Introduction to the Chronological Guide
The purpose of this guide is to help you identify official records held by the Australian War Memorial.
You can view these records in the Memorial’s Research Centre and an increasing number are being digitised and made available on the Memorial’s website.
Using the guide
We have organised this guide using the following chronological periods:
- Pre-First World War (19th Century – 1913)
- First World War (1914-1918)
- Inter-World War Years (1919-1938)
- Second World War (1939-1945)
- British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) (1946-1952)
- Korean War (1950-1953)
- Malaya and Indonesian Confrontation (1948-1966)
- Vietnam War (1962-1975)
- Gulf War (1990-1991)
- Afghanistan (2001- )
- Iraq War (2003- )
- Peacekeeping (1946 - )
Some series, because they span several periods, have been listed under each relevant category.
These periods have been sub-divided to help you narrow your search. For example, series listed under First World War are classified under the sub-headings:
- Unit and operational records;
- Administrative records;
- Biographical records;
- Naval records;
- Official historians' records;
- Copied or captured records; and
- Private records
The guide lists some private records that contain material of an official nature.
Check the contents page of this guide to find the page that lists records in the period of interest to you.
View a complete list of official records series held by the Memorial.
View a list of series created by the Australian War Memorial.
Individual items (files) belonging to these archival series are catalogued on the National Archives of Australia’s RecordSearch database. You can also find out more about each series in the series notes. In some cases you can view a digital copy of an item online via RecordSearch or the Memorial’s website.
What you can and cannot see and why
Because most of the records listed in this guide are Commonwealth records access to them is governed by the Archives Act 1983.
Only records more than 30 years old may be made available to the public.
Commonwealth records are in the ‘open access period’ when a period of 30 years has elapsed since the end of the calendar year in which they came into existence. Before release to the public, records reaching the ‘open access period’ must also be examined for exemptions. Section 33 of the Archives Act specifies several types of exemptions which include certain types of sensitive information. This exempt information is further precluded from public access until that sensitivity has sufficiently diminished. There may be a delay while examination takes place (the delay may vary from about one to four weeks). The item description of each record on the RecordSearch database will indicate whether the record is ‘Open’, ‘Closed’, ‘Open with Exceptions’ or ‘Not yet Examined.’
Collection items may also be temporarily withheld from reference use if they are subject to arrangement and description work, conservation treatment, or are being digitised.
Request an item
You can view archival records from the Memorial's collection in the Research Centre. We recommend that you contact us prior to visiting to arrange for the records to be retrieved. The Research Centre can be contacted at,
Australian War Memorial
GPO Box 345
Canberra ACT 2601
Form of access
The Memorial retains the right to provide access to official records in the most appropriate format eg. microfilm, photocopy or digital copy. This is provided for in Section 36 of the Archives Act 1983.
The following abbreviations are used in this guide:
AAF - Allied Air Forces [South West Pacific Area]
AAMC - Australian Army Medical Corps
AIF - Australian Imperial Force
AMF - Australian Military Forces
ANZAC - Australian and New Zealand Army Corps
AWM - Australian War Memorial
BCOF - British Commonwealth Occupation Force
CMF - Citizen/Commonwealth Military Forces
DGMS - Director-General of Medical Services
GHQ - General Headquarters
GOC - General Officer Commanding
HMA - His/Her Majesty's Australian
HMAS - His/Her Majesty's Australian Ship
HMAT - His/Her Majesty's Australian Transport
HMNZT - His/Her Majesty's New Zealand Transport
NGF - New Guinea Force
POW - Prisoner of War
RAF - Royal Air Force
RAAF - Royal Australian Air Force
SEATO - South East Asia Treaty Organisation
SWPA (US) - South West Pacific Area (United States)