This guide is not a comprehensive guide to World War I. It is essentially a guide to finding records on Australian service personnel and their war activities. This includes medical personnel such as doctors and nurses, as well as non-combatants who enlisted in the army, for example journalists and photographers. This guide explains how to access these records online.
If you are interested in a particular occupation, for example journalists, or particular aspects of the war, search the State Library catalogue for a list of publications on the subject. 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.
Far more Australians served in the army, the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) than in the navy or air corps. Australia during World War I had a small navy, which served under British command. There were no air battles before World War I, and the Australian Flying Corps was in its infancy. Hence the focus is on Australian soldiers, with some information on British sources, as the Australian forces were under British command during World War I.
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.
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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.