Australians in World War 1

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.

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Barbara Carswell
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Video: Pigeon messengers of World War I

Watch our short video about heroic pigeons who were used as messengers during World War I. 

Pigeon messengers of World War I

Video: Pigeon Messengers of World War I


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.

Hint for searching the State Library catalogue on the Search & Discover page:  the official subject heading  for World War I is World War, 1914-1918

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.


Case study: 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

  • The National Archives of Australia holds digitised World War I service records, as explained in the  Soldiers and other personnel section of this guide. We have found the service record for Daniel T.E. Lynch on the National Archives site. Click on the link here to  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). The Australian War Memorial has a web page for the  Australian Imperial Force unit war diaries, 1914-1918 War  Select Class 13, Artillery, which takes you to the page for 12th Australian Field Artillery Brigade.  This has links to the digitised diaries: in May 1917 the unit diary indicates that they were involved at Noreuil Valley in the battles of Bullecourt.
  • The Trove website of historical resources has battle images and news reports. Volume IV of the Official history of Australia in the War of 1914-1918  devotes several chapters to the battles.
  • State Library Victoria has a general history of the Battle of Bullecourt.
  • Ted Lynch's service record shows he was gassed 3 June 1917.  The  First World War Official Histories, Volume IV, The Australian Imperial Force in France, 1917, Chapter XIV The Flanders Plan  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 of the Australian Army Medical Services,1914-1918
  • In August 1917, Lynch was awarded the Military Medal. From the diaries of the 12th Australian Field Artillery Brigade (FAB), you can follow the activities of the unit during the war.  
  • See the entry for the Military Medal award in the  London Gazette, published August 14, 1917. Supplement 30234, page 8427.  Supplement to the London Gazette, 16 August 1917. 
  • Citations of many awards are available at the Australian War Memorial. Unfortunately,  details for this award are not attached to the citation.
  • Ted Lynch arrived back in Australia on 2 July 1919 on SS Port Napier. 
  • The Trove website, with historical newspapers, often mentioned individual servicemen. Ted 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.


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.

Returning from the trenches

Australians returning from the trenches with their mascot. The War Budget, Sept. 7, 1916 [No page number]

On the Somme

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.