IT IS WITH GREAT sadness that we mark the death of the oldest member of the Book Collectors Society, Doctor (and Major) Warren Perry. Few Australian scholars and historians could equal his assiduous approach to his life and work. For example, Warren gained his doctorate from The University of Melbourne in his 93rd year — by examination!
Many will know of Warren because of his centenary history of the (alas, now defunct) Naval & Military Club. The Club was closely aligned with the United Service Institute of Victoria, particularly in its early days, and his book shows how much of our history was intertwined. He documented this book in such detail that military writers still consult it for its accurate footnotes that give brief biographies of otherwise obscure colonial Victorian officers. He wrote several other books (including the history of the Ballarat School of Mines and industries and the history of the Science Museum) and many articles, mostly on military topics.
He was a historian used to the methodical habits of what now may be a past era. His voluminous handwritten notes, multiple cards and folders were all supplemented by his prodigious memory. He could reach back into Australia‘s military history at a personal level. He would correct the common pronunciation of Monash‘s surname, tell you that Chief of the General Staff, Sir Julius Bruche collected books about Samuel Pepys, and tell second-hand yarns about General ‘Curly’ Hutton. In this he was without equal.
Warren was a Militia Gunner officer from September 1930. During World War II he was Adjutant 102nd Tank Attack Regiment; as Adjutant he raised the 20th Field Regiment and was seconded to the AIF in 1942. He held several posts as Staff Captain. Then as Temporary Major he was appointed Deputy Assistant Adjutant General of 4th Australian Base Sub-Area and Deputy Assistant Adjutant General HQ Second Australian Army.
In the 1960s he spent over a decade in ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation) in charge of its registry — a most responsible position.
Warren‘s knowledge of the German General Staff and the associated literature prior to World War I was unrivalled. He had served as Federal President of the Military Historical Society of Australia and was made a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria at the same time as Professor Geoffrey Blainey. He donated many valuable manuscripts to the State Library of Victoria. Though his wife Nancye (whom he married in 1957) was a superb supporter, little could alleviate his increasing blindness such that he ceased writing in recent years. He will be remembered as one of the founding fathers of Australian military history.
Editorial note: Warren Perry is survived by his wife Nancye to whom we send condolences. Both have been longterm BCSA members. Warren has two entries in the Biblionews Index. One was in Brian Taylor‘s editorial of Issue 308 (December 1995, p. 102): ‘The Victorian branch‘s last meeting for 1995 was held on 24 November. Mr Warren Perry spoke there on the public life of Viscount Haldane of Cloan (1856–1928) as a scholar, lawyer and statesman as revealed in published literature on and by him.’
The other entry was in Issue 329 (March 2001, p. 21) reporting on the Victorian Branch Members‘ Night 1999: ‘Warren Perry drew attention to the imminent centenary of Federation with various titles published by the Australian Army. He also noted the gap in recording the exploits of Australian troops in South Africa, the centenary of which was scheduled for October 1999.’