Nancy Bird Walton, a pioneer of Australian aviation died on Tuesday 13 January, aged 93. In addition to her life’s work promoting the place of women in civil aviation, she was a major force in leading the women’s volunteer effort on the home front during the Second World War. Walton was New South Wales and Australian Commandant of the Women’s Air Training Corps (WATC), a volunteer organisation that preceded the formation of the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force (WAAAF).
When Kevin Wakefield found himself in an icy Canadian landscape, many miles from sunny Australia, he wrote a poem to express his feelings of homesickness. Sixty years later, one of the original hand-written copies of ‘My Home Land Far Away' has now been donated to the Memorial.
Recently I have been researching collection items relating to an interesting woman who helped feed and entertain soldiers on leave in London during the First World War. Her name was Minnie Augusta Rattigan.
A log book can reveal performance characteristics, reveal battle damage and document repairs made during each vehicle's period of service. The Memorial's Research Centre has acquired log books of six Centurion tanks that served in the Vietnam War, including vehicle No. 169056, proudly on display adjacent to Anzac Hall. The log books are in Official Records Series AWM350, and can be viewed in the Memorial's Research Centre.
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.
A recent inquiry from a member of the public brought to my attention an interesting collection item held by the Memorial. It relates to Captain William Roy 'Bill' Reynolds from Victoria, who had served with the Merchant Navy, as well as working for a number of companies through Southeast Asia in the lead up to the Second World War.
In the Research Centre, we receive a lot of enquiries from people who want to know how and where their relatives died in the First World War. Finding out this information can be a difficult task. Quite often families know no more than that their relative died on a particular date in a particular country, and they'd like to know if we can help them narrow that down.
We are commemorating the 90th Anniversary of the Armistice this year, which presents a timely opportunity to look at what soldiers were doing on the 11th of November throughout the duration of the First World War. The soldiers go about their duties not knowing that in the future, it would be the special day to remember those who fought and died for our country in war and armed conflict.