One hundred years ago, in May 1917, the Australian War Records Section (AWRS) was formed in London. It is from this date that we trace the formal origins of the Australian War Memorial. Over the next two years the AWRS acquired approximately 25,000 objects, as well as paper records, photographs, film, publications, and works of art. All were brought back to Australia in 1919 and formed the basis of the collection of what would eventually become the Australian War Memorial.
The AWRS was set up at the prompting of Charles Bean, Australia’s official war correspondent, soon to be made official historian. It was led by John Treloar, a young army officer who became the Memorial’s inaugural Director. On 16 May 1917, Lieutenant Treloar walked into an obscure office in London and got down to work with a staff of just four. The section's task was to collect and organise the documentary record of the Australian forces, so that it could be preserved for Australia, rather than be absorbed into Britain's records. Bean had been impressed with the work of the Canadians in establishing in London a Canadian War Records Office. And like the Canadians, the Australian section quickly began collecting and commissioning a wide range of material.