The First World War Personal Experiences database
This British online database is a rich resource on the personal experience of World War I.
It contains digital images of original documents, including diaries, letters, personal narratives, trench journals, scrapbooks and objects.
It is designed for both teaching and study, from undergraduate level to research students and beyond.
It can be accessed within the Library. It can also be accessed outside the Library by registered Victorians.
This guide provides research tips and suggested resources for tracing information about individual soldiers who served during World War 1. It is primarily concerned with Australian soldiers, but there is also British information, as the Australian forces were under British command during World War I. There is also 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 the battles or campaigns his unit served in. This guide will help you to find this information. Most of the official documents relating to individual soldiers are held by the National Archives of Australia (NAA) and the Australian War Memorial (AWM) and is available online. This guide provides links to these sources.
Use the tabs (headings) above to move to different pages of the guide. There are many links to both online resources and resources available within the Library. Where items are available in full text, links have been included.
Most of the resources are print publications held by the Library, so you will not see the full publication on your computer screen. These are usually books, magazines or microfilm copies of print publications. Links display the catalogue record for these items. The catalogue record gives the title, author, publication date and other details. You can request the items to read in the library. The State Library also holds a number of published and unpublished diaries and personal narratives of individual soldiers.
Ask a librarian to assist with requesting any of the resources listed in this guide.
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 tab, 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. The Official history devotes several chapters to the battles. There is also a general history.
- 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).
- You can find maps of the area at the time and today.
- 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 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.
- 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 available
- Ted Lynch arrived back in Australia on 2 July 1919 on SS Port Napier
There is scope for much more detailed research to develop a very rich understanding of a soldier's war.
Australian official photograph of the ruins of the Cloth Hall, Ypres. Illustrated war news, Oct. 3, 1917 Part 69, p. 1
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Hint for searching the catalogue
There are different terms for World War I: World War I, the First World War, the Great War (used at the time) and the European War (also a contemporary term). This can make it difficult to find relevant material on the State Library catalogue.
Like most libraries, the library catalogue uses the Library of Congress subject headings. These are standard subject headings. Often, you can use keywords to get good results, for example where you have a very specific search such as the name of a unit or a major battle.
If you are looking for more general books on the war, or you want to do a thorough search of a topic, you can miss out on vital material if you do not know the subject heading.
The subject heading for World War is:
World war, 1914-1918
Select the subject option on the catalogue and use this term. You can refine your results us ing the headings which appear on the left of the screen or do an Advanced search using keywords in the second search box.