Friday, February 6, 2015

52 Weeks of Genealogy - Week 29 - Military Records

This week Shauna has chosen military records and tells us that "there are lots of records that could fall under this broad heading but I will focus on the dossiers which contains lots of different information. To start there is all the biographical information contained on the enlistment form as well as a photograph in some instances (depending on the war). Then there is information on where they are sent, if they are wounded or ill, and when they come home. Sometimes there are letters from family at home seeking information on their loved one and perhaps letters from the person after their service has ended. Some of the dossiers I have are quite big while others only have a few pages."

I have the military records for several of my ancestors, including my father and two of his brothers, my mother's eldest brother and several great-uncles.  They cover both world wars and my family was extremely lucky, with all the immediate family returning from the wars alive and relatively unharmed.  We did have a second cousin killed in WW1, but everyone else made it home (it seems not even wars kill off my family).  The only exception was my mother's middle brother who was killed after WW2 ended, and he actually wasn't a soldier - he was in the Merchant Navy and drowned in an accident in Argentina in 1947.  He was buried there in a full Catholic funeral - a bit of an error as my mother's family is very much Anglican - and my grandmother was sent a number of photographs of the service and the burial by the kindly priest who officiated.

Having heard many family stories over the years about the various war experiences of these men, and the home experiences of the women in the family (none of my female ancestors were nurses, etc), it surprises me how many of them, including my father, saw the war as a chance to travel, see a bit of the world, give the 'enemy' a black eye and all be home by Christmas.  My father was always rather disappointed he never actually made it out of Australia during his time in the Air Force.  His brother Ernest (known as Squib) sent the postcard below to their sister Nancy from Egypt.
Through the National Archives of Australia I have downloaded several family WW1 records and ordered those from WW2 -  the NAA has indexed and digitised Boer War and World War 1 dossiers, which you can search and view online for free. World War II dossiers have been indexed but will only be digitised if a family member has requested it.  Other websites include Discovering Anzacs Whichallows you to add your stories and images, and the Australian War Memorial, which has databases like the WW1 Embarkation Rolls and WW1 Red Cross files.
Thanks again Shauna for another great topic.  You can read Shauna's full blog post here.

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