AUSTRALIA AND THE FIRST WORLD WAR
This page contains links to free online resources about Australia’s role in the First World War (WW1) including soldiers’ letters and diaries, ebooks, films, images and much more. They are the sites I found most useful and interesting when editing the letters of Frederick Muir who features in War Letters 1914–1918, Vol.3.
There is a separate page for additional resources specifically about Gallipoli.
The Australian War Memorial is undoubtedly the best first stop for anyone interested in Australia and the First World War. Along with a lot of extremely useful general information, it has digitised much of its archive of documents, photographs, official histories, military rolls, and unit war diaries providing an invaluable resource freely available to all.
The National Library of Australia has an excellent annotated guide to online sources about Australian history covering all periods, not just the First World War.
The State Library of New South Wales has an extremely good section of its website focused on Australia and the First World War with introductory guides, but also access to a lot of digitised material including official records, soldiers’ letters and diaries and a very good selection of images.
Trove, a website provided by the National Library of Australia, is truly one of the great wonders of the web. It holds details of over 300 million items related to Australia including books, images, maps, music, film, newspapers, diaries and letters. Brilliantly designed and easy to use it also provides links to any of the material which is available online.
OFFICIAL HISTORIES [top]
The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918 is a twelve volume series covering Australia’s involvement in the First World War. Edited by the official historian, Charles Bean, who also wrote six of the volumes and was present for much of the fighting, in its scope, detail, style and impact the series stands as one of the great works of 20th century history.
The complete series has bee digitised and made freely available by the Australian War Memorial with the individual chapters for each volume available as separate PDFs.
The Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services, 1914–1918, in three volumes, is available through the same page.
Published annually since 1908, the official Australian yearbooks provide a portrait of Australia through facts, figures and interesting contemporary essays. All are available free online. Each volume can either be downloaded as a single, large PDF, or specific chapters can be downloaded individually. Alternatively, it is possible to browse all years. For specific years see:
Important acts, amongst many, include:
Researching Australian Military Service: First World War, 1914–1918 is a very good online guide, provided by the Australian War Memorial, to official records held about individuals who served in the First World War. It includes an overview of the different sources, such as rolls of honour and embarkation rolls, and provides links to those sources.
The National Archives of Australia also has a guide to researching the personal records of Australian servicemen and women. The personal records for those who served in the First World War have all been digitised and can be searched and read on the website.
UNIT RECORDS [top]
Researching the history of a unit is an excellent short guide provided by the Australian War Memorial for those interested in researching the history of an Australian military unit.
A list of all the units that served Australia during the First World War, with links to general information about each one, is also available.
Trove Digitised Newspapers is part of the Trove website and provides full-text searching of newspapers published in each state and territory from the 1800s to the mid-1950s. Its collection of digitised newspapers covering the period 1914–1918 is immense.
Most free ebooks about Australia in the First World War tend to be about Gallipoli, and can be found under the Gallipoli section of this website.
Anzac to Amiens by Charles Bean is an exception, and condenses the twelve volume official histories into one manageable single volume account of Australia’s part in the First World War. It is an excellent place to start for those wanting to know more about Australia’s role in the war.
The Australian Dictionary of Biography is produced by the National Centre of Biography at the Australian National University. It has biographies of over 12,000 individuals including many important military figures. The biographies are between 2000 and 6000 words in length and are all checked for accuracy by an editorial panel at the University.
Finding Australian Theses is an online guide produced by Council of Australian University Librarians. Previously all Australian theses had been available through one system. Now they are either available through Trove or through individual institutions. The guide clearly explains the best way to find what you are looking for. This is a small selection of some of the theses available. Other theses specifically related to Gallipoli or Anzac Day can be found on the Gallipoli page of this website.
(On the UNSW websites look out for the little link which says “whole” or “whole PDF”, this is where you can download the document. With the other repositories it is much clearer.)
The Anatomy of a Division: the 1st Australian Division in the Great War, 1914-1919, Stevenson, Robert (Ph.D., Australian Defence Force Academy, UNSW, 2010)
The Australian Churches in the Great War: Attitudes and Activities of the Major Churches, McKernan, Michael Matthew (Ph.D., Australian National University, 1975)
The Broken Years: a Study of the Diaries and Letters of Australian Soldiers in the Great War, 1914-18, Gammage, Bill (Ph.D., Australian National University, 1970)
Champion of Anzac: General Sir Brudenell White, the First Australian Imperial Force and the Emergence of the Australian Military Culture 1914-18, Bentley, John (Ph.D., University of Wollongong, 2003)
Crime and Punishment on the Western Front: the Australian Imperial Force and British Army Discipline, Garstang, Edward John (Ph.D., Murdoch University, 2009)
Half the Battle: the Administration and Higher Organisation of the AIF 1914-1918, Faraday, Bruce Douglas (Ph.D., Australian Defence Force Academy, UNSW, 1997)
The Interplay between Technology, Tactics and Organisation in the First AIF, Mallett, Ross A., (Masters thesis, Australian Defence Force Academy, UNSW, 1999)
Neglected Australians: Prisoners of War from the Western Front, 1916-1918, Regan, Patrick Michael (Ph.D., Australian Defence Force Academy, UNSW, 2005)
A Study in the Limitations of Command : General Sir William Birdwood and the A.I.F., 1914-1918, Millar, John Dermot (Ph.D, Australian Defence Force Academy, UNSW, 1993)
A Working Man’s Hell: Working Class Men’s Experiences with Work in the Australian Imperial Force during the Great War, Wise, Nathan (Ph.D., UNSW 2007)
LETTERS AND DIARIES [top]
The Australian War Memorial Centenary Digitisation Project is beginning to make available some of the first world war letters and diaries from Australian service men and women it holds in its collections. Those available so far include:
Leading Signalman John William Seabrook, HMAS Sydney. ‘ This collection consists of diaries kept by Seabrook between 1913 and 1918 and describing the places he visited, zeppelin, submarine encounters and the fight between the Sydney and the Emden.’
Captain Clarence Wallach MC, 19 Battalion. ‘This collection consists of a transcript of Clarence Wallach’s diary for 1915. In the diary, Wallach describes fighting alongside a Gurkha Battalion at Gallipoli, life in the trenches and the preparations for the evacuation, during which he was amongst the last men to withdraw.
Lieutenant Cyril Ednott Crooke, Australian Flying Corps. ‘This collection consists of a sketchbook containing illustrations of aeroplanes and transports encountered by Crooke throughout the war. Also included in the book are the signatures of 10 Victoria Cross winners, accompanied by a photograph of the group.’
Lieutenant Cyril Arnold Pryor MC, 20 Battalion. ‘This records consists of Pryor’s diary written in letter form between 1914 and 1916 and the envelope in which it was sent. The entries in the diary describe his enlistment in 1914, his experiences of the Gallipoli campaign, the evacuation from the peninsula and comment on his service in France.’
British Pathé has thirty-three films under their collection ‘Anzacs in in the First World War’.
The Australian War Memorial collection on Youtube has thirteen films online about Australia in the First World War.
The Australian War Memorial has a vast collection of photographs about Australia in the First World War. Many of these have been digitised and are available to view online.
Using the advanced search facility on their website, which allows you to select the type of media, is another good way of accessing this collection.
The National Archives of Australia on Flickr have put their collection of photographic portraits of Australian servicemen under their Bonds of Sacrifice series. These sets of photographs are organised by surname.
Grave Secrets is another excellent collection of portaits of Australian servicemen from the First World War.