This is a guide to finding records on Australian service personnel and their war activities. This includes medical personnel such as doctors and nurses. Non-combatants such as journalists and photographers also enlisted in the army, so army records are relevant to them too. This guide explains how to access these records online and in print sources.
If you are interested in a particular occupation, for example journalists, a battle, or a particular aspect of the war, first search the State Library catalogue to find material. The catalogue record on each item tells you where to find the item in the library or online. Some items such as out of copyright pamphlets and pictures have been digitised and can be viewed online. Other items are in print.
The catalogue is at http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/search-discover Click on Advanced Search and type the term world war 1914-1918 in one search box and your other terms, for example journalists, in the next box. Click on search.
Most records relate to the army, because far more Australians served in the army ( the Australian Imperial Force or AIF) than in the Navy or Australian Flying Corps. Australia during World War I had a small navy, which served under British command. Up to World War I, there had been no air battles in war. Planes were mainly used for reconnaissance and the Australian Flying Corps was in its infancy. Hence the guide's focus is on Australian soldiers, with some information on British sources, as the Australian forces were under British command.
The National Archives of Australia holds the service records for all services, army, navy and air corps. Click on the headings in this guide for more detail.
The guide also has some information on the military histories and periodicals of other countries.
If you know which unit or units a soldier served in, you can research the battles or campaigns his unit served in. This guide will help you to find this information. Even if you don't know the name of a soldier's unit, you can find his digitised service record on the National Archives of Australia (NAA) website
Hint for searching our catalogue: the official subject heading on our Library catalogue for World War I is World War, 1914-1918
Use this term to find resources, then refine your search using the terms given on the left of the catalogue page. An advanced search lets you add other terms such as nurses or Somme. Librarians can help with searching the catalogues and databases. We also have online databases on World War I.
An Australian soldier's war
By using this guide, you should be able to research the following:
- a soldier's service record
- movements and activities of a soldier's unit
- battles and campaigns the soldier may have been involved in
- personal accounts of a soldier's war experience
- the broader context of a soldier's war
Daniel T. E. 'Ted' Lynch - a case study
- Under the Soldiers heading on this guide, follow the link to the NAA and download Lynch's service record. This has enormous detail.
- Ted Lynch enlisted in Melbourne on 10 September, 1915. The Argus newspaper has a brief reference to recruiting that day.
- Lynch was with the 47th Battery, 12th Field Artillery Brigade (FAB). In May 1917 the unit diary (see 'Regiments' tab) indicates they were involved at Noreuil Valley in the battles of Bullecourt.
- you can find battle images and news reports. Volume 4 of the Official history devotes several chapters to the battles.
- There is also a general history of the Battle of Bullecourt.
- Ted Lynch's service record shows he was gassed 3 June 1917. This chapter of the Official history refers to the gas attack at Ploegsteert Wood (pp 586-7).
- Armentieres is west-north-west of Lille, Ploegsteert is just north of Armentieres.
- Lynch was invalided to Southwark Military Hospital. You can find broad detail of the evacuation of wounded men to England through the Australian Army Medical Services volumes of the Official history.
- in August 1917, Lynch was awarded the Military Medal. From the Unit diaries, you can follow what the 12th FAB was doing at the time.
- See the London Gazette entry for the award
- citations of many awards are available at the Australian War Memoral, unfortunately further details for this award are not attached to the citation
- Ted Lynch arrived back in Australia on 2 July 1919 on SS Port Napier
- He returned to his home town of Tallangatta and attended a reception in October 1919
There is scope for much more detailed research to develop a very rich understanding of a soldier's war.
State Library Victoria
328 Swanston Street
Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
+61 3 8664 7000
Discovering Anzacs website
The National Archives of Australia and Archives New Zealand are working together to create a website Discovering Anzacs. This website will have a unique profile of every Anzac who enlisted in World War I, linked to his service record. You can build the profile by adding your own family stories, photos or other details.
World War I Free Online Course
World War 1: A History in 100 Stories is a free online course run by Monash University. It relates 100 stories of Australians involved in World War I, including families at home. The course starts on Monday, 13 April 2015 and lasts 5 weeks. Each week introduces a different topic, including the physical and psychological wounds of war, women's mobilisation and indigenous soldiers.
Details of the course are online at FutureLearn