World War One

The First World War engulfed Australian society. Indeed, it is difficult to find an aspect of society that remained untouched. Over 400,000 men enlisted; over 60,000 of those were killed and over 150,000 were wounded or taken prisoner. For those who remained, industry was transformed, living conditions suffered and political debate intensified over the issue of conscription.

As a major collecting archive whose collections span a wide range of human endeavour, this situation is clearly reflected in almost all of our collections from the period. Business records, union and community organisation collections and personal papers reveal the impact of the war on all walks of life. For example, some of our highlights include: the Swallow and Ariell Busy Bees album of photographs showing the war efforts of their staff; the Bendigo anti-conscription campaign committee minutes; correspondence from Vera Scantlebury Brown as a young female assistant-surgeon in England; and souvenirs including poppies picked on the Western Front in 1916 and still intact as part of the Ray Jones collection.

All of these and much more are detailed in this subject guide. Because of the scope of the impact of the war, this guide is not a comprehensive list of all material held in the collections relating to the war. The guide is organised by key topics of interest to researchers, such as the various fields of battle, types of material or subject areas. For more information about our collection, to suggest a topic for the subject guide or to seek further guidance about the collection, please contact our reference service.

For an example of how our World War 1 collections have been used, see our Somewhere in France blog. This blog was created by French language students at the university using the personal papers of Australian soldiers who fought on the Western Front to explore various themes related to the war.