Historical Talks - Armed Forces Records

everybody my name is Geralyn and I'm the

local heritage librarian here at

Shoalhaven libraries today I thought

we'd do a little talk about researching

your military ancestors

let's enjoy welcome to this month's

family history talk we're coming up to

Anzac Day it's going to be a very

different Anzac Day this year of course

but we're still going to be able to have

a look at our families have a look at

whether we have any uncles aunts

grandmas grandpas who served in the

military being a military area with HMAS

albatross and HMAS Creswell we do have a

lot of military in the area and I'm

going to take us through some resources

give you some ideas as to how you might

be able to find family members military


and what's the best place to start when

you're looking for Australian military

records there's actually two places the

best place to start is the Australian

War Memorial which other unfortunately

keeps updating its website every time I

go in I have to redo this PowerPoint

because they've made it more beautiful

and more amazing but the information

stays the same there's a number of

options there's a number of ways you can

get to the records that you're after

best way this is our front page the best

way is to go to collection and if we

click on collection then it will give us

some options such as understanding our

collection and once you get to that

point then it's right there in front of

you researching a person and that will

give you some great step-by-step ideas

as to how to go about this search

researching a person so that's one

option your other option because there

are many roads to get to the same point

in other world war memorials website the

other option is you've scrolled all the

way down your front page you've got some

options across the bottom one of which

is explore the collection and that takes

you right into the nitty-gritty and the

meat of what you're after military

events military units places that

campaigns made have occurred people

people themselves articles about said

campaigns and last but not least you

also have the option on the front page

to do your standard keyword search I'm

going to focus on a gentleman by the

name of Walter host he was a local and

he fought in World War one so I'm just

going to pop his name in there it's as

simple as that two words two names first


let's see what we come up with what we

come up with is eleven matches two

people records two matches to place

records so hopefully that will give you

a hint that you've got the right person

I can look at that myself and go yes he

did come from justice brush and yes he

did fight in France so I'm fairly

confident I'm on the right track there

got a little bit deeper and we can

narrow the down the search a little bit

more we can narrow it down do we want

records when he was a sergeant records

when he was a lieutenant we know he

fought in World War one we've already

looked at the places we've got some

information there such as yes he's full

name his service number that's quite

important when you go searching for

soldiers it's a unique number to that

person so nobody else has or ever will

be service number 702 it's given us his

unit and there's probably some more

information there too if we keep

scrolling down as I said we can just

keep going deeper and deeper as we go

into the layers in this case this

records going to lead us through to

world war embarkation roles so every

soldier that stepped foot on a ship they

would have been listed on an impartation

role you would hope anyway

and so we've got their digitization of

the embarkation role record in this case

the page that's pertinent to Walter it's

really not giving us a lot more than we

already knew except as we've gotten down

the bottom there now it's telling us

that he left Sydney place of embarkation

on the 18th of October 1914 and he

sailed on the HM 80 Suffolk which I'm

going to guess is Her Majesty's

Australian Transport as opposed to HMAS

which is Her Majesty's Australian ship a

really good set of Records to get into

is the Australian Red Cross wounded and

missing files they're really good

they're also quite distressing so in

this case Walter was spoiler alert but

he didn't make it back he was killed

overseas we've always had some

difference of opinion within my family

as to what happened just minor details

we can now get into the wet Red Cross

missing files and we can see live so to

speak reports on what happened which as

I said can be really sad can also be

quite distressing but also fascinating

so a little bit further and we download

a PDF so for example there was a lot of

paperwork in this file for example we

have a letter here from a mr. I see will

done I think it's actually Wilson this

is a report

this is his report as to what he thought

happened I knew Mr host he was in this

division and I saw him lying wounded

shot through the stomach at posi years

by a bullet on the 24th of July 19

Steen that is the the mainly held story

and my family was yes he was out

escorting and he was killed by a stray

bullet so very sad especially that last

life I do not know where he was buried

but it does as you read through the

letters and reports it does go to make

up a picture which sad as it is is also

very interesting to go back to the

Australian War Memorial you can have a

look at things like the role of honor

again not probably telling us much more

than we already know but it has to

corroborate and back up the information

that you're pulling together which is

always good this does have a little bit

more this one is telling us that yes

place of death date of death died of

wounds and the report that we read said

he did not know where he was buried

well in this case we now do know where

it was buried which again will take us a

step further so lots and lots of things

that you can find again nominal rolls

every war has a nominal role that will

give us a little bit more information of

a different sort in this case this is

going to tell us that he was 19 when he

enlisted he was a carpenter he was

single and he was the son of LC host of

Barrie and he was Church of England so

you're more bits of pieces of

information there from that nominal role

so that's stuff from the Australian War

Memorial I said there are two places to

go to the other place that you had to is

the Australian archives the majority of

your records are going to be with the

Australian archives not the state

archives because apart from the Boer War


conflicts have been fought as a

federation so we're looking at

Australian records when it comes to

defense records and if you go to the

National Archives which also changed its

website in the last 12 months you can

find what we call personal dossiers

again there's a few different ways and

means to get into the actual meet of the

records and again lots of arm

information and helpful hints and

background information to work through

or you can just go straight to your

records search discover the National

Archives and go straight to records

search you can finally make it to record

search again really easy to use we're

just going to put in two words first

name last name I am also going to put

some dates in to narrow it down because

we've been a federation for over a

hundred years that's a lot of Records to

troll through looking for water

host I know it was World War one

conflict so I'm going to put in 1950

into 1918

which is going to bring up our records

again make sure you've got the right one

that's looking pretty good

service number matches place of birth

matches next of kin works what we're

really excited to see is up in the top

right hand corner view digital copy most

of the World War one records have been

digitized now that was a big project

done for the World War 1 centenary so

with a bit of luck particularly at the

moment when we aren't we're all staying

home we can search those records and

read through them without leaving the

comfort of our own home this particular

Dozier has 18 pages in it some are quite

large some are quite small it depends on

what action the soldier may have seen

how high up in the rankings they were

perhaps so yes in this case we can make

our way through 18 pages the front page

is usually the enlistment paperwork and


typically a service record package

contains attestation papers statement of

service casualty forms correspondence

and other miscellaneous paperwork so

that's a really good thing to find we

might come back to that other things you

can find whilst you're at the Australian

archive again the role of honor we

looked at that at the Australian War


commemorative role debt of honour

register and one that we are interested

in particularly the office of Australian

War grades so we can jump to another

website we can go to the Commonwealth

War Graves Commission again we can

search for Walter host

I'm gonna stick his middle name in there

since we now know it and we've got our

results there lieutenant

host Walter Joseph date of death the

regimen he served with the Australian

infantry because this is an overseas

grave so you're going to have British

people New Zealand people Canadian

people it's going to give us things like

the transcription that has gone on his

gravestone over in France that's given

us a little bit more information we've

got his father's name and his mother's

name there and also the inscription that

they asked do you have written on that

grave and I haven't been to France I'm

probably not likely to get there any

time soon either but I can visit online

which is really good so we've got

location of where that particular grave

is so the Somme

how many casualties were buried there a

few more details and we can even go for

a virtual tour also in the Commonwealth

War Graves Commission archives more

paperwork some original records as to

which men were buried there bit more

detail this is a bit concerning that

he's has actually been written in over

someone that was typed not too sure

about that

and and then we've got the official

gazetted version as well you can also

find things like the medals that were

awarded and there's various are places

that you can hope to find a photo if

you're lucky a lot of the men did have

photos taken when they were over there

another good way to build out your

information is to research your unit

we've gone back to the War Memorial for

here so the War Memorial has a lot of

information on the various units and of

course is always good old Wikipedia

which is not a bad resource as long as

you check your references last but not

least trove newspapers with the National

Library again you'll find death notices

even just community information notices

it was again interesting but rather sad

so when I went through the newspapers

looking for any references to Walter we

found a little paragraph that he was

reported missing to begin with and then

a few months later good news mr. mrs.

host have received four field cards and

a letter which states that he is still

in the trenches but well in health so

hopes are up again now boys okay but

then unfortunately we get the official

letter from France stating that he has

been killed that was interesting in that

they actually printed the actual letter

in the paper you might not get that


so again sad but good to find you might

also be lucky if you go to the State

Library of New South Wales in this

instance the state library for their

centenary celebrations celebrations

commemorations they made an effort to

pull together a lot of personal Diaries

and letters from what the First World

War I have had a gentleman in here who

was lucky enough to have an own family

members Diaries at the State State

Library and he was able to access them

from here and transcribe them and print

them out which was great and then

something new that they've just put up

for the current times we've got some

podcast series or just a little bit of a

side there another interesting thing you

can find at the War Memorial so that's

well we'll one moving along we can also

have a look for people who served in

World War two in this instance I'm gonna

have a look for a World War two prisoner

of war now if not all the World War two

records have been digitized I'm assuming

that will be the next project as we get

closer to that 100 year anniversary fit

more of a deep dive here I'm taking a


Roberts is fairly common name apparently

so let's see what happens let's see how

many when we pull up just putting in

Roberts I actually couldn't remember my

great-great uncle's name but once I

found the right matching initials I knew

we had a number of names I figured I was

at the right place go a bit deeper and

see if I've made the right decision

so there he is lance sergeant LHS

Roberts serving in Malaya prisoner of

war and again that all-important service

number now that I've got the service

number even though I've still only got

his initials I can go to the archives

and I can pop that service number into

my search box so I can say Roberts I can

say World War two and I can put that

unique number in and hopefully yes

that's the right person

we've got his record bear Roberts Lloyd

Henry Schofield that matches that's a

family name States correct Queensland

and the next of kin I know is correct as

well so I think I've got the right

person there and again happy days we can

view a digital copy so again we can look

at his enlistment forms

he's only got 16 pieces of paper in his

dossier so not as much possibly because

he spent a large portion of the war in a

prisoner of war camp not much paperwork

to be made at that point yes and as you

can fit as a service and casualty form

there and yes 15th of Feb 19 42 prisoner

of war

not knowing much about this side of the

family I thought I'd do another trove

search and I'd have a look for sergeant

Lloyd Roberts I didn't know this but it

was good to get some further information

he did make it back unlike Paul Walter

and yes as this says having endured

indescribable Horrors at the hands of

the Japanese in prison camps sergeant

Lloyd Henry Schofield is attempting to

enter parliament he did he was a

Queensland parliamentary member and he

didn't do too bad apparently and one of

the portfolios one of his passions was

returning servicemen of course so again

we go into trove we can build a picture

of the man more information there

Federal Elections okay so uh see I

thought it was state it's actually

federal and again we can go back into

good old Google we know where he served

what battalion he served with now that

we've had a look at his records we can

look up his battalion and see if we can

get some more information on the

battalion itself information there a lot

of the battalions a lot of the men and

service women have put together websites

about their particular battalions which

is great if you're really lucky I love

photographs there's a photograph there

and it wasn't hard to spot him actually

he looks just like my dad so that was

that was a wonderful find there that

someone's actually thought to include a

photo there in that with website and

also if I head over to the Department of

Veteran Affairs I can print out a

service certificate which is nice

keep moving forward again

I'm skipping Korea for no particular

reason except luckily I don't have any

family members that served at Korea do

you have family members that served in

Vietnam so we'll give this a shot we're

back to the Australian War Memorial at

this point you can see there's a lot of

listings for various conflicts down the

side there if you want to do filter

search in that instance I'm going to

look for a cousin or my mum's cousin in

this case and again I'd forgotten the

name dreadful of me

I knew the surname so we'll put the

surname in and I knew I wanted Vietnam

so we'll narrow it down to that I've got

some results again are they were the

right results let's see they actually

were not the right results I looked at

that when I don't think that names right

and um lovely as my mum's cousin was I

don't think he was he got any awards or

recommendations in that respect so what

do we do when you have a look at a

different website let's try going back

to the Veteran Affairs and searching

through the nominal roles and seeing

what we can find

so we've gone to the Veterans Affairs

we've gone to the nominal roles we've

put in what we know which is very little

unfortunately a surname and a conflict

but this time we've had a bit more

success so I've run my eye down that

list of Bennett's and I've come to Edwin

Ernest and gone that's right his name's

Teddy and Ernest is after great grandpa

so I'm fairly certain I've got the right

person now I've got the service number

their date of birth looks right 1946 and


Penrith is the right area

I'm fairly confident I've got the right

person this time

so I can go back to well actually like a

stay at the Department of Veteran

Affairs go in a little bit deeper still

got that number there

mmm haven't really picked up much more

information we know he's a private now

we can head back to the National

Archives I'm just going to go straight

in from my google search into defense

and war service records as I said

they've updated the website and now

they've got all this lovely extra

information that you can play around

with which is great

and I had to work out a different way of

searching because it didn't look like

this last time I went in I was like oh

okay now what do I do have a play you're

not going to break anything the best way

to learn is just to explore through

these websites I've ended up back at

records search because that's the best

way to go

we've put Bennett in and I haven't

worried about a service number at this


I've refined the search or I will refine

the search because there's far too many

Bennett's there at that moment now I'm

going to put in the footer first in a

second name narrow it down and this time

we've got the record dead that's great

we've got the right person this time

unfortunately we haven't got a digital

copy that we can access we can request a

copy which is good that means it's not

locked down and inaccessible to request

a copy it does cost you a little bit of

money and the powers that be we'll

probably have to go through and make

sure it's okay to release probably not

high on their priorities but we can

still go into the back to the War

Memorial have a look at the battalion he

served with again it's got a lovely

website as well that somebody's put

together I've got a few extra resources

there there's actually a book that

someone's written about that battalion

service in Vietnam might be interesting

and again we can go back to the Veterans

Affairs and print out a service record

sometimes you can get lucky

I couldn't access cousin Teddy's record

for whatever reason I could however and

this really surprised me when I came

across this or a few years ago now I can

access my dad's Navy record I'm guessing

that's because there's nothing really

confidential or anything in there it

kind of blew me away

really so yeah I've got his service card

there and various exams he took and good

contact badges

let's see where he served where he was

when he's enlisted so yeah

few interesting points there he did

serve in Vietnam albeit not actually in

the country he was on one of the ships

that was escorting soldiers to Vietnam

so he does have Vietnam record possibly

he is able to be accessed because he

wasn't actually in the country and so

again we can download a lovely war

service certificate

and finally we've been to the National

Archives we've been to the War Memorial

we've done all the federal level stuff

but don't forget your local area

information - don't forget your local

Historical Society particularly as we've

just been through the centenary of well

well one most societies will have done a

lot of research and put a lot of things

together in regards to the local

soldiers and also in our case here in

this area we're very lucky we have the

Fleet Air Arm Museum - so um that's

always another option to explore ah

thank you very much

hopefully that will give you some ideas

and some directions as to where to go if

you're searching military ancestors