Australian Imperial Force Headquarters (London), Administrative registry medical/personal files, 1914-18 War

Accession Number AWM12
Collection type Official Record
Object type Official Record
Date made 1914-1920
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918

Item copyright: Copyright expired - public domain

Public Domain Mark This item is in the Public Domain

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

This registry was set up in London as part of Australian Imperial Force (AIF) Headquarters to handle all incoming inter-departmental and external correspondence that related to individual members attached to medical units.

In 1915, a small Australian military headquarters had been set up in London by the Australian High Commissioner. The role of the headquarters was to finance and provision the AIF and to keep records of the location and condition of convalescents coming in ever increasing numbers from the Dardanelles (by November 1915, 10,000 troops). The Horseferry Road offices (formerly the Westminster Methodist Training College) were located by Captain H. C. Smart and leased by the Australian High Commissioner in October 1915. Smart “organised a records office, employing a few military supervisors with a large number of girls, whose labour was as effective as that of the soldiers, and much cheaper”.

The records were returned to Australia following the war and retained by Dept of Defence until completion of the writing of the medical history in 1943, after which they were transferred to the Australian War Memorial. The records in this registry were assessed as being of interest to the Medical Historian (Colonel A. G. Butler), as they supplied particulars of the posting of medical officers and nurses; of Australian nurses serving in the British forces, and of civilians rendering social services to the AIF. Treloar wrote in support of the records coming to the Memorial “There can be little doubt that the value of these records will increase with time. The administrative side of the AIF is probably well known to those now engaged in writing history, but to the historians and students of the future these records must form the basis of any reliable work.”


The contents of the files relate to administrative matters, eg.

· Application for passage to Australia

· Medical permission to land in Australia

· Medical boards reports results advised

· Voyage conducting officers

· Pay and allowances

· Remission of forfeiture of pay

· Appointment of medical officers to ships returning to Australia

· Disposal of dental stores

· Unit transfers

· Discharge from the service

· Civil employment

· Repatriation and demobilisation

· Pensions

· Leave with/without pay

· Discharge for family reasons

· Embarkation.

The files may typically contain:

· Requests for individuals to be released from duties for further employment;

· Notifications of approvals for leave applications

· Queries as to processing of Non Military Employment (NME) leave applications

· Supporting medical certificates for requests for assisted passage to Australia from family members of personnel

· Requests for evidence of personnel being on duty at Horseferry Road

· Notification of transfers

· Notifications of location of personnel

· AIF Form no. 537 Australian Imperial Force Department of Repatriation and Demobilisation Application for Early Repatriation.

· Officers and servicemen requesting leave to stay in England for special training

· Officers and servicemen requesting special consideration as to quicker return to Australia – Usually financial hardship or bereavements in the family

· Information on psychiatric cases and the special arrangements for their care on board their return ship

· Correspondence relating to the whereabouts of certain hospital and psychiatric cases

· Information relating to the marriage and or return of nursing staff who were employed on the return journey to Australia

· Requests for consideration of payment for surgical equipment (artificial eyes and limbs) that were supplied in England to servicemen returning home.

There is much human interest and family information in the files that remain. Nurses and men with family commitments in Australia wrote to be repatriated early and to add weight to their cases by providing evidence of extenuating family circumstances in their AIF Forms no. 537 Department of Repatriation and Demobilisation, Application for Early Repatriation.

For men still in England with ongoing medical conditions, the treatment of them by British civilian doctors is recorded in the files as they sought payment for services rendered or for moneys they themselves outlaid to be reimbursed. There are poignant cases where the orthopaedic devices supplied initially to wounded men were found to be unsatisfactory. Despite their repeated requests, some men were not supplied with more satisfactory replacements. There are also cases of men requesting reinstatement of full pay without penalty, due to clerical or diagnostic errors in their regular checks for sexually transmitted diseases.

There is also much information that relates to nurses and the administrative processes for assigning medical staff to the ships returning to Australia, sometimes with details of the ship on which they returned. We find from the records that Colonel Graham Butler (WW1 Medical Historian) was a good tenant (5035/2/1) and that Staff Nurse Marian L. Addison requested leave to compete in the English Tennis Championships, 1919. There is also a letter from a Mrs Bailey, who could be the widow of the War Records staffer Ernie Bailey, who was killed whilst collecting material for AWRS. Mrs Bailey was offering her services to nurse in France after the death of her husband (5011/4/21). There are other records that enrich the background of our knowledge about the return of troops after wounding, like the offer from Cooper (5049/3/43) for his services on board a ship returning to Australia to adjust the pegs of limbs for soldiers fitted with those devices, so that “everyman could walk ashore in Australia”.

The records are rich with personal stories, family information, administrative history and clerical pragmatism.

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