UPDATE: The Mapping our Anzacs website no longer exists and a new website ‘Discovering Anzacs’ has been created by the National Archives of Australia in partnership with Archives New Zealand. Please visit:
The Mapping Our Anzacs website is run by the National Archives of Australia and features a searchable database of WWI service records.
This website is an incredibly useful tool for family historians. Once a relative is found, a click on their name brings up their entire service record and other relevant documents. Clues and various facts can then be obtained from this information. Keep an eye out for:
Attestation Paper (usually first page) – lists their age, occupation, next of kin, address and many other details.
Description Page – lists the height, weight, eye colour, hair colour etc. of the individual.
Statement of Service – see where they travelled and fought or whether they were injured or ill.
Unfortunately finding such records doesn’t always end well. If a date of death is unknown and if there is a possibility that the person could have enlisted in the Australian Military then there is also a good chance that they could have died in the war. There have been many times where I have searched this website and found WWI service records and at the same time discovered that the relative in question had been killed fighting in Gallipoli or France. Scrolling through the records, you are brought face to face with the harsh reality of their deaths and the effect on their relatives. Records of items returned (such as bibles, photos, letters or wallets) give a sense of the real person behind the record. Then there are the occasional letters from grieving relatives. I have never been able to forget one particular example. Edward William Joyce’s distraught mother wrote to the Secretary of Defence several times in order to find out whether he had been killed or injured. In one letter she writes, “I was trying to advise him not to go as he is my only son and child”. This is a line that will haunt me forever. The grief and worry of his mother is extremely distressing and is even sadder for the fact that as it turned out, he was one of the many soldiers who died in Gallipoli.
Whether you are hoping to find some new clues or are interested in the military background of your relative, I highly recommend searching the Mapping Our Anzacs website.