Skip to main content
KBS_Icon_questionmark link-ico


Richard Farrimond is a PhD student in the Menzies Australia Institute. He served in the Royal Signals for the first half of his professional life, during which time he trained as a Payload Specialist with NASA in preparation for the shuttle launch of the first Skynet 4 satellite.

He left the Army to join British Aerospace Space Systems at Bristol. With the closure of space work at Bristol he moved to Stevenage and was part of the Paradigm team that won Skynet 5. He was frequently, and over a number of years, detached to a space subsidiary in Canberra, Australia.

Richard retired in 2010 and undertook part-time a World History and Cultures master’s degree at King’s College London, where his dissertation was about the history of UK Human Space Flight, or the lack of it, and the political reasons behind that situation. His dissertation was published.

Having enjoyed his degree, Richard embarked, again part-time at King’s, on a history PhD on a British Indian Army officer who commanded the Australians throughout the Great War – Field Marshal Lord Birdwood.


Thesis title: 'Birdie - not just 'Soul of Anzac''

Field Marshal Lord Birdwood of Anzac and Totnes (1865-1951) was a distinguished Indian Army officer who commanded the Australian Imperial Force throughout the Great War, yet there is still no comprehensive study of Birdwood as a military commander.

This study takes three interrelated approaches:

  • The first is to understand the man who arrived in Egypt at Christmas 1914 to take command of the Australian and New Zealand forces, training them there with a view to taking them to France. The man who arrived was a summation of his: family heritage, West Country and India; schooling; military training; first Regiments; approach to language training; operational experiences; experiences of the Viceregal stratum of Indian life; and finally his highly successful tour as an independent Brigade commander on India's North-West Frontier where he drew praise for the training of his command.
  • The second is to study his wartime generalship, largely at the Corps level but including his Army commands, exploring his personal impact on the planning stages, identifying when he had options, or perhaps should have sought options, to influence events, and assessing his personal successes or otherwise.
  • The third is an examination of his political performance, with his extensive wartime contacts with Australian and New Zealand politicians, and subsequently as Commander Northern Command in India and finally as Commander-in-Chief, India. The twenties were a turbulent and challenging decade in India politically and it is of interest to explore Birdwood's involvement. Finally, and linking war and peace, there is an account of how Birdwood's hopes to become - and King George V's wishes that he should be - Governor General of Australia were dashed by Prime Minister James Scullin's desire to have an Australian.

Through this matrix, Birdwood's successes and failures will be assessed in order to arrive at a considered evaluation of his significant public career.

PhD supervision

Further details

See Richard's research profile