Highlight on official records of the First World War: AWM48 - High Commissioner's Office, London, registry files, 1914-18 War

11 March 2016 by Craig Berelle

Highlight on the official records of the First World War is a centenary program of posts highlighting those records created 100 years ago, why they exist and how we can help make these essential records available for research purposes. 

Function and provenance

In 1924, Mr T H E Heyes was appointed Australian Representative to the Historical Section (Military Branch) of the Committee of Imperial Defence.  His major task was to examine Imperial war records and obtain copies of war diaries for the Australian War Memorial and
the Official Historian.  During 1925 Mr Heyes also examined files of the Australian High Commissioner in London and forwarded to the Memorial those now listed in AWM48.


The consignment Heyes sent to Australia was only a selection of those stored at Australia House. The files generally relate to the period 1914-16 and many appear incomplete.  Most concern administrative duties required in the billeting and provisioning of the 1st AIF in Great Britain and Egypt. The general cut-off date of 1916 coincides with the transfer of most administrative duties to AIF Headquarters at Horseferry Road London, under Brigadier General V C M Sellheim CB.  It is apparent that the minimal AIF administrative presence in England prior to 1916 necessitated a greater involvement by the High Commissioner in matters dealing with the Australian forces.  Hence the diversity of titles and disparate nature of this series.

The images selected for this blog are themed on Australia’s Official War Correspondent during the First World War, Charles Bean. These are referenced and trace the British Government’s initial approach on reporting “the European War”; confirming Bean’s new appointment; advocating to report the war from the front; adopting of the Canadian practice of handling war news and enlisting the assistance of the Australian High Commission in London to help circulate Australian war news [AWM48 1640/14 Parts 1 and 2].

System of arrangement and control

AWM48 contains 50 files. The control symbols range from 228/15 (lowest) to 2474.

File 2350/2 was originally part of this series until 1964, when it was transferred to the Commonwealth Archives Office by the Australian High Commission, London. This item, titled “Arrangements in connection with graves of fallen Australian soldiers buried in Europe. General policy of Commonwealth Government” is controlled by NAA series A11849, and is the only item in this series.

The NAA file and those in AWM48 are controlled by a three number system. The origin of the file number is traced to the foliated contents of a particular file. The files themselves do not bear any systematic relationship to one another, but for the fact each was controlled by the Australian High Commission, London, before transfer to the Australian War Memorial.

Using the series

AWM48 is not digitised on the Australian War Memorial website. Each item in the series is recorded on the RecordSearch, the National Archives of Australia collections database.

Correspondence relating to the Memorial’s acquisition of the series is contained in the first series of the Australian War Memorial Registry files:

  • Copies of British Records, Diaries etc Correspondence with Mr Heyes (AWM93 12/5/128 Parts 1 to 5).

Researchers interested in tracing the subsequent involvement of the Australian High Commission in London with regard to donating material by may like to consult:

  • Australian High Commission – London (AWM315 419/004/039)
  • Australian High Commission – London – Donations to the AWM (AWM371 89/1752)

The Research Centre Reading Room is open Monday to Friday from 10 am to 4.50 pm and on Saturdays from 1pm to 4.50 pm. It is closed on Sundays and ACT public holidays.

The Research Centre telephone service is available from 9am until 5pm Monday to Friday excluding ACT public holidays. Call the Research Centre on 02 62434315.


AWM48 series dossier
AWM93 12/5/128 Part 2: Copies of British Diaries, Records etc. to complete Australian Historical Records
AWM48 National Archives of Australia RecordSearch database


record 1
record 2
record 3
record 4
record 5