Australian War Memorial registry files 1919-1945

Accession Number AWM93
Collection type Official Record
Object type Official Record
Maker Australian War Memorial
Date made 1902-1993

Item copyright: Commonwealth of Australia copyright

Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use, permission from copyright holder must be sought for commercial use

The idea of a national war memorial was first conceived by C. E. W. Bean after his experiences at Gallipoli and his visits to the battlefields in France in 1916. Bean put forward the view that there should be a museum to serve as a memorial to commemorate Australian military heroism. In May 1917 the Australian War Records Section (AWRS) was created and was responsible for the collection, preservation and classification of all official documents relating to the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) as well as photographs, trench and regimental magazines, relics, war trophies, sketches and personal memoirs.

This date is also considered to be the starting date for the Australian War Memorial (AWM). A stone in the present Memorial's grounds marks the date as the 'inception' date of the Memorial. In April 1918 the Australian government formally announced the establishment of an Australian National War Museum and War Records Office under the direction of the Department of Defence. The collection of material for it continued on until the end of the war.

After the war the AWRS was disbanded and many of its staff on their return to Australia transferred to the staff of the Australian War Museum which was now under the administration of the Commonwealth Department of Home and Territories. Henry Gullett was appointed the first director in August 1919. He resigned in May 1920 and was replaced by John Treloar (previously the head of the AWRS) who remained in this position until 1952. It was not until 1925 that a federal act established the Memorial as a statutory body and officially changed its name to the Australian War Memorial.

Records indicate that the first Memorial registry was implemented in late 1919 using a two part number filing system. It was replaced in 1924 with a three part number system and an accompanying classification scheme. During the Second World War the Memorial registry modified its practices. Instead of continuing to file according to subjects, it opened up a new subject '50 - War of 1939-45' for all newly created files. Within this primary classification it allotted blocks of numbers to keep files relating to similar topics together.

At the end of the war the Memorial took over the records collected by the Military History Section (MHS), which had been formed within the Department of the Army, along with its registry files. At the time of the transfer of the files in 1947, the Memorial decided to adopt the registry system used by the MHS as it offered more flexibility and allowed for expansion. This meant that the existing Memorial registry and the MHS registry needed to be amalgamated. Memorial registry files which were still active and had been given a 50/-/- classification number were to be incorporated into the new registry system (A7702) along with the MHS files. However a survey of the files within this classification number shows that the majority of them are still located in AWM93 and the Memorial was still raising and allocating files using this number up until the mid 1950s. Various files created by the Official Historian, Gavin Long, in the 1940s and relating to the writing of the official histories for the Second World War are still located in AWM93 despite the fact that they were still active until the completion of the series in the late 1970s. It is also evident that for a small number of files in this first registry system, folios were being added up until 1993.

This series became known as AWM93 in the mid 1980s when the Memorial adopted its new numbering system for Official Records. Series A7702 was redesignated as AWM315 in 2003.


The files in this series relate to the administration and activities of the Australian War Memorial from late 1919 until early 1947. The topics covered include building and accommodation, committees, contracts, exhibitions, finance, library, organisation, publications, publicity, sales, staffing and trophies distribution.

System of arrangement and control:

Information relating to the creation of this series is scarce. The card indexes and registers indicate that the earliest filing system was a two part numbered system which was used from late 1919-1923. Some files from this system were renumbered into the next three part numbering system introduced in 1924. The original file register (AWM324) was annotated to include the new file number in many instances but it is not complete.

Under this system the first number represented the year and the second number was a running number. File titles were entered into a register (AWM324) in a pre-stamped numerical sequence as well as recorded on subject cards. The subject headings used on the cards appear to relate to the content of the file and not a predefined subject classification system. The register contains entries for files numbered 19/0001-21/5250. A second register containing entries from September 1921-1924 could not be located at the time of writing this series note.

In early 1924 the registry system changed to a three-part number system where the first number represented the main subject heading, the second a subheading and the third number was a running number. Files from the original two part number system have been renumbered into the three part number system.

A subject classification scheme was devised with numbers from 1/-/- to 30/-/-, with an extra category (50/-/-) created later for files relating to the Second World War. The subject classification scheme for the three-part number system includes:

1/-/- Audit (1/1/- General; 1/2/- Reports and Queries)

2/-/- Building and Accommodation (2/1/- General; 2/2/- Leases; 2/3/- Refitting; 2/4/- Cleaning and Maintenance; 2/5/- Permanent Building, AWM Canberra; 2/6/- Commemoration Services at AWM)

3/-/- Cinema and Lantern Slides (3/1/- General; 3/2/- Loan, Hire and Gift; 3/3/- Preservation; 3/4/- Purchases)

4/-/- Committees (4/1/- General Committee, Appointments and Resignations; 4/2/- General Committees, Meetings; 4/3/- Finance Sub-Committee; 4/4/- Art Committee; 4/5/- Special Committees; 4/6/- Personal Files)

6/-/- Exhibitions (6/1/- General; 6/2/- Visits; 6/3/- Admission Charges)

7/-/- Exhibits (7/1/- General; 7/2/- Preservation; 7/3/- Recording; 7/4/- Loans and Donations; 7/5/- Enquiries, Titling)

8/-/- Finance (8/1/- General; 8/2/- Estimates; 8/3/- AWRP Trust Fund; 8/4/- Accountancy)

9/-/- Fire (9/1/- General; 9/2/- Precautions)

11/-/- Fuel and Light (11/1/- General)

12/-/- Library (12/1/- General; 12/2/- System; 12/3/- Loan of and access to records; 12/4/- Purchases, Press cuttings, Publications; 12/4/57/- Periodicals; 12/6/- Enquiries; 12/7/- Preservation; 12/8/- War Memorials; 12/9/- Publications purchased through London and New York offices; 12/10/- Translations of records and diaries; 12/11/- Bazley¿s circularisation of next-of-kin; 12/12/- Special files relating to origin and beginning of AWM)

13/-/- Models (13/1/- General)

14/-/- Office Requisites and Stationery (14/1/- General)

16/-/- Organisation (16/1/- General)

17/-/- Photographs and Blocks (17/1/- General; 17/2/- Copying, Quotation; 17/3/- Loans, Donations and Enquiries to Memorial; 17/4/- Loans and Donation by Memorial; 17/5/- Records, Preservation and Classification; 17/6/- Purchases)

18/-/- Pictures (18/1/- General; 18/2/- Commissions; 18/3/- Offers for Purchase; 18/4/- Portraits ¿ Commissions; 18/5/- Preservation; 18/6/- Frames; 18/7/- Australia House files; 18/8/- Reproductions of Pictures)

19/-/- Publications (not Library) (19/1/- General; 19/2/- Newspapers)

20/-/- Publicity (20/1/- General)

21/-/- Sales (21/1/- General; 21/1/44/- Sale of publications in Commonwealth and State Departments; 21/1/57/- Sale of publications on GO principles in private businesses; 21/1/88/- Government Order Scheme ¿ Councils; 21/2/- Postcards of Exhibits; 21/3/- Photographs; 21/4/- Publications; 21/5/- Shell Cases; 21/6/- Reproductions; 21/7/- Photos in miniature; 21/8/- German steel helmets; 21/9/- MG belt boxes (deed boxes); 21/10/- Smokers companions ¿ souvenirs; 21/11/- Sale of Menin Gate reproductions by AWM; 21/11/1/- Salesmen; 21/12/- Sale of photographs; 21/13/- sale of Medical History, Vol. I; 21/14/- sale of Medical History, Vol. II; 21/15/- Sale of reproductions in Western Australia; 21/16/- Sale of reproductions in Queensland; 21/17/- Sale of Official History and Medical History; 21/18/- Sale of reproductions in NSW; 21/19/- Sales in Victoria)

22/-/- Staff (22/1/- General; 22/2/- Personal files; 22/3/- Employment; 22/4/- Leave; 22/5/- Pay; 22/6/- Allowances; 22/7/- Public Service Circulars)

23/-/- Stores (23/1/- General; 23/2/- Cleaning; 23/3/- Furniture and Fittings; 23/4/- Tools, etc; 23/5/- Modelling Stores; 23/6/- Miscellaneous; 23/7/- Shell cases)

24/-/- Telephones (24/1/- General; 24/2/- Installations)

26/-/- Transport (26/1/- General; 26/2/- Transfers to Sydney)

27/-/- Trophies, distribution (27/1/- General)

28/-/- Contracts (28/1/- General and quotations)

29/-/- Post and Telegraph (29/1/- Stamps etc)

30/-/- Lectures (30/1/- General)

50/-/- War of 1939-1945 (50/1/- General; 50/2/- Records of the War of 1939-1945; 50/2/23/- General correspondence regarding personal narratives; 50/3/- Relics of Second World War; 50/4/- Pictures of Official Artists of the War 1939-1945; 50/4/2/- Applications and appointments; 50/5/- Cinematograph films and photographs of the War 1939-1945; 50/5/51/- ¿Sons of the Anzacs¿; 50/6/- Models and sculptures of the war 1939-1945; 50/7/- Production and distribution of war books; 50/8/- Art and photographic exhibitions; 50/9/- Official War histories; 50/9/2/- Staff of the General Editor; 50/9/3/- History of Australia in War of 1939-1945, general correspondence; 50/9/31/- Commonwealth and State departmental histories and access to records; 50/9/32/- Unit histories; 50/10/- Sale of photographs; 50/11/- Military History Section; 50/12/- Production of official history; 50/13/- War graves; 50/14/- Miscellaneous requests and correspondence)

File titles were entered into a new set of registers according to their classification number. The entry for each file number contains the file title, date of receipt of incoming correspondence and related outgoing correspondence and a brief description of its content.

Two other card indexes were maintained ¿ one a subject index and the other a nominal or name index. The subject headings used in both indexes appear to have been created randomly and not according to the classification system. While the bulk of the cards were created after 1924 there are a small number of cards which were created prior to this date. This would indicate that these two indexes were commenced to supplement the original registry system.