Friday 31 October 2008 by Alana Thurecht. 10 comments
News, Collection

The Research Centre recently marked, with much celebration, the scanning of 300,000 images for the current major digitisation project involving AWM4, First World War Unit Diaries. These diaries document the daily activities of military units on active service in the First World War and supplement the existing diaries available online.

Image of 36th Australian Heavy Artillery Brigade in May, 1918. AWM4 13/127/7 Image of 36th Australian Heavy Artillery Brigade in May, 1918. AWM4 13/127/7

Planning for this project began in 2005 and following a tender process, scanning onsite commenced in December 2006 by Document Imaging Service (DIS). There are 35 classes of records in total, each corresponding to a Corps or group of the Australian Army. Class 13 relates to Artillery units and it was at this point that the project passed 300,000 images.

The milestone was celebrated with a joint morning tea for DIS and the Research Centre, recognising the skill, dedication, professionalism and knowledge for the collection and everyone involved in the project.

Directions for the use of anti-gas horse respirator. AWM4 13/75/24 Directions for the use of anti-gas horse respirator. AWM4 13/75/24
 

The scanning of the First World War Unit Diaries is two thirds completed and it is expected to take three years to scan 17,980 files. Memorial staff scan oversize items such as maps, charts and plans as well as bound diaries. DIS are also documenting a selection of items in a treasures book to log interesting facts of the military units. 

This project has evolved from Lord William (Field Marshal) Birdwood's call to Australian soldiers to submit material relating to their experience of the First World War to the Australian War Records Section to assist in the creation of war museums. A record of Birdwood's request may be found in this typed message dated 14th December 1917. 

Collection notice to soldiers from Lord William (Field Marshal) Birdwood regarding collection of material for the Australian War Records Section. AWM4 13/75/21 Collection notice to soldiers from Lord William (Field Marshal) Birdwood regarding collection of material for the Australian War Records Section. AWM4 13/75/21
 

Files will continue to be released online when they are completed. They can be found at the Australian Army War Diaries web page on the Australian War Memorial's website. 

Comments

Thanks for a great summary of a huge project. Thanks also for including the interesting images from the war diaries. It's fascinating what you can find in them sometimes!

Congratulations on such an impressive milestone. I love being able to access the war diaries from my computer. It makes researching the First World War much more convenient. Thank you for all your work.

Thanks for a great resource. Primary aged children find it difficult to visualise historical situations. The collections of photos help make it all just that much clearer.

I remember handling the originals in the 80's and felt then I was honoured in being able to touch the war diaries of my great uncle's battalions. What was even more emotional was seeing my long dead great uncle's signature and reading about his exploits that won him the DCM in 1918. Like so many of his generation he signed up for World War 2 but died an untimely death from the gas he inhaled outside Morlancourt. Thank you for preserving a national treasure!

Hello, Is there any info regarding the war diary of the 3rd Aust Tun Coy. I have but a single page taken from a wounded soldier in England.

Hi I am researching my Great Grandad's WW1 service. He was KIA in May 1918 near Mourlancourt. He was a member of the 17th Battalion. Are there any records/photos in your collection of the 17th Battalion's movements between 1916 & 1918? I understand that there was a history of the 17th Battalion written by one McKenzie, however it is as scarce as hen's teeth.

Greg, if there's a unit history on the 17th, then you need to see that as your first point of contact. Search library catalogues to get the bibliographical details, then seek a inter-library loan through your local municipal or state library. Also search ebay & google for second hand copies. If the book exists, then you'll be able to get your hands on it. Once you've thereby orientated yourself to the 17th's war service & read the book's footnotes for sources, you'll be in a position to take your research further through the AWM database. Anthony

Congratulations on undertaking such a huge project. Wonderful to have an insight into my grandfathers battalion (20th battalion and 2nd Pioneers). Although I have his testation papers, sadly it does not give much information on the day to day movements of his battalion so this project has really helped to fill in the gaps. Well done.

Wonderful ,terrific ,a so good surprise for me .I research about the sojourn of the Australian troops in the Charleroi's area.I know that the 26th Btn was at Marchienne-au-Pont,the 27th Btn was at Mont-sur-Marchienne...and I can read all the men did here near Charleroi(Belgium).I am so moving to read the information about the training schools,the footbal team... Thank you from Mont-sur-Marchienne(Belgium) . Two Australian soldiers (26th Btn) were billeted at my grandmother during winter 1918/19 at Marchienne-au-Pont. Claire Dujardin

An excellent resource properly made avaialble to the public, I have been able to use the various diaries to confirm or establish details of Officers Commanding that are unclear or contradictory in other publications. I have also learned many interesting and saddening facts along the way. I agree... well done.