Book “Raid on Celtic Wood” – What really happened to Australia’s ‘Lost Company’ in 1917

This book holds the answer to what really happened to Australia’s ‘lost company’ at Celtic Wood on the 9th October, 1917.


by Robert Kearney

This book holds the answer to what really happened to Australia’s ‘lost company’ at Celtic Wood on the 9th October, 1917.

It has been written by a man familiar with battle and intimately across his subject.

Many historians and battle-field tour guides have made comment on this operation, basing their views on pure conjecture, not analytical facts, suggesting mysterious or sinister outcomes.

The analysis by this author of the writings and opinions of others is both incisive and surgical. Until now, the real facts have remained shrouded in mystery.

Our book Reviewer reports:

Bob Kearney, a notable past warrior of The Royal Australian Regiment, has released his latest book which I believe is a bolter. The work that has been done to find every member of the raiding party on Celtic Wood is simply amazing. All of this party were MIA and the rumor surrounding this mystery was that they had been captured, executed and buried in a mass grave. The discovery of all will necessitate some changes in the history held at the AWM.

Highly Recommended




  1. Bob Kearney is one of the most remarkable men I have had the pleasure of knowing. I didn’t meet him in the Regular Army, but rather in the depths of South Australia’s spectacular Flinders Ranges 20 years ago, when I joined the volunteer staff of Operation Flinders, a program for youth at risk that Bob had been part of establishing along with a small group of Army colleagues, way back in 1991.
    Bob is a warrior in the classical and literal sense. He is a two-tour NCO veteran of the Vietnam War, a man of impeccable integrity, of demonstrated physical and moral courage, a mentor and sage to many in diverse walks of life, a superlative story teller and raconteur, a devout military historian and author, with a tenacious capacity for detailed and accurate research and analysis. Most of all he is blessed with a tremendous insight which he is able to demonstrate and communicate with supreme effectiveness. He is a great communicator but he chooses his words very carefully. When he talks people listen.
    I first heard of Celtic Wood on an Army Reserve initiative and leadership exercise I directed in about 2004. Bob and Chris Henschke were a key part of the team and they selected a lot of the names for objectives, routes, report lines and the like. Celtic Wood was one of them, and it was then I first learned of the 10th Battalion’s ‘lost patrol’ in October 1917.
    Subsequently, in pursuit of my own interest in military history, I read a number of references to this incident, so long ago now. However, as a one-time Army officer, the notion that around 40 men of an 80 man raiding party just disappeared without any serious attempt at accounting for them sounded incongruous right from the word ‘go’. That would have represented upwards of 10% of the unit’s strength at that time, so it was definitely on the ‘non-trivial event’ scale.
    Bob has set the record straight with his latest book, “Raid on Celtic Wood”. Acknowledging the foundation research work he conducted with Chris Henschke in the early 2000s, this book demonstrates the importance of ‘primary source’ research to explain what had morphed into ‘the unexplainable’. The perils of re-citing previous works and interpretation by successive authors, beginning with the one-liner in C.E.W. Bean’s titanic history of the AIF in WW1; “….only fourteen unwounded men were accounted for” is vividly demonstrated. Bob’s work relies on detailed examination and analysis of the key primary sources; the 10th Battalion’s field returns and reports at the time. Those documents and some analysis tell the story of what really happened rather than what has subsequently been thought to have happened.
    Rather than dwelling on just the circumstances of the event in isolation, Bob develops a story of the lead-up in order to provide context and so enhance the reader’s understanding of the circumstances of the raid and its aftermath. He tracks the unit’s casualties in the lead up to this event by name, rather than by numbers. It is extraordinary in its detail at a personal level. That attention to detail is transposed to the 85 men of the Celtic Wood raid. Bob has accounted for every one of the men who embarked on that fateful raid on 9 October 1917; even the date itself has been the subject of conjecture.
    This is a compelling read in its own right, and a ‘must-have’ addition to the bookshelf of anyone with an interest in Australia in the Great War in general, and in the 10th Battalion in particular.
    We will ensure that the plethora of information on individual soldiers is added to the records of these men in the RSL Virtual War Memorial, of which Bob is our senior volunteer researcher. When we say “we will remember them”, we mean it.
    Steve Larkins
    Founder – RSL Virtual War Memorial