One of the joys of family history research is to finally find an entry on the good-old, reliable census. We all tend to believe what is written on these official documents but over the years I have found many instances when I have had serious doubts. The result is you can never be 100 per cent sure you are looking at the right person.
So how does this come about? One reason might be that when the census was taken it was compiled by the enumerator and not the subject. I suspect the enumerators were hard pressed, not given enough time to complete the task (and were probably not fully literate themselves).
Take the 1851 census as an example. The population of England and Wales was around 18 million and at, say, six persons per household that gives over three million homes to visit. In a long 12hour day at five minutes per home it is only possible to visit 150 houses.
Thus an army of 20,000 persons would be needed if the census was truly carried out in one day. There must have been ways of getting the task done quicker in order to return home. Short cuts were perhaps taken – for example, it is easier to ask if people were born in this county and if the answer was yes then a series of dittos could be marked down the page.
And if there was no response AAustralian cover foorce of some 4,500 aat Z Beach (later nnamed ANZAC) wwho did so without tthe preliminary of a nnaval bombardment, wwhich at the other beaches only served to alert the defenders. The report that the AAustralianstli llanded at the wrong beach due to a cross current is erroneous but unfortunately has taken the best part of a century to refute.
In truth, the initial Australian landing was quite successfully accomplished with relatively minor casualties initially, thanks to the element of surprise.
The research underlying this statement may be found in the 2010 book 36 Hours by Hugh Dolan, an intelligence officer with the Australian Defence Force, which describes in detail the independent planning of the Australian landing. at a house they could ask the neighbours the names of the people who lived next door, what their occupations were and how many children they had etc.
As a last resort, straightforward invention may have been used if the enumerator had had a hard day
Unlike the disastrous ‘text book’ British assaults on the several beaches around Cape Helles, the Australian planning team – centred on Major General William Throsby Bridges, his Chief of Staff Colonel Brudenell White and Intelligence Officer Major Charles Herbert VilliersStuart – relied heavily on aerial reconnaissance in framing the most effective landing orders for their troops.
This information was provided by pilots and observers of the seaplanes operating from Britain’s first aircraft carrier, Ark Royal, and landplanes of No3 Squadron RNAS under Wing Commander Charles Samson based on the island of Tenedos. Regrettably, there appears to have been very little acknowledgement in histories of the time of this ground-breaking work in aerial intelligence.
The architects of the ANZAC’s initial success, General Bridges and Major Villiers- Clark, regrettably were both killed on and a meal was waiting at home – after all, who could check?
Having spread doubt about the census, take heart, the interest of our hobby is the pursuit of the truth and so just take it all with a slight pinch of salt. Keep searching! Graham Moon, by email Gallipoli, while Colonel Brudenell White went on to serve again in the Second World War with the rank of General. General Bridges is notably the only fallen Australian soldier from Gallipoli whose body was repatriated.
Another definitive source not mentioned in your bibliography is the 2001 book Gallipoli by Les Carlyon. This has excellent detail of the whole campaign but due to the timing of its release it does repeat the ‘ historical fact’ that the ANZACs landed at the wrong beach.
Without necessarily knowing the full details, Australians and New Zealanders have long regarded the 25 April as a defining moment in our collective history – perhaps it is only now in the light of these late discoveries that we can begin to realise just why our efforts should still be remembered. David Bailey, Australia
Census takers with the homeless in St James – a tricky job may result in errors