Australian War Records Section registry files and register of file titles

Accession Number AWM16
Collection type Official Record
Object type Official Record
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Item copyright: Copyright expired - public domain

Public Domain Mark This item is in the Public Domain

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The Australian War Records Section (AWRS) of the Australian Imperial
Force (AIF), was formed in May 1917 by Colonel Griffiths at the
request of General W R Birdwood. Part of the AIF Headquarters in
London, its purpose was to collect and preserve historical records
that represented Australia's participation in the 1914-18 War. At
the commencement of the AWRS on 16 May 1917 work was divided into two

(a) collection of official military records, AIF to be received,
collected, preserved, classified and indexed by a section
attached to the AIF and,

(b) collection of unofficial records of Australia's part in the
war, photographs not for military use, cinematograph records,
sketches, pictures and trophies not sent through the
recognised military channels, to be collected by the High
Commissioners Office for a possible Australian War Museum.

Initially work began on the classification and copying of the war
diaries of AIF units handed over by the British Public Records
Office. By September 1917 responsibility for the official photographs
and trophies collected by the High Commissioners Office was
transferred to the AWRS. About this time it was realised that the
division of the sections was not entirely between "official" and
"unofficial" records, but between "publicity" and "record". On 7
September 1917, approval was given to alter the division to:

(a) Publicity and Civil - publication of articles,
photographs, cinema record, official drawings etc for which
the High Commissioners Office was responsible and,

(b) Preservation of records of military significance -
documentary records (eg war diaries and their appendices),
original pictorial records (eg artists pictures, photographic
negatives, original cinema films) and official trophies.

The establishment of the AWRS was divided into four sections:

(1) AWRS Headquarters, London - under the direction of the
Commandant, Admin HQ AIF, and consisting of four

(a) Special Histories - responsible for the collection
of historical data concerning aviation, schools,
infantry, artillery, engineers, veterinary, medical,
administration and law.

(b) Documentary records - responsible for the classification
and copying of war diaries, maps and air photographs.

(c) Museums - responsible for the collection of museum
material, trophies, photographs and sketches.

(d) Photographic - responsible for cinema work, copying,
custody of negatives and preparation of prints.

(2) No 1 EEF (Egypt Expeditionary Force) subsection.

(3) No 2 BEF (British Expeditionary Force) subsection.

(4) No 3 Photographic subsection - responsible for photographic
and cinema work in the United Kingdom.

No 2 (EEF) and No 3 (BEF) subsections were regarded as an integral
part of the AWRS HQ, rather than separate operations, carrying out
similar functions to those outlined for AWRS HQ in Egypt and France.

In February 1919 the establishment of the AWRS was again revised in
order to complete work during that year. The additional duties
included precis of war diaries, classification of correspondence
files, preparation of sound recordings and model construction of
battlefields. At the end of 1919 the AWRS registry records were
forwarded to the Department of Defence, Melbourne. Custody of them
was transferred to the Australian War Memorial. They remained stored
in Melbourne until 1935 when the Library section of the Memorial was
actually established in Canberra.


The series contains files of correspondence (original and copies)
sent to and from the AWRS in London. Most of the files relate to the
activities carried out by AWRS as outlined above, particularly the
receipt of historical material (for example historical notes, war
diaries, photographs, trophies) from various units by the AWRS.

There are also files relating to the organisation, administration and
day to day activities of the AWRS (for example orders, staff
appointments, duties, instructions and personnel movements). Much of
this is in the form of correspondence between the officers in charge,
collators of the various subsections and the Official Historian
Captain C E W Bean. The files also contain historical notes,
memorandums, reports and proposals, largely relating to the
establishment and administration of the AWRS.

Of particular interest are files 4355/1/1 part 1 - "Establishment of
AWRS", 4355/1/1 part 2 - "New Establishments", 4356/2/1 -
"Arrangement by Defence regarding formation of AWRS in Egypt and
Australia" and 4383/1/49 - "Distribution of duties in the War Records
Section". These files document the organisation and administration of
the AWRS.

The series is controlled by a multiple number registry system. A
Register of File titles (item 1), which lists the primary and
secondary numbers and their corresponding subject headings, is the
original control record. This Register also contains an inventory of
items recording file number and file title. It was probably compiled
when the records were moved from London to Melbourne. The listing
also records the results of a disposal survey conducted by AWM
Library staff in 1960. Each page has been stamped "Files surveyed,
March 1960", and next to each file title is recorded whether the item
was "retained", "destroyed" or "missing". In cases where no action
has been recorded the files apparently no longer exist. The series
was heavily culled during the 1960 survey and the inventory
corresponds with the files retained, with the exception of three
missing files - 4360/21/1, 4364/42/4 and 4386/1/48.

Bound in with the register is a file of correspondence that appears
to be unrelated to this series. The folios are stamped and numbered
by the AIF Registry Kit Store or Admin HQ Central Registry. The
correspondence related to rulings for the movement of disposal of kit
stores and includes a circular of office instructions for the AIF Kit

The AWRS correspondence was classified by Administrative
Headquarters, AIF London, Central Registry according to the register.
Some folios are also stamped and numbered with the AWRS stamp, but
most of these have been top numbered by AHQ Central Registry. Three
primary number allocations ie 4380, 4381 and 4382, have not been
listed in the register. They have been allocated alphabetically by
surname according to the correspondent or the person the
correspondence related to, as follows:

4380 AA-HOM 4381 HON-Q 4382 R-Z

A secondary number represents the smaller alphabetical category
allocated to a particular file eg 4380/24 represents CAR-CAZ. In
some cases the file has been classified according to one persons name
only, and these have been allocated item numbers. There are also
cross index cards for the categories HON-Q and R-Z.