are those which for the first time provide some visibility of those who served and who would otherwise go unnoticed. My recent work on the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan post World War Two fits the bill perfectly. Those veterans are still trying to gain appropriate recognition yet were repeatedly told by officialdom that it was not possible to even identify those who served. Well it was viable and I did it.
4/ What are some of your more popular titles from the Customers point of view?
Neil/ Not surprisingly the more popular titles I have published are out of print. These include ‘Home By Christmas’ - my work on the Korean War and the Light Horse ‘chargers’ at Beersheba. ‘They Came Unseen - Z Special’ which embraces uniquely the story of Z Special Unit and everyone who served in the unit remains popular and available
5/ One area of your business is FAMILY HISTORY RESEARCH - MILITARY GENEALOGY. Tell us more about what that actually is? If I wanted to research a past family members Military service; do I only need to send you their name to get started?
Neil/ At Mostly Unsung we research Australian and British service men and women on a daily basis – several thousand per year. Our clients are typically family and other military historians. The key to most research of these veterans is a regimental number but we very often find success with only a name. The result is usually a detailed and easily readable report with all biographical information, plus a chronology of events, places, battles, sickness, medals and the like, regardless of how often a veteran served. It is amazing for instance how often we research a Boer War man only to find he pops up again in both world wars. Part of my routine is to research in London every year which helps the British research.
6/ Is family history research – Military genealogy a growing area of interest for Australians today? Or has the whole researching your ancestors and building a family tree been declining?
Neil/ Family history
research is certainly a growth industry. There is so much more out there
now, with much digitized. But we still receive a continual stream of
requests, often because clients don’t fully understand what it is that
7/ With the 100 year anniversary of the ANZAC landings at Gallipoli in 1915 coming soon; do you feel this will give Australia’s Military history a boost? Or do you think it will come and go vastly unnoticed by the general public?
Neil/ The impending World War One centenaries are already impacting. For example my diary is filling rapidly with requests for related presentations to various organisations and there are heaps of exciting projects and initiatives underway of relevance to family and other historians. I only hope that after five years it doesn’t become all too much for us and sours the importance of the centenaries to Australia and our national heritage and ethos.
8/ Will you be releasing any specific titles on Gallipoli yourself for the upcoming anniversary?
Neil/ I am wrestling with time and space for a few World War One projects. Our nexus with the Ceylon Planters’ Rifle Corps who fought with the ANZACs on Gallipoli; another on Australian doctors who served with the Royal Army Medical Corps and a growing data base of World War One photographs.
9/ As a well-known author and Military Historian; you have obviously dedicated your life to research in this field. From this, you would also have been reading many other Military history Authors publications over the years. So, who is/are your favourite Military authors? Are you reading a Military book right now?
Neil/ The most important book or rather set of books in my library has to be Charles Bean’s official history. I refer to it almost daily. Oddly I rarely read a military book cover to cover, rather I refer to them, especially regimental histories where one finds the real gems such as personal anecdotes and photographs.
10/ What does 2014 hold for you and your business? Are you going to be concentrating on more book releases? Or will you concentrate on the Genealogy side of the business for now?
Neil/ I guess genealogy is the more important part of my work. Whilst I love my project work I must accord priority to requests as they come in. For instance I am writing a series of books on how to research Australian military history for ‘Unlock The Past’; I am in the early stages of negotiating for a project to compile a nominal roll for Australian Army Warlife Service 1945-1975 and have just returned from a lecture tour on a cruise ship. So it is all go!
Thanks Neil for taking the time to answer these questions. You sure have added a lot of publications to the libraries, bookstores and homes of Australia. Hopefully your list of titles published will continue to grow as the years pass.