WWI & Australian military history

A useful starting-point for general archival research of Australian military history is the National Archives of Australia Fact Sheets – enter the term ‘military’ in the search field to refine your results.

WWI soldier
Service photo of Private Albert Edward Kemp, who served in France + Belguim in World War 1 and was killed in action in 1917.

Your next port of call might be the Australian War Memorial. The War Memorial is a rich source of information about specific conflicts, terminologies and people. Examples of documents held by the Australian War Memorial include:

You can also find information specific to Victorian military service on the Veterans’ Unit website.

If you’re interested in undertaking research on particular soldiers, such as your great-great-grandfather, there are a number of approaches to take:

  • Nominal rolls list members of Australia's defence forces who served during particular conflicts. A handy short-cut to the rolls is hosted by the Federal Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
  • The Australian War Memorial can help you ‘Research a Person’.
  • The National Archives of Australia holds military service records and attestation documents. World War I records are extensively available online, while World War II records are partially online and may be ordered.
  • Trove, hosted by the National Library of Australia, facilitates searches for newspapers, maps, books, images, historic music, archives and more.
soldiers on a beach
Extreme right of Anzac Cove showing soldiers outside dug out and supplies on the beach.

Finally, another good source of general information on military history is the museum collection. Today museums typically have at least some of their collections online – the Museum Victoria Collections Online may be a useful starting point, and you could also browse the Australian War Memorial collection online.

Soldier in a military camp
Portrait of Captain Hunter in the camp.

While the Shrine of Remembrance is synonymous with the military history of Australia, traditionally it is not a collecting institution, although it does hold a small collection of objects for display purposes.

Beyond Australia, most nations hold national military collections, often in national museums, and some battlefields have museums specific to those conflicts. International collections that may be of particular interest include the National Army Museum and the Imperial War Museums in the UK.

two nurses in the street
Two nurses standing on a street out the front of Heliopolis Dairy building.

If you have a collection of material you need advice on managing, the Veterans’ Unit in Victoria provides workshops and information guides. Museums Australia (Victoria) also provides training workshops and printed information on managing collections.

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