Saturday, 17 October 2015

Family History Feast 2015 - World War I

The papers presented at the 2015 Family History Feast held at the State Library of Victoria on Monday 10 August are now available to view on the family history section of the State Library website. The theme of the seminar was World War I History.

Papers include:
Bringing the War home: repatriation records and the family historian - the Don Grant lecture by Bruce Scates
Stephen Kafkarisos on the Library's WWI collection
David Holloway on the 4th Light Horse Regiment
Daniel Wilksch on soldier settlement in Victoria
Grace Baliviera on WWI records at the National Archives of Australia
Kirsty Harris on finding information about Australian nurses in WWI

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Writing the War: personal stories from World War I

Writing the War is a State Library of Victoria and Public Libraries Victoria Network touring exhibition on display in the All Nations Foyer at the Box Hill Town Hall from 3 October to 11 November 2015.
The exhibition consists of a series of panels tracing seven personal stories of the wartime accounts of a nurse, bank clerk, farmer, sports master, journalist, artist and activist. These are only a small selection of stories that can be located in the archive of material relating to World War I in the State Library collection.
Australians serving during WWI shared their experiences through letters, diaries and photographs sent to loved ones and this material has been used to tell the stories.
The exhibition will tour Victoria from 2015 until 1917 and will be hosted by twelve library services. Whitehorse Manningham Libraries is the current host of this exhibition and a number of activities have been arranged by the library in conjunction with the exhibition.
The exhibition can also be viewed in Palmer Hall at the State Library of Victoria until end of March 2016.
A series of videos have been made in conjunction with the display panels and can be located on the State Library of Victoria website as well as viewed at the exhibition.
The seven people highlighted in the exhibition are:
George Auchterlonie
Percival Langford
Sir Keith Murdoch
Vida Goldstein
Jessie Traill
Alice Kitchen
Eric Chinner

Australia Calls exhibition

The theme for Whitehorse Heritage Week for 2015 was Australia Calls, looking at the way World War I affected those living in the Shire of Nunawading.
An exhibition, Australia Calls, was held at the Box Hill Art Space from 14 September until 14 October. It was supported by the Federal Government through the office of Veterans Affairs under the ANZAC Centenary Local Grants Program. Whitehorse City Council received assistance to mount these initiatives through both Chisholm and Deakin electorates.
The exhibition included a collection of diaries, photographs, newspaper extracts, poetry, artefacts and memorabilia conveying accounts of those who fought abroad and those who contributed to the war effort back home in Australia.
Display boards recounted the stories of some of the soldiers from the area who fought overseas plus memories of the war of some of the current residents. There were also stories of how the local community participated in support of the war effort as well as debates about Australia's participation in the war.
According to Andrew Lemon, author of the book, Box Hill, - 
'About one in twelve of the population of the Shire of Nunawading enlisted for active service in the war of 1914-1918. Of these, one in six were killed.'
World War I therefore had a significant impact on the Shire of Nunawading (now the City of Whitehorse).
The exhibition panels were designed by Way Back When, consulting historians, with much of the initial preparation and general organisation undertaken by Julie Jones, Heritage Programs, Whitehorse Council.
Many local residents and organisations contributed to the exhibition.
A large scale photographic image of the Shire of Nunawading Honor Roll was on display in the exhibition space and also in the foyer of the City of Whitehorse council offices.

This project was a great contribution not only to Whitehorse Heritage Week but also to the national commemoration of the Anzac Centenary.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Exploring family military history (part 2)

This guide provides a listing of some of the online resources for researching military history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries . It was prepared for the session, Exploring Family Military History, at Nunawading Library. See part one of this guide for a select list of organisations with resources.

Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) 
The National Archives has a guide - Napoleonic Wars - providing a brief outline of resources. 
Other guides that may be useful include British army soldiers up to 1913British army officers up to 1913, British army officers up to 1913: further research, and British army operations up to 1913. Check the general listing for the heading Military and Maritime for other guides that may be useful.
The National Archives also have an online exhibition - Nelson, Trafalgar and those who served. This site includes a database of British involved in the Battle of Trafalgar.
BBC History website has a series of timelines providing guides to researching military family history for a series of battles.
General search on the Internet for names of battles, key figures, names of army and other military units that took part, ships etc.
See also the link for Napoleonic Wars in this blog for posts about some of the monuments erected to commemorate battles and people who served during this period.

Crimean War (1853-1856)
The National Archives (UK) guides are useful. Crimean War records would be a good starting point.
Also check some of the other guides mentioned in the Napoleonic Wars entry above.
The British Battles online exhibition, Crimean War, provides background information.
Searching the Internet provides a number of articles on the Crimean War including  Crimean War and Australian involvement.
This blog contains a number of posts on the Crimean War including some research I did to locate information on a family member who served in the British Army in Crimea.

Sudan (1855)
Sudan (New South Wales Contingent) March to June 1855 is an article on the Australian War Memorial website. Another article is Researching Australian military service: Sudan

Indian Mutiny (1857
The National Archives (UK) has a research guide on Indian Army personnel. Most of the records are held at the British Library. India Office Family History Search and Families in British India are the main resources for information about specific British people in India.
My Family Connections blog has a post on researching family history information relating to the Raj in India as well as a post on one event during the Indian Mutiny

Boer War (1899-1902) 
The National Archives (UK) has a guide Boer War records. Also check some of the other guides mentioned in the Napoleonic Wars entry above.
National Archives of Australia provides information about service records for those who served during the Boer War. As Australia did not exist as a federated country at the beginning of the war information is also provided about the records of contingents from the different states who participated. The Boer War: Australians and the war in South Africa by Craig Wilcox is a useful publication available on the National Archives website.
On Australian War Memorial website - Australia and the Boer War - and Researching Australian Military Service South African War are two useful articles.
There are a number of posts on this blog relating to research undertaken to discover stories about family members who served during the Boer War.

Boxer Rebellion (1900-1901)
China (Boxer Rebellion) is an article on the Australian War Memorial website.

World War I (1914-1918) 
There are lots of resources to assist with World War I family history research.
The Australian War Memorial has articles and research guides starting with First World War 1914-1918. You can search embarkation rolls, nominal rolls, commemorative roll, roll of honour, plus Red Cross files via the Search for a Person page. Use the War history page to access digitised copies of publications such as official histories and unit war diaries.
The National Archives of Australia website has a Name Search in the Record Search where you can search for information about those who served during the First World War. Choose World War I in the Category of records box. However digitised copies of the First World War service records of Australian and New Zealand service personnel can be accessed on the Discovering Anzacs website. Repatriation records for some soldiers are gradually being added.
The AIF Project database provides summary information for all those serving during World War I.
A number of digital books can be downloaded from the Department of Veterans Affairs website.
Investigate the Military history and publications link on the Department of Veterans Affairs website.
The 100 Years of Anzac website provides a range of material relating to the story of Australia's military history.
The National Archives (UK) has a search guide First World War. Also check the related research guides. The online exhibition provides background information. Some British service records can be accessed via the Discovery site while others can be accessed via
The Long, Long Trail website provides information about the British Army during the First World War.
The State Library of Victoria is making available digital copies of World War I unit histories. Use the World War I label in this blog for posts relating to information about researching people and events in this war.

World War II (1939-1945)
The Australian War Memorial has articles and research guides starting with Second World War - 1939-1945. You can search commemorative roll, roll of honour, honours and awards plus World War II POW files via the Search for a Person page. Use the War history page to access digitised copies of publications such as official histories and unit war diaries.
The National Archives of Australia website has a Name Search in the Record Search where you can search for information about those who served during the Second World War. Choose World War II in the Category of records box. Records for an individual can be ordered.
The World War II Nominal Roll can be accessed on the Department of Veterans Affairs website in the Commemorations, memorials and war graves section.
A number of digital books can be downloaded from the Department of Veterans Affairs website.
Investigate the Military history and publications link on the Department of Veterans Affairs website. 
The 100 Years of Anzac website provides a range of material relating to the story of Australia's military history.
Imperial War Museums has a series of articles on the Cold War which occurred immediately at the end of World War II.
National Archives (UK) has a search guide Second World War. Also check the related research guides. 
For Second World War British service records after 1920 visit the Veterans UK website. For an interactive history of the war use this link.
Use the World War II label in this blog for posts relating to information about researching people and events in this war.

Korean War (1950-1953) 
The War history section of the Australian War Memorial website includes an article on Korean War.
Nominal Roll of the Korean War can be accessed on the Department of Veterans Affairs website in the Commemorations, memorials and war graves section.
The Department of Veterans Affairs also has a History section that includes Australia's involvement in the Korean War.
National Archives (UK) has an online exhibition providing background information on the Korean War.
Imperial War Museums website includes an article - A Short History of the Korean War

Malayan Emergency (1948-1960) 
The War history section of the Australian War Memorial website includes an article on the Malayan Emergency.

Vietnam War (1955-1975) 
The War history section of the Australian War Memorial website includes an article on the Vietnam War.
Vietnam Veterans Nominal Roll can be accessed on the Department of Veterans Affairs website in the Commemorations, memorials and war graves section.
The Department of Veterans Affairs also has a History section that includes Australia and the Vietnam War.

Gulf War (1990-1991)
The War history section of the Australian War Memorial website includes an article on the First Gulf War.
The Preliminary Gulf War Nominal Roll can be accessed on the Department of Veterans Affairs website in the Commemorations, memorials and war graves section.

Case studies used in talk
The posts for the Case Studies (Ken Moses and Norman McCallum Smith) referred to in the Exploring Family Military History talk can be found using this link. The posts referring to Clive Condor Weston are also available on this blog.

Other resources
There are many books written on all of these battles. Some can be found in public libraries, otherwise explore the collections in major research libraries such as the State Library of Victoria.

Don't forget to investigate articles in newspapers published at the time of the battles remembering, especially in the nineteenth century, that  articles often appeared several months after the event.

Exploring family military history

Organisations and resources that may be useful when exploring family military history. This guide was prepared for a talk at Nunawading Library on Exploring Family Military History in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. See part two of this guide for a select list of battles and wars with resources.

National Archives of Australia (
The National Archives of Australia holds Army, Navy and Air Force service records since Federation, which include service during World War I and World War II. Records available in the National Archives of Australia can be found using Record Search, then selecting Name Search. Choose the category of record from the drop down list.

World War I records from National Archives of Australia and Archives New Zealand can also be located via the website Discovering Anzacs -

National Archives (UK) (
The National Archives (UK) holds a thousand years of records. Discovery, the catalogue of the National Archives, holds more than 32 million descriptions of records held by the National Archives and more than 2,500 archives across the country. Over 9 million records are available for download.

Discovery (National Archives UK) is also available free via the State Library of Victoria website ( if you are a library member.

The National Archives(UK) also has a large number of useful research guides. Under the heading, Military and Maritime, you will find 136 guides. Other useful headings are World War I and World War II.

Each Australian state has an archive.
For Victoria it is the Public Record Office of Victoria ( This archive has recently made available records relating to soldier settlement in Victoria after World War I – Battle to Farm -

State Records NSW ( is the state archive for NSW. They also have a soldier settlement project – A Land Fit for Heroes? -

All the above resources have guides and finding aids plus online indexes. Some also have online exhibitions and / or articles providing useful background information. They also all have sections specifically for family history.

 War memorials and museums
Australian War Memorial - (
The War History section of this website provides information on the military and Australia since Colonial times. The website also has links to digitised publications including unit diaries and official histories.
The People section allows researchers to locate information on Nominal Rolls and other lists held by the Australian War Memorial and other institutions.

Imperial War Museums (UK) - (
Imperial War Museums’ collections cover all aspects of twentieth and twenty-first century conflict involving Britain, the Commonwealth and other former empire countries. For information about individuals use National Archives (UK).
The War and Conflict section includes a variety of useful articles.

Government departments
Department of Veterans Affairs – (
Commemorations, Memorials and War Graves is the section to use especially for locating Nominal Rolls for World War II, Korean War, Vietnam Veterans Nominal Roll and Gulf War Nominal Roll.
Veterans UK has British service records after 1920 -

State library of Victoria (
Search & Discover is the menu tab to use together with Explore Our Collections by theme to locate a section on War, a guide to the extensive collection of books on military history held by the library. There is also a project to digitise World War I unit histories held in the collection. The section, British Colonial History, provides a guide to some of the collection items relating to this topic.

Newspapers are a valuable resource for accounts of battles and, also sometimes, individuals plus the effects of war on a community.
Trove – is the resource to use for Australian newspapers.
Many libraries also subscribe to databases of historic newspapers. For example for British newspapers check Historic e-newspapers in the e-library section on the Whitehorse Manningham Libraries' website – Check the websites for other libraries to check their digital collections.

Databases -
Find My Past - 
These provide access to a range of records, including some military records, for family history research. Most libraries allow their members to search these databases for no charge.
Forces War Records -
Another subscription database but short term subscriptions are available. The general information made freely available on this website may also be worth investigating.

War photographs can be located on many of the websites including Trove, and most of the institutions mentioned.

Check websites for information about specific battles, about military units, uniforms, medals etc.. Also look for photographs and maps online.
See the list of websites and blogs available on this blog for a selection of useful websites.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Herbert and Harold Waddell and the Boer War

Recently when undertaking research for another project I found references to the  involvement of members of the Waddell family from Singleton, New South Wales, in the Boer War.

Both Herbert William Waddell and Harold Henry Waddell were the grandsons of William Waddell who brought his family from Scotland to Australia in 1839. Herbert's father, Daniel Munro Waddell, was born in New South Wales in 1843 while his brother, William, Harold's father, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1836. Herbert was born in 1873 and Harold was born in 1876. Both families lived in Patrick Plains (Singleton).

When searching in Trove for information regarding the Waddell family I found an article containing a copy of a letter, written by Harold, published in the Singleton Argus 6 February 1900 recounting experiences in South Africa. The letter was written on 2 January 1900 from Rendsburg and recounts an encounter against the Boers where a number of the horses were killed or wounded but only three of the one hundred Australian and one hundred English involved in the incident were wounded. The letter ends with the words "It is wonderful how our men escape".

The Australian War Memorial provides a useful overview article on Australia and the Boer War (1899-1902).

 Harold was a member of the New South Wales Lancers while Herbert was a member of the New South Wales Citizen Bushmen. Information about these and other units can be found on the Australian War Memorial website in the War History section by selecting Units then name of the war or conflict - eg  South Africa 1899-1902 (Boer War).

Always check the links in the side bar. For example the Heraldry link in the New South Lancers page includes images of uniforms and medals for that unit.
Another useful Boer War website is Australian Boer War Memorial website of the National Australian Boer War Memorial Association.

The Australian War Memorial in their People section allows the searching for names of Australians who served during various wars and conflicts.

Searching the nominal rolls for the name Waddell and selecting South Africa 1899-1902 in the drop down list provides four names including the names of the two cousins.
Summary information is provided along with links to any digitised records.
Herbert Waddell was killed at Piennaar's River on 22 September 1900. A search in the Roll of Honor provides similar information and, in this case, a photograph of Herbert (photographs are not available for all records).
Trove provides additional information about Herbert William Waddell. The Australian Town and Country Journal 17 February 1900 contains an article listing the men from the Bushmen's Contingent about to leave for South Africa.

The Sydney Morning Herald for Tuesday 2 October 1900 reports the death of Herbert Waddell in South Africa on the previous Thursday. The Singleton Argus for the same date provided additional detail:
Word was received yesterday that Private Herbert Waddell, of Singleton, a member of the Bushmen's Contingent, was killed in a battle at Pienaars River. The deceased, who was a son of Mr D. R. Waddell, of Sedgfield, was a native of this district, and is the first Singletonian to lose his life at the front. Hitherto our local men have been attended with marvellous luck, but it has now come to this unfortunate young fellow's lot to lose his life for Queen and country, and he now fills a soldier's grave in South Africa. The family will be accorded the sympathies of every resident of the district in their sad bereavement.
A number of other newspapers also carried the news of the death of Herbert William Waddell and the effect of his death on the local community. The final intimation of the death of Herbert William Waddell was received by his father from Captain Eckford the previous day according to the Evening News 8 May 1901.
The Evening News 14 April 1901 reported on plans to build a memorial in the memory of Trooper Waddell.
Memorial in Burdekin Park
Unfortunately the erection and the unveiling of the memorial caused much controversy over the following years. Money for the project was collected by public subscription.  Trove contains a series of articles about the delay in erecting the memorial in memory of Trooper Waddell. The memorial was finally erected on 27 September 1903, three years after his death. The Singleton Argus 29 September 1903 provides a scathing article on the events leading up to the unveiling of the monument.

The Register of War Memorials in New South Wales website provides photos and details of the memorial. Additional information about the memorial is available on Dossier 48 website and also Singleton - Boer War and Herbert Waddell on Terry Callaghan's history & genealogy website.

The money left over from the public subscription to erect the monument was used to unveil a memorial tablet in St Andrew's Presbyterian Church (now Singleton Uniting Church) on 24 May 1903 (Singleton Argus 26 May 1903).

Harold Waddell's association with the Lancers did not end when he returned home from the Boer War as he remained a member of the Singleton section of the Hunter River Lancers (4th Australian Light Horse). An article in the Singleton Argus 13 December 1904 mentioned that he was to be a lieutenant (actually 2nd lieutenant). Another article in the Musswellbrook Chonicle 14 March 1906 announced his promotion to lieutenant. The Desert Column website lists him as being a captain on 21 January 1908.

Anzac Live

One of the organisations I 'Like' on Facebook is National Archives of Australia. This evening there was a post on my Facebook newsfeed about Anzac Live - 'The lives and experiences of ‪#‎WW1‬ soldiers and nurses brought to life using social media '.
Anzac Live is a collection of stories of the experiences of real people who served during World War I. The posts are based on diary entries and provide a day by day account of activities, thoughts, fears and hopes. Social media - Facebook and Twitter - is used to tell the stories. There are nine individual stories to be followed using Facebook plus the Anzac Live Facebook page providing the 'big-picture perspective on the conflict'.
I had a look at the Alice Ross-King page which follows Alice's story. The story begins in 1891 when Alice was born in Ballarat. The next post provides a little family background when the family moved to Perth in 1895 and then Alice and her mother returned to Melbourne. There are two posts about the pre-war nursing experience of Alice (1903 and 1911) before the story of Alice's involvement in the First World War commences when she enlisted as a staff army nurse on 5 November 1914. The latest post is dated 27 August 1915.
I look forward to following Alice's story.

A number of other online resources provide information about Alice Ross-King:
  • Documents relating to Alice's war experience can be found on Discovering Anzacs.
  • The Australian War Memorial has an article about Major Alice Ross-King.
  • The transcript of the diaries of Alice Ross-King can also be found on the Australian War Memorial website.
  • The Australian Dictionary of Biography also contains an article about Alice.

The other participants in the Anzac Live project that you can follow are Charles Laseron, Bert Reynolds, John Monash, Archie Barwick, Ellis Silas, Arthur Adams, Charles Suckling and Hector Brewer.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

World War I - selection of non-fiction books

Many non-fiction books have been published about the First World War. These titles can often be located on library shelves with Dewey numbers starting with 940.3 and 940.4. Books on military history can also be found with Dewey numbers starting with 355. Below is a sample of some of the books that may be available.

Adult non-fiction
  • Anzac memories: living with the legend by Alistair Thomson
  • The spirit of Gallipoli: living the Anzac legend by Patrick Lindsay
  • Gallipoli: the final battles and evacuation of Anzac by David W Cameron
  • Battle for Lone Pine: four days of hell at the heart of Gallipoli by David W Cameron
  • Remembering Fromelles: a new cemetery for a new century by Julie Summers
  • Maestro John Monash: Australia’s greatest citizen general by Tim Fischer
  • Monash: the outsider who won the war. A biography of Australia’s greatest military commander by Perry Roland
  • Bean’s Gallipoli: the diaries of Australia’s official war correspondent by Charles
  • Anzacs on the Western Front: the Australian War Memorial battlefield guide by Peter Pedersen
  • Walking with the Anzacs: the authoritative guide to the Australian battlefields on the Western Front by Mat McLachlan
  • Mapping the First World War by Peter Chasseaud
  • Letters from the front by Dorothy Gilding (correspondence of Jim McConnell)
  • Testament of Youth: an autobiographical study of the years 1900-1925 by Vera Britain
  • Anzac Girls: the extraordinary story of our World War I nurses by Peter Rees
  • Kitty's war by Janet Butler
  • Victoria at war 1914-1918 by Michael McKernan
  •  Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War by Joan Beaumont
  • Shattered Anzacs: living with the scars of war by Marina Larsson
  • Ghost at the wedding by Shirley Walker
  • A place to remember: a history of the Shrine of Remembrance by Bruce Scates  
  • Australian War Memorial: treasures from a century of collecting by Nola Anderson
  • Anzac Treasures: the Gallipoli collection of the Australian War Memorial by Peter Pedersen
  • Furphies and Whizz-bangs: Anzac slang from the Great War by Amanda Laugensen
  • And the band played on: how music lifted the Anzac spirit in the battlefields of the First World War by Robert Holden
  • Fighting on the home front: the legacy of women in World War One by Kate Adie
  • Virago book of women and the Great War and the Great War 1914-1918 by Joyce Marlow
  • Singled out: how two million women survived without men after the First World War by Virginia Nicholson
Junior non-fiction
A selection of some of the titles available:
  • Australia and the First World War, 1914-1918 by A K Macdougall
  • Children in Wartime by Michael Dugan
  • The First World War through Children’s Eyes by Anna Ciddor
  • World War I: the Australian Experience by Michael Andrews
  • Zero Hour: the Anzacs on the Western Front by Leon Davidson
  • Fromelles: Australia’s bloodiest day at War by Carole Wilkinson
The Australian War Memorial and Department of Veterans’ Affairs have published a series of books for upper primary and secondary school students on aspects of war. Some of the titles cover both World Wars. Titles include:
  • Ancestry: stories of multicultural Anzacs by Robyn Siers and Carlie Walker
  • Devotion: stories of Australia’s wartime nurses by Robyn Siers
  • Audacity: stories of heroic Australians in wartime by Carlie Walker

Friday, 29 May 2015

The First World War through children's fiction

Recently I was asked to compile a list of books held in the library relating to the First World War. This proved to be an interesting exercise especially as I was to look at books for a variety of ages.

Picture books
The library holds a number of picture books with World War I themes for older children. The use of illustration is a powerful and moving way to portray the effects of the war. Some titles are listed below:
  • And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda –Eric Bogle’s song about Gallipoli illustrated by Bruce Whatley
  • Anzac Biscuits by Phil Cummings; illustrated by Owen Swan [As a mother explains the history of Anzac biscuits, World War I battle scenes are also provided]
  • Jack’s Bugle by Krista Bell; illustrated by Belinda Eliot [the journey of a bugle from Australia to Gallipoli and back to Australia] 
  • Lest We Forget by Kerry Brown; illustrated by Isobel Knowles & Benjamin Portas [the story of a boy and his grandfather]
  • Lone Pine by Susie Brown & Margaret Warner; illustrated by Sebastian Ciaffaglione [story of bringing the Lone Pine to Australia]
  • The Poppy by Andrew Plant [story of Australian involvement at Villers Bretonneux]
  • The Soldier’s Gift by Tony Palmer; illustrated by Jane Tanner [one family’s courage during the First World War] 
 Junior fiction
A variety of books with the theme of World War I can also be found in the junior fiction collection.

One of the best known titles is probably War Horse by Michael Morpurgo [This tale of the relationship between a man and his horse on Western Front has recently been performed as a play and also made into a film]

 Once again a selection of the titles is provided in this list of books designed for a variety of ages:
  • Best Christmas Present in the World by Michael Morpurgo [Christmas in the trenches in 1914]
  • The Bomber Balloon by Terry Deary [Zeppelins over England in 1916]
  • In Flanders Fields by Norman Jorgensen & Brian Harrison-Lever [It is Christmas morning and the guns stop firing]
  • Loyal Creatures by Morris Gleitzman [Story of Frank and his horse in the Light Horse]
  • Evan’s Gallipoli by Kerry Greenwood [Evan travels with his father to the Dardenelles]
  • Roly the Anzac Donkey by Glyn Harper & Jenny Cooper [Activities of the NZ Medical Corps & their donkeys]
  • The Red Poppy by David Hill [Two wounded soldiers from different armies in No Man’s Land are rescued with the help of a messenger dog]
  • My father’s war by Sophie Masson [A journey to discover what the war was like in 1918 in France]
  • Do Not Forget Australia by Sally Murphy & Sonia Kretschmar [Australia’s relationship with Villers-Bretonneux forged by war]
  • Stories of WW1 by Tony Bradman
  • Light Horse Boy by Dianne Wolfer [Jim & Charlie join the Light Horse in 1914]

Thursday, 30 April 2015

World War I: a history in 100 stories

Currently I am doing an online course prepared by Monash University and placed online by FutureLearn. It is a five week course and through the One Hundred Stories project we look at aspects of the war through the stories of 100 participants. The stories are portrayed as silent presentations - a series of slide-shows of white text on black background - to tell each story. Fifty of the stories are currently online and another 50 will be added. A book containing more detailed versions of each story will be published later in the year.

Each week we look and discuss stories relating to a theme. Week one - Monuments and Mourning included how families grieved back home, particularly when a body was never recovered. Week two - Women and the War included those who performed unpaid work at home as well as the nurses who served overseas. Week three - The Other Anzac, looked at non-British soldiers who served with the Australian services, particularly indigenous soldiers. Week four - War Wounds, both physical and psychological. Week five - The Old Lie, the politics of war and how war divided society such as conscription debates, how the men were (or were not) helped to settle back into Australian life including soldier settlement schemes. As well as looking at individual stories there are videos where related topics are discussed and each week aspects of the theme may also be portrayed via a poem or piece of fiction, drama, art or music. A feature of the course is the forum where participants are encouraged to share their views. Often additional links or titles of appropriate books are provided via the forum.

So far this has been an interesting and often moving course. Looking closely at the experiences of individuals during the war, and in many cases the back story, brings home a greater understanding of how the war affected individuals, families and Australia.

Note: In November 2015 the book containing the full versions of the One Hundred Stories was published - World War I a history in 100 stories.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Whitehorse Remembers

The Anzac Day display at Nunawading Library this year focuses on some of the memorials to those who served in World War I in what is now the City of Whitehorse.
 In conjunction with the Diggers in Whitehorse and Manningham project one of the librarians, Elaine Craig, took a series of photographs of all the memorials she could locate. A selection of the Whitehorse memorials is included in the display.
In the foyer of the Box Hill Town Hall there is a large honour board listing the names of those from the Shire of Nunawading, as the area was then known, who served during the First World War. The centre panel contains the names of those who did not return.
There are a number of official public memorials in the region including the Box Hill War Memorial, now located in the Box Hill Gardens.
Another war memorial is at Morton Park in Blackburn (pictured centre in the above image). The honour board shown on the left is for the Vermont Volunteers. This board was for many years displayed at the Vermont Mechanics Institute. Schools also remembered former pupils and staff who served. Many of the schools had honour rolls which often included information about the military service of students. Honour boards would also be displayed at schools.
Many organisations including churches and businesses also recognised their members who served. Space for the display was limited however the small selection demonstrates a range of memorials in the region. The display also promotes the library's Diggers database containing the names of those who served as well as Whitehorse Heritage Week to be held 10-17 September.

Giant Poppy Art Project

Another Anzac Day project utilising the poppy, this time in Auckland, New Zealand
Giant Poppy Art Project

If the video from the official website does not work the following link takes you to a video about the project.

The aim of the project is to use 59,000 red metal discs, representing New Zealanders killed or wounded during the First World War, to prepare an installation  40 metres wide in the Auckland Domain.
Money raised from the project will be used to assist ex-service personnel and their families.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Tony Robinson's Tour of Duty

Last night I watched the first episode of Tony Robinson's Tour of Duty, the new ten part series produced for the Centenary of Anzac Day and shown on the History Channel. The first one hour episode was filmed at Towoomba and surrounding area. Obviously there is a focus on monuments and stories relating to the First World War but stories relating to service in other wars were also provided.

The stories last night included:
A visit to the 11th Light Horse Darling Downs Troop which is a re-enactment unit established in 2002 commemorating the work of the 11th Light Horse Darling Downs Regiment established in February 1915.

Bill the Bastard, a waler, who carried five soldiers to safety during the Battle of Romani during World War I

The Mothers Memorial which was built from money raised by the women of the town and situated in the centre of the city. In the mid 1980s the memorial was relocated to East Creek Park where it is the focus for remembrance services.

A State War Memorial to Animals has also been proposed for Eastern Creek Park.

Toowoomba and District Aeromodellers who have produced models of World War II planes including the Black Magic, a kitty hawk flown by Len Waters, an aboriginal pilot. There was also an interview with the daughter of Len Waters.

Members of the 25th Infantry Battalion, formed from militia units from Toowoomba and the Darling Downs area, who were sent to defend Milne Bay in Papua New Guinea in 1942. This segment included an interview with a survivor from this campaign.

A soldier from Afghanistan recovering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with the aid of a  dog named Zeus, part of a program set up to assist the treatment of soldiers with PTSD. After the first and second world wars soldiers many soldiers suffered from what was then called shell shock but is now referred to as PTSD.

Each episode also has a road show segment where people are encouraged to show items relating to the war experience of family members.

All in all this was an interesting episode covering wide ranging topics relating to the experience of war in the community. Future episodes will visit other towns in Australia and New Zealand and should be worth watching.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Glencoe Massacre

This year is the 300th anniversary of the 1715 Jacobite Rising. Jacobites were supporters of of the deposed James VII of Scotland and his son, James, the 'Old Pretender'. James VII of Scotland was also James II of England and ruled from 6 February 1685 to 1688 when he was deposed for being pro-Catholic and possibly pro-French. By this time England and Scotland were largely protestant countries. When James fled to France at the end of 1688, his daughter Mary and her husband, William of Orange, were invited to rule England, Scotland and Ireland. The group of people who wanted James and his son to be restored to the throne of England, Scotland and Ireland were known as Jacobites. The greatest support for the return of the Stuart kings was in Scotland.

In 1690 Scotland officially became a Presbyterian country though other protestant religions were allowed to be followed. Scotland accepted that their rulers were Mary and William. An order was issued that by 1 January 1692 all the chiefs of Scottish clans were to sign an oath of allegiance to William and Mary. Many of the chiefs had already signed an oath to James VII and were not released from this obligation until 28 December, three days before the deadline.
On 31 December the head of the Glencoe branch of the MacDonald clan left for Fort William to sign the oath only to be advised that he had to travel 60 miles to Inveraray to sign the oath before a sheriff. The late signing of the oath was not accepted by the authorities, who were looking for an excuse to punish the highlanders, and an order was given that the MacDonalds of Glencoe were to be killed. Captain Robert Campbell of Glenlyon carried out the order after he and his men had accepted the hospitality of the MacIain, the chieftain of this branch of the Macdonalds, for several days until on 13 February they carried out the order to kill the MacDonalds - men, women and children. Some escaped the slaughter but 37, including women and children, were killed that day.

This action only increased the divide between the highlanders and the lowlanders in Scotland as well as between the highlanders and their king. The Massacre of Glencoe was part of the lead up to the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715.

On the Massacre of Glencoe - time lapse photography - poem by Sir Walter Scott

BBC Scotland - Massacre of Glen Coe

Scotsman - Massacre of Glencoe

Order for the Massacre of Glencoe

The Game of Crowns - the 1715 Jacobite Uprising

History of Glencoe

Wars of the Roses

This week I began a six week online course - England in the time of Richard III - prepared by the University of Leicester and put on line by FutureLearn. During the first week we looked at the Wars of the Roses, a series of battles that took place between 1455 and 1487. The first battles occurred between 1455 and 1464, the second series between 1469 and 1471 while the two final battles occurred in 1485 and 1487.

There are many websites that help to portray the story of this civil war in England between the Lancastrian and Yorkist kings of England and their supporters.

A good starting point is The Wars of the Roses - a website that includes maps and timelines showing the battles and the relevant events in the history of this period. Clicking the links provides summary information about each battle.

Four of the major battles were:
Blore Heath in 1459
Towton in 1461
Tewkesbury in 1471
Bosworth 1485

The battle at Towton resulted in the most deaths in any of the battles. A three minute video, providing a brief summary of the battle, located on the front page of the Towton Battlefield website is recommended viewing.
BBC - Bradford Uni unravels Roses battle puzzle

Re-enactment societies commemorate some of these battles including the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre. Living history groups:
The Wars of the Roses Federation
Towton Battlefield Society
Les Routiers de Rouen
Buckingham's Retinue

Other websites include:
Richard III Society
British Archaeology - The big dig: Discovering Bosworth
Time Team Special (2011) - Wars of the Roses: Relocating the field of the Battle of Bosworth (video)

The Guardian (20 February 2010) - Silver badge and lead shot pinpoint the Battle of Bosworth
York Boar badge as worn by the supporters of Richard III- (video)

The Official Website of the British Monarchy - provides short biographies of British royalty

The letters of the Paston Family of Norwich are a rich resource when studying 15th century history. The letters are available online via the Project Gutenberg website. The book, Blood and Roses, by Helen Castor uses the letters to describe life in 15th century England. See also BBC History: Paston family letters.

Other resources:
National Archives
British History Online - catalogue
National Heritage List for England lists many surviving medieval buildings

The other topics in this online course include Peasants and farmers. Books, literacy and printing, Death and commemoration, Food and The road from Bosworth, including Richard III's reinterment.

This is only one of many online courses on a wide variety of topics, not just history, available on the FutureLearn website - worth having a look at if you have some free time.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Remount Units - World War I

Recently I was checking the record on Discovering Anzacs for David Mullett, an Aborigine from Healesville who enlisted in the First Remount Unit No. 2 Squad on 6 November 1915.

The First World War Embarkation Rolls show that Private David Mullet (service number 500) left Melbourne aboard the HMAT Orsova A67 on 12 November 1915. The digitised record shows that David was 44, was a labourer before enlisting and that his wife was Emily Maude Mullett. The address was c/- of the Healesville Post Office. His religion was listed as C of E.
Remounts in Egypt 1915
The First Remount Service had been formed in Melbourne on 21 September 1915. Members were also from Western Australia. South Australia and Tasmania. Members of the Remount Service were usually older men like David, some having served in the Boer War. Maximum age for the unit was 50. The unit was based in Egypt but in 1917 remounts were taken to Palestine for the Palestine campaign. Members of the Remount Service looked after, and trained, the horses acquired to be used by the army before they were sent overseas and also while the horses were overseas.

The Yea Chronicle published an article about the Victorian Remount Unit on 21 October 1915. The unit was stationed at Maribyrnong and the article describes the make-up of the unit and the initial training before the unit travelled to Egypt where further training would be undertaken.

The Australian War Memorial website has a video of the Army Remount Depot at Maribyrnong which shows the men handling the horses. There is also a collection of 108 photographs relating to Remount Units in Australia and overseas, including some during World War I.

The area were the Remount Depot was stationed was known as Remount Hill. A statement of significance of the area has been prepared by the National Trust. The Australian Heritage Database also contains a statement of significance for the area. The Australian Heritage Places Inventory prepared a report of the area.

The Australian Light Horse Association has a forum which includes posts about the Remount Unit. Another useful resource is the Australian Light Horse Studies Centre which contains several articles about the Remount Section. These include an article about the Training of a Remount, an article by Andrew Banjo Patterson who was a Lieutenant in the Second Remount Service plus an article about the whalers (horses).

There has always been concern about what happened to the horses at the end of the First World War.  The Australian War Memorial has published an article in Wartime No. 44 - They shot horses - didn't they? - which describes what really did happen to most of the horses. Only one of the horses, Sandy, actually made it back to Australia. He returned to live the remainder of his life at Remount Hill at Maribyrnong.

David Mullet remained overseas until he left Port Said for Australia aboard the City of Poona on 9 April 1919. The ship arrived in Melbourne on 14 May 1919 and David was discharged from the AIF on 7 July 1919, classed as medically unfit. By this time he would have been 48.

A letter dated 20 March 1938 shows that David Mullett and his family had moved to Bega in New South Wales. He died later that year aged 64.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Researching Aboriginal Australians in World War I

A number of websites provide information specifically for researching Aboriginal Australians during the First World War.

Australia wide sites
AIATSIS Military links

Indigenous Australians at war Interesting links (AIATSIS)

Aboriginal Anzacs (Australian War Memorial) - post in AWM blog
     The website by Garth O'Connell referred to in this blogpost is now hosted by AIATSIS
     Indigenous Australians at War -

Aboriginals in World War I (Anzac day websites)

Resources for researching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Participation in War (State Library of Queensland)
Nominal Roll
Kurbingui Star - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Soldiers of the First World War

Aboriginal Victorians’ Involvement in World War I (Anzac Centenary)

Aboriginal World War I servicemen – a deliberate silence (NAA)

Indigenous Anzacs (Behind the News – school resource)

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Alice Margaret Betheras - Locating a World War I nurse (part 2)

The website Australian Nurses in World War I provides brief details about Staff Nurse Alice Margaret Betheras in the Australian Army Nursing Service. Alice had trained at the Alfred Hospital for three years. On 5 November 1915 she enlisted as an army nurse and left Australia on 12 November 1915. Alice was a nurse in Egypt and France and returned to Australia on 30 December 1917. Alice was discharged as Medically Unfit on 27 June 1918.

Discovering Anzacs provides the service and medical records for Alice - 19 pages.
A Google search for "Alice Margaret Betheras" provide other websites providing information about Alice's service in the Army as a nurse including:
First World War Embarkation Rolls showing that Alice left Australia on 12 November 1915 aboard the HMAT Orsova. Alice was 27 when she left Australia and she had been living in Camberwell when she enlisted. She was attached to the First Australian General Hospital Special Reinforcements. Her religion is given as Methodist.
The AIF Project provides similar information as well as a list of the names of the men and women aboard the Orsova.
HMAT Orsova 1915 - HMAT ships
Alice returned to Australia aboard the HMAT Berrima on 30 December 1917.
HMAT Berrima - 1917 - HMAT ships
The medical record for Alice Margaret Betheras shows that she had a number of stays in hospital while overseas including on one occasion, mumps, and finally a gastric ulcer. Most of her service was in Egypt but in early 1917 she embarked for France to work at the 5th General Hospital. On 9 August 1917 she returned to England and left England on 31 October to return to Australia.

The Australian War Memorial has a diary containing French language exercises that belonged to Alice. The diary contains entries from 14 November 1916 until 12 January 1917. There is also a card advertising The Modern School of Languages.  Alice was obviously practising French when she was in Egypt to help her when she was transferred to France.

Alice Margaret Betheras was awarded three medals - the 1914-1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

An article in Trove shows that Alice Betheras was working at the Methodist Home for Children at Cheltenham in 1940.
Argus Monday 11 November 1940
The website Find and Connect provides information about these homes. Sister Alice Betheras had been working at the homes for some time when she took over the position of Matron from 1939 until 1943.
In 1968, in the electoral rolls, Alice Margaret Betheras was living at 238 Wattletree Road, Malvern.

Victorian Birth Death and Marriage record -
Sister Alice Margaret Betheras died in Malvern in 1972. She was 85.

A selection of websites with information about Nurses in World War I:

Australians in World War I – Researching Australian Nurses
Researching Australian Military Service: First World War, Nurses
Great War Nurses – AWM
Anzac Day – The Nurses
The nurses’ experience of Gallipoli from their letters – Gallipoli and the Anzacs
Looking for evidence - WWI – Australian Army Nursing Service
Women in action - nurses and serving women

A Google search for 'Australian nurses in World War I' will provide other useful sites. 

Monday, 12 January 2015

Alice Margaret Betheras - Locating a World War I nurse (part 1)

Recently the library where I work was provided with a digital copy of the Roll of Honour for Templestowe Primary School. This publication included information about former students who served during the First World War. Some pages contain detailed information about the soldier while others contain only a name. The name on one of the pages simply reads: Betheras Alice (nurse).
As Alice was the first nurse that we had encountered on the Diggers of Whitehorse and Manningham database I thought we should investigate to locate information about her.

A quick Google search for Alice Betheras brought up some sites with family information which was worth investigating further. Fortunately Betheras is not a common name which made searching easier. The person that I found was Alice Margaret Betheras
Victorian Birth Death and Marriage record -
The next step was to establish if this Alice Betheras had any proven links with the school in Templestowe,  a long way from Castlemaine where she was born. I started searching Trove for the terms "Alice Betheras" and Betheras Templestowe and found a short article mentioning the school and Alice.
Argus Thursday 23 December 1897
Other articles in Trove had shown that Alice's father was a school teacher in different schools in country Victoria. Articles also showed the results of exams he had taken at the University of Melbourne for a Bachelor of Arts degree. The following article in the Bendigo Advertiser provided additional information including that Mr J Betheras was head teacher at the Templestowe School and at the end of 1899 was appointed as an Inspector of State Schools.
Bendigo Advertiser Wednesday 20 December 1899

The Evelyn Observer and South and East Bourke Record Friday 15 October 1897 provides additional information about Mr J H Betheras and his connection with the Methodist Church.
After attending Templestowe State School, Alice was a student at the Methodist Ladies College. A report of a MLC Speech Day held at the Melbourne Town Hall on Monday 15 December 1902 mentions Alice.
Argus Tuesday 16 December 1902
So, from articles in Trove we know that Alice's family lived in Templestowe at the end of the 1890s and that her father was head teacher at the Templestowe State School where Alice was a pupil. We can then conclude that the Alice Margaret Betheras, born in 1887, is the Alice Betheras, nurse, mentioned in the Roll of Honor for Templestowe State School No 1395.