Product has been added to the basket
Item has been added to bibliography

Restaging Lt Col Tannatt Edgeworth David’s ‘Geology at the Western Front’

10 July 2014
Add to my calendar
Event type:
Evening meeting
Organised by:
Geological Society Library
The Geological Society, Burlington House, London
Event status:

In the year which the world is marking the centenary of the start of the First World War, the Library is restaging the lecture given by Lt Col Tannatt Edgeworth David on 26 February 1919, before his return to Australia to be officially demobilised. 

Until recently the contents of the lecture, ‘Geology at the Western Front’, were unknown. Only the title appears in the ‘Proceedings’, and it was thought that the War Office had denied permission for it to be published. However a few months ago, the handwritten notes to David’s lecture were rediscovered tucked into a box in the Library.

The troopship on which the extraordinary Tannatt William Edgeworth David (1858-1934), whose full career had already seen him studying under John Ruskin and Joseph Prestwich in the 1870s, setting up the new School of Mines at the University of Sydney in the 1890s and accompanying Ernest Shackleton to the magnetic South Pole as part of the British Antarctic Expedition of 1907-1909, was to set sail in had been delayed and seizing the opportunity, he was persuaded by the Society’s officers to give an impromptu account of his experiences of the ‘application of geological knowledge to the War on the Western Front’.

Four years previously, David had convinced the Australian government to establish a corps of geologists and miners for military use in the First World War, and at the mature age of 57, he enlisted as a commissioned major to the new mining battalion in October 1915. Travelling to France and the Western Front in February 1916 he provided invaluable advice to troops on ground water and the positioning and design of trenches and tunnels. Despite seriously injuring himself falling 24 metres down a well in October 1916, David continued his war service as geologist to the British Expeditionary Force, collaborating with his British counterpart William Bernard Robinson King (later President of the Society between 1953-1955).


The restaged lecture will be delivered in the Upper Library by Colonel Edward P. F. Rose, this year’s Sue Tyler Friedman Medallist.


6.00 pm for 6.30pm

As was the custom for Ordinary Meetings during the First World War, tea will be served half an hour before.

Tickets and Attendance:

This event has now sold out. The event will be recorded and will be made available on our website afterwards.

If you would like to be notified first about future Library events please email [email protected].

Convenor Contact

The Geological Society Library

The Geological Society
Burlington House

Tel: 02074320999