This guide focuses on Australians serving in World War 1. It also includes some information relevant to Great Britain, other Commonwealth nations and other combatant nations. There is a section on nurses and women's war occupations.
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.
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. 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 service personnel: army, navy and flying corps. Each service record has been digitised, so you can read it online. Click on the headings in this guide for more detail.
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.
You can use this term, combined with another term, to narrow your search to get the most relevant results. If you are interested in a particular occupation, for example journalists or nurses, or a particular campaign, for example, the Somme, click on Advanced Search and type the term world war 1914-1918 in one search box and your other term, in the next box. Click on search. The catalogue combines the terms to find relevant items.
Or you can search the catalogue using the term World War, 1914-1918. When the results appear, refine your search using the filters on the right hand side of the page, for example subject, resource type, author, creation date.
The catalogue record for each item gives you information about the publication and tells you where to find it in the library or online. Many pamphlets and pictures which are out of copyright have been digitised, so you can see them online. Other items are in books or other print formats.
Librarians can help with searching the catalogues and databases.
We also have a set of online databases called The First World War. This is listed on our databases page under History. It is available from home to Victorian registered users.
The guide also has some information on the military histories and periodicals of other countries.
By using this guide, you should be able to research the following:
There is scope for much more detailed research to develop a very rich understanding of a soldier's war.
The World War I almanac by David R. Woodward contains a day-by-day chronology of the events of World War I, an A-to-Z biographical dictionary of the key figures and a comprehensive listing of vital statistics. Researchers will appreciate the maps and illustrations.
Almanac of World War I by David F. Burg and L. Edward Purcell provides a day-by-day account of the action on all fronts and of the events related to the conflict. It has topical biographical entries, illustrations and maps.
Australians returning from the trenches with their mascot. The War Budget, Sept. 7, 1916 [No page number]
Australian soldier in captured German front line trench on the Somme, showing German bombs in position for throwing. The War Budget, March 22, 1917 p 162.