• Red Cross Records from the First World War

    Monday 16 March 2009 by Craig Tibbitts. 1 comments

    In the last few days has come news of an important discovery for First World War historians (especially family historians), in the archives of the Red Cross in Geneva, Switzerland.  British historian Peter Barton, commissioned by the Australian government to conduct further research into a mass grave at Fromelles in France, made the find.  The records consist of ‘card indexes and registers compiled between 1914 and 1918; …

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  • The Coronation Contingent of 1953

    Wednesday 11 March 2009 by Annette Gaykema. 7 comments

      Cover of "Coronation Cruise of HMAS Sydney" (RC07761)   After the death of King George VI in February 1952, planning for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth began. Tradition demanded a procession of all the Queen’s troops be present and so plans were put in place to form an Australian contingent. There were 250 official representatives from the armed forces sent to the festivities. These official delegates, along with their …

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  • The Indefatigable Florence MacDowell

    Thursday 5 March 2009 by Dianne Rutherford. 2 comments

      Florence MacDowell in 1912 (from Private Records collection 2DRL/1138) Florence MacDowell was born in the mid 1870s, the daughter of Swanston Hay MacDowell and Kathleen Champ. She trained as a nurse at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Victoria and the Queens Hospital in Adelaide, South Australia. She opened her own hospital called ‘Windarra' at Toorak in Victoria, but later moved abroad, living mostly in Italy. She was …

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  • More wings for the Raj: RAAF in India during Second World War

    Friday 27 February 2009 by Tim Roberts. 6 comments

    Although outside main combat areas during the Second World War, India became an important region for the RAAF, and for many RAAF personnel attached to RAF units. In some RAF squadrons, ten percent of the crews were Australians, many of them transferred from training or bomber units based in England. Most RAAF and RAF activity happened in the northern half of India. The Eastern division of Bomber Command used various bases in Bengal (now …

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  • First Aboriginal commissioned officer – Reginald Saunders

    Friday 13 February 2009 by Garth O'Connell. 4 comments

    Many thousands of Australian Aboriginals have enlisted and served in Australia’s defence forces since 1901, and several have won decorations, but the first to be promoted to a commissioned rank was Reg Saunders of Victoria. Reginald Walter Saunders was born a member of the Gunditjmara people, just outside Framlingham Aboriginal Reserve in the western district of Victoria on 7 August 1920. His …

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  • Puddings on the Veld and kangaroos in the Gulf: Christmas in the Memorial’s collection

    Friday 13 February 2009 by Rebecca Britt.

    Miniature pink underwear, artistic biscuits, autographed handkerchiefs – these may seem like odd Christmas gifts, yet these are just a few of the objects that Australian soldiers have sent home while serving overseas and which are now held in the Memorial’s collection. They include items from the South African War (1899–1902) and the two world wars, as well as from more recent operations, such as the Persian Gulf, and they range from the …

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  • Valentine’s Day Love Letter

    Friday 13 February 2009 by . 13 comments

    The Memorial recently acquired a mysterious letter. It is beautifully written and decorated, but we don't know much about it. It seems it was written by a French woman to her sweetheart, and we assume he was Australian, as the letter ended up in Australia. We do not know who they were, but we do know that the letter was written on 25 August 1918 and was sent from Saint-Sulpice-les-Feuilles in France. The writer, Martha (or perhaps Marthe) …

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  • Lockheed Hudson A16-105 and Ray Kelly

    Friday 13 February 2009 by Chris Goddard.

    Early in 2001, the Australian War Memorial acquired a Second World War Lockheed Hudson (A16-105). Since then, curatorial staff have been trying to contact crew members they had identified as having been associated with this aircraft during its war service. In November 2001, they discovered that Canberra resident Flying Officer Ray Kelly, who trained with No. 1 Operational Training Unit (OTU) …

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  • Happy Valentine's Day from ‘The Love Controller'!

    Thursday 12 February 2009 by Alexandra Orr. 4 comments

    As with other special occasions such as Christmas and birthdays, having to spend Valentine's Day apart from loved ones would have been sad and distressing for many serving men and women, and for those at home eagerly awaiting the safe return of their sweethearts and friends. Fortunately, there is little that can stand in the way of love and many people overcame distance and time to send messages of love and admiration, not only for Valentine's …

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  • The Victoria Cross

    Thursday 22 January 2009 by Nick Fletcher. 20 comments

    Victoria Cross, the highest award for bravery in time of war The Victoria Cross was instituted by Queen Victoria's Royal warrant in 1856, and the first examples were presented by her in June 1857.  These first 62 awards were retrospective, for gallant actions by sailors and soldiers during the Crimean War of 1854-56.  Throughout its life, the Cross has been manufactured by Hancocks and Co, Jewellers of London.  Famously, they …

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