Saturday, March 17, 2012


A battered old leather diary and a set of dog-eared photographs in a tucked-away box; a story of lost love told around the table at family reunions; a moment of recognition seeing a familiar name on a memorial.

For so many families in Australia, these things and others are the reminders of a time now past, when the whole country marched to the drumbeat of the Great War, farewelling fathers, brothers and sons to the battlefields of Europe and the Near East. Many of those men never came home, and many others returned permanently damaged. The effects were felt in every family in the country, regardless of backgrounds, circumstances, origins, relationships- grief and loss were something everyone had in common between 1914 and 1918.

No surprise, then, that the echoes of that time carry down to today's generations, even as the last of those alive to remember the war years have dwindled to almost none. As the distance to that time grows, somehow the interest in it expands. Each year the national ANZAC Day ceremonies are attended by hundreds of thousands, many, like me, born closer to the end of the 20th century. It's those echoes of the past that draw us to remember. The loss of the generations between makes us reach out to grab onto what shaped our families, and what shaped us. For so many, the war played a part.

For me, besides an interest in my family's war history, it's the bigger scale of the devastation both overseas and at home that holds my attention. To explore my feelings about it, and to better understand the universal human emotions of war, I've been writing war fiction for the better part of a decade now. The soldiers I've created have come to life in my hands, and I know their struggles, their successes, and their destruction, intimately.

But as part of the process, I've also had cause to research many real soldiers who fought in the Great War- some who made it home afterwards, and some who didn't.

I'm a professional researcher by trade, and yet I've been surprised at just how much detail I've been able to find on the men I've researched, all online. Their stories have taken me over intensely, and these men will never leave me. I've been wanting to look into more people in the hope that I might be able to help others out with information on their ancestors. At the least, I hope that the men I research will be a little less forgotten by time.

So, this blog will be a record of my research into individuals who fought for Australia in the First World War. I have best access to Western Australian records, so my focus will largely be on WA soldiers- but I will venture into other states occasionally.

In researching these stories, I aim to investigate many of the common experiences of the First World War, both on the front and at home. Each story will look at the wider context as well as the individual- but there is always an individual at the centre of the tale.

Please see the FAQ tab at the top for answers to questions I'm sure will come up. I'll also be populating a Research Sources tab with information on how to research your own WWI ancestors, including links to the most important sources out there on the internet.

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