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Meeting With Jeff

It seems that the Easter break is over, for the undergraduates have taken over the University campus again. The place was a sea of sky blue RAAF uniforms. The mostly female students were still in their light summer uniforms, with the jaunty garrison cap, enjoying an unseasonably warm mid-April. The familiar green uniform was largely absent - a bad sign. When I graduated last time my Dad noticed that wimmin outnumbered men two to one and Jeff told him that all the graduating class slated for the infantry (in that year, everyone who couldn't think of a good reason why they shouldn't be) had been sent to East Timor. I hope they've been sent to a training camp near Burke and not one near Baghdad.

The history department had moved. Indeed, the whole department has gone. Another Bad Sign. The departments have been merged into five schools:
  • Aerospace, Civil and Mechanical Engineering (formerly Schools of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering and Civil Engineering)
  • Business (formerly School of Economics and Management)
  • Humanities and Social Sciences (formerly Schools of History, Language Literature and Communication and, Politics)
  • Information Technology and Electrical Engineering (formerly Schools of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering)
  • Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences (formerly Schools of Chemistry, Geography and Oceanography, Mathematics and Statistics and Physics)
In practice, the History Department has moved round the corner where the Maths Department used to be. Jeff has a new office, a larger one. There are no filing cabinets - they've been moved someplace else - and all the books are in bookcases up against the wall, so it seems much larger. The official histories - Australian and the "Green Books" - are on the wall behind him. (I have a better set of Green Books, as I have almost all the Technical Services volumes as well.) Apart from the Official Histories, the books are unsorted except at the wall level. One wall has all the Australian stuff, for example.

We discussed my problem, which was thesis size. Why, he asked, does it always come as such a shock that the footnotes are counted in the word count? (Answer: Because no one reads them.) I had calculated that the footnotes add another 20% on top of the raw word count. So an 80,000 word thesis will be around 96,000 with footnotes.

Jeff was in fine form. He had a different take on how to solve the thesis size problem. His idea was that, instead of covering everything, each chapter should cover an aspect of the logistics problem. So, for example, having covered the Bulldog Road in detail, we can omit the Wau-Labu Road. There was no revolution in road design; it was just another road. This was a very good idea and has a lot of appeal because:
  • It does not change the thesis as opposed to the document;
  • Chapters already have this as subtext
  • It enables me to get through everything
  • I have an excuse for examining some things in more detail and some in less.
I think he was also thinking about the ultimate utility of the thesis. This will not be impacted. It may even be sharpened.

However, it does involve reconsideration of the chapters, what is in them and their length. It remains the case that this is a downsizing exercise. I am throwing things away and it is more a matter of what gets thrown out. I also need to recalculate whether this will actually be sufficient to reduce to the required length. We need 8 x 40 page chapters or 16 x 20 page chapters.

Having got the business out of the way, we drifted off into a discussion of the Green Books. The technical service volumes are numerous because they were funded out of another bucket. There are Leighton and Croakley's Global Logistics and Strategy but the only theatre logistics volumes are Ruppenthal's Logistic Support of the Armies. Volumes on logistic support in the Mediterranean and Southwest Pacific were intended but later dropped. Interestingly, the Green Books were mostly written by young people, not elderly academics. Ulysses Lee' special study on The Employment of Negro Troops was nearly suppressed, being critical of the War Department, although in retrospect it is about as tactful as could reasonably be expected considering the magnitude of the injustice of segregation.