Monday 29 June 2009 by Sue Ducker. 5 comments
Aircraft 1914 - 1918, News, Collection

The digitisation of the whole series of Australian Imperial Force (AIF) war diaries from the First World War, (Official Records series AWM4), recently passed the 400,000 image mark.   Included in the 400,000 images are all the available diaries for the Australian Flying Corps, (AFC) .  Digitised versions of the diaries are being regularly uploaded to the Memorial’s website as they are completed. 

The AIF war diaries are an invaluable resource for anyone researching a particular unit and sometimes contain unexpected windows into the daily experience of war.  A revealing example of this is contained in the appendices to the AFC diaries titled ‘Combats in the Air’.  These documents detail personal accounts of aerial combat recorded in the immediate aftermath by the participants.

The extracts below are taken from the December 1917 diary for No. 2 Squadron AFC.  Dated 1 December 1917, these describe the same incident as recorded by Lieutenant Henry Garnet Forrest and Lieutenant Robert William McKenzie.

Pages from No. 2 Squadron War Diary 'Combats in the air' appendixes, [AWM4 8/5/5]. Pages from No. 2 Squadron War Diary 'Combats in the air' appendixes, [AWM4 8/5/5].


Lieutenant Henry Garnet Forrest:

"I was flying with Lieut. McKenzie, and on coming out of a dive after dropping bomb, I found five scouts above me, apparently escorting 3 seater.  I attacked one scout who turned and fired a few rounds and then climbed up into the clouds.  I fired about 30 rounds without apparent effect till I lost him.  I then dived into the trenches to machine gun infantry, and on coming out of a dive, I saw the three seater about 400 feet above me on my left with the two gunners standing up and firing at me.  I zoomed up under him and fired 20 rounds at him and he turned east climbing.

(Sgd) H. G. Forrest LT."


 Lieutenant Robert William McKenzie:

"I was flying with Lt. FORREST and saw him dive on enemy trenches and drop 1 bomb “OK”. He had just pulled out of his dive and was climbing up when I saw 5 E.A. [Enemy Aircraft] coming towards and 400 feet above me, 1 was lagging slightly and I zoomed up and got in a stalling burst at 50 yds. Range, when he immediately turned east and started a steep glide and I was unable to follow him on account of the other 4 E.A., but I saw him try to land in most unfavorable country and go nose first into a shell hole where he remained with his tail in the air. I then had to return owing to No.3 stoppage.

(Sgd) R. W. McKenzie"

No. 2 Squadron AFC with aircraft 25 March 1918, (France).  Lt H G Forrest is pictured 4th from the left. No. 2 Squadron AFC with aircraft 25 March 1918, (France). Lt H G Forrest is pictured 4th from the left.













Henry Garnet Forrest went on to be awarded the DFC and Bar and Robert William McKenzie went on to be awarded the Military Cross.  Both of these airman survived the war.

The next class of AIF war diaries to be added to the Memorial's website will be for the Supplies and Transport units. These will be uploaded here as they are completed.


Ian Hodges

What a fantastic resource, particularly for those who, for whatever reason, are unable to conduct research at the AWM. The inclusion of the AFC diaries is to be particularly welcomed as they provide a glimpse into the way in which Australians fought the war in the air during the earliest days of combat aviation. As this entry points out so well, these diaries contain a wealth of information. Where they exist, the summaries of individual combats make fascinating reading, as the two examples provided here attest. They give researchers a sense of the kind of fighting that took place in the skies above the trenches in a way that few other sources can. Their matter-of-fact tone and their brevity, as demanded by this type of reporting, are balanced by their immediacy and it is this which makes them so fascinating. They will surely compel many who read them to want to learn more about the individuals or squadrons involved. The digitisation of these and the many other First World War records that the staff of the Research Centre has undertaken is impressive indeed, everyone involved should be congratulated for making this material so widely available.


I would just to like to reiterate Ian's comments above. The digitisation work, not only by AWM but also the NLA, is outstanding, and my congratulations to all involved. What a legacy to leave.


What a work but so interesting for an historian. Thank you


Greetings AWM I am a veteran from the Vietnam War. I am unable to find my name on the database. I hope to see my name their in the future.

Sue Ducker says:

Hello Peter The Nominal Roll of Vietnam Veterans has been developed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. They also administer the roll and are responsible for maintaining and updating this nominal roll. The Australian War Memorial’s website provides a link to this site. To query your service details not currently being included on the Roll please contact the Nominal Rolls section of DVA. They may be contacted via email at or by telephone on 1300 780 133. Kind regards Sue