We have Australian materials as well; some of this material is now becoming available on the internet so it’s well worth having a scratch around on the internet to see whether anything’s been published there.
The British Raj is also well covered with the alphabetical list of the officers of the Indian army with the dates of their respective promotion, retirement, resignation or death whether in India or in Europe from the year 1760 to the year 1834 inclusive, corrected to September 1837. This work with several others is available on microfiche in the genealogy centre here at the Library.
Following on from that comment about promotion in the Crimean War, I recall that I was asked some years ago for advice following up some information that had been found in the Times of London after a family who came in asked about the types of swords used during the Crimean War. Apparently they or a close relative had recently received some cuttings, letters and a sabre passed down from an ancestor. The letters and cuttings were not an issue but there was some dispute as to the authenticity of the sword.
[On screen shows slide of black and white photograph with an army officer on the left hand side. He is standing with his legs apart, knees bent holding up a sabre with a straight, single-edged blade and rather large hand guard. There are ten soldiers lined up to his left, also holding sabres and poised in the same position as the officer with the sabre.]
Steven: And we had to dig around and look for material. A quick look at the catalogue indicated that we had over 50 books on swords in history and we found exactly what we wanted in Swords of the British Empire, the regulation patterns 1788 to 1914 by Ryan Robson.
We also have some other interesting things on swords.
[On screen shows slide with black and white sketch of three views of an elaborate sword handle; left hand side sketch shows side view of a woman’s figure, being the straight part of the handle; the middle sketch shows the front view and the right hand side the back view, with handwritten explanations below each sketch. Printed heading on top of the article in red on white background: Design of the hilt of a Sword to be presented by the Colony of Victoria to G. Garibaldi. 1860?]
Steven: Apparently Victoria had a sword created and given as a presentation sword to Garibaldi when, I presume, just before the unification of Italy. This collection on swords is not unusual and the Library has a very broad range of books and pamphlets on military weapons and equipment, especially from the late 19th century onwards.
And the same applies to military uniforms. A quick search of the catalogue shows that we hold over 120 books and pamphlets covering uniforms and codes of military dress. And one of my favourite titles is a book by Liliane and Fred Funcken called The lace wars, covering the 18thcentury French, English and German armies. This is a nice little two-volume set, it’s quite small …
[Steven makes a hand gesture showing about 15 centimetres.]
Steven: … but it’s got fabulous illustrations of all of the very colourful uniforms of the 18th century.
[On screen shows slide of a coloured drawing of men from different regiments of the British standing around in a group. A number of them have red jackets; some with kilts, some with dark trousers and most of them holding guns. Those at the back are mostly on horseback. At the bottom of the drawing in black lettering on a white background The Guard of Honour. Printed heading on top of the article in red on white background: The guard of honour. Representing the British Army at the Australian Commonwealth inauguration, 1st January, 1901.]
Steven: This one is digitised in our Pictures Collection, quite interesting. You’ve got all the different regiments of the British army in January 1901 when Australia became a nation.
Another interesting work is British military spectacle from the Napoleonic Wars through the Crimea by Scott Hughes Myerly. I mention this book especially because it’s a little bit different. This book looks at the costumes through war and peace and discusses their role in both the social and the military environments. So it’s not a book full of images as such but it does talk about the importance of the uniform, how they were created, why they were created and what role they played in society and in military.
This is the Queen Alexandra’s nurses.
[On screen slide shows a black and white photograph of a group of nurses: five sitting in the front row with four nurses behind them. Printed heading on top of the article in red on white background: Acting-Matron M Bentley, QANNS (R) and the nursing sisters of a British hospital ship.]
Steven: Victorian Rifle Brigade.
[On screen slide shows a black and white photograph of two soldiers, one sitting and the other standing, both with rifles. Printed on top of the article in red on white background: Victorian Rifle Brigade c. 1860s.]
Steven: Showing the Victorian Rifle Brigade gives me the opportunity to basically mention, I think this was mentioned earlier, yes, the ‘Australian colonial forces and family history research guide’; it’s got an excellent amount of information in it. Some of the material that I’ve spoken about before is referenced in this particular research guide, which I think is launched today.
Staying with the Napoleonic Wars for a moment gives me the opportunity to mention that we have a copy of Naval courts martial, 1793–1815, edited by John D Byrn; a rather large book of 800 pages covering both social and naval crimes for this period which covers the Napoleonic Wars. And the interesting thing is that this provides minutes and accounts of proceedings which is rather unusual.
There are over 60 other books covering military law and courts martial.
[On screen shows slide of a page from the State Library of Victoria website. Black and white heading on a white background: Australian Colonial Forces and family history. Also featured on the page is a black and photograph of three soldiers sitting in a row holding rifles, with another four soldiers standing at the back also holding rifles. Below the photograph with black lettering on white background: Royal Victorian Artillery, Collingwood Company, early 60s.]
Steven: Eight reels of microfilmed Judge Advocate General’s Office registers of British courts martial published through the AJCP microfilm, and together with a broad collection of journals and newspapers that sometimes cover courts martial, these materials open an interesting window on a less discussed area of military history. The Judge Advocate General’s registers are fascinating but they’re very, very brief. They’ll list the person’s name, their rank, the date of the courts martial, what they were charged with, and what punishment they got or whether they were acquitted.
The issue of discipline and morale amongst troops is of course briefly covered by the various official histories of the 20th-century wars. And while the Australian War Memorial has digitised the complete set of volumes for the First World War, the official history of Australia in the war of 1914–1918 as well as the 22 volumes of Australia in the war of 1939–1945, the Library holds these in print together with sets of the British, French, Canadian, New Zealand and German histories of the Great War and the British and American official histories of World War Two; I think the War Memorial has in fact digitised those as well.
The most recent official history acquired by the Library is for the Falklands campaign in 1982 and that was only published in 2005. I cannot emphasise how much information these official histories hold, especially in the breadth if not always in depth and all military services are well covered with individual volumes. The Australian official history covering World War Two has two volumes on the navy, four on the RAAF and four volumes on medical services during the war, as well as a surprising amount of statistical information and material on the home front.
Having said this, however, we need to keep in mind that some of the better and more recent revisionist histories of the war will quite often provide both new information and new interpretations that will colour our reading of these histories. Just perhaps mention something like the issue of Bletchley Park, some of you may know what Bletchley Park was during the Second World War, it was the code and cipher establishment in Britain. This of course was kept completely under the Official Secrets Act and there was no mention of it until I think at the very earliest the 1970s and certainly there wasn’t much written before the 1980s and ‘90s. So we didn’t know about Enigma and how they’d broken the codes, and all that sort of stuff. So we’ve got at least 30 books covering all of this now and you could read those and then check back with the official histories.
References in the official histories to many less well-known episodes in the wars to decorated soldiers, generals and military equipment can also be found in the range of military dictionaries and encyclopedias held by the Library, many of them multi-volume sets giving substantial information and occasionally lists of further reading.
The two world wars are very well covered by these publications, as are the other 20th-century wars. But this collection is very broad and includes for example the Encyclopedia of war journalism 1807–2010 by Mitchell P Roth and the Encyclopedia of war movies by Robert Davenport.
As we have already mentioned the Battle of Agincourt, I will also mention that we have the Encyclopedia of the 100 Years’ War by John Wagner, and the medieval period is well covered by the three-volume set of the Oxford encyclopedia of medieval warfare and military technology. These works cover an enormous range of history and detail, and a quick, rough search on the catalogue will pull up a hundred other encyclopedia titles dealing with military history.
While encyclopedias are broad and slightly impersonal, diaries or personal accounts are generally more intimate, recording the thoughts or experiences of individuals. As you would imagine the Library has a good collection of personal accounts of war service and we’ve collected fairly broadly. Some is essentially raw material presented with little editing, often from personal diaries or immediate responses to war, while other accounts were written years later and some of the material based on real experience has been rewritten as fiction. The Middle parts of fortune by Frederic Manning is a good example of the latter as is All quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque; both were published in the late 1920s by authors who were veterans and these books are now considered classics of war literature, as is The cruel sea by Nicholas Monsarrat published in 1951.
A quick search of the Library catalogue under ‘war personal narratives’ brings up more than 4,000 items, it’s closer to 5,000, including collections of stories by veterans, oral histories, and accounts of war experiences from civilians caught in war zones or occupied countries.
There are also over 700 books of war letters in the collections by all sorts of people that again give a surprising and often intimate insight into life during wartime. I’m pleased to say that we have over 50 diaries, collections of stories, and personal accounts by nurses during the two big wars, including this title by Yvonne Fitzroy first published in 1918.
[On screen shows slide an open book; left hand page shows a sepia photograph of a woman standing alongside a building. On the right hand page shown with black lettering on a sepia background: With the Scottish Nurses in Roumania by Yvonne Fitzroy. Printed on top of the article in red on white background: With the Scottish Nurses in Roumania by Yvonne Fitzroy, 1918.]
Steven: With the Scottish nurses in Roumania. Yes, there was a Front in Romania.
There are also accounts from all over the world including Evelyn Waugh’s account of the Italo-Ethiopia War in 1936 through to an account of the civil war in Nigeria in the years 1967 to 1970; some of you may remember this as the Biafran War.
We also have a book covering eyewitness accounts of the 30 Years War in the years 1618 to 1649 that was recently published in 2002.
This collection can be hard work but it can often often add an enormous amount of texture and colour to history, and would often be of great use to researchers, novelists, students and family historians. As is often quoted, ‘war is made up of interminable boredom interspersed with moments of terror’ but these personal works by veterans of the wars help fill many of the rich details of life that are usually missing from the military histories.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the session, military history also covers the home front, the history of how and why war began, and the aftermath of war in both its happiness and survival and its sadness of the loss and fragmentation of life in the personal, communal and cultural spheres. I personally find this part of the collection of particular interest as it has provided context and has filled in some details for some of my parents’ comments and conversations as I was growing up.
A book title that offers a sharp and pertinent point about the big 20thcentury wars is Marion Yass’s This is your war: home front propaganda in the Second World War. And this issue of the war at home is picked up in a completely different way in a novel such as Helene Hanff’s 84 Charing Cross Road. People probably remember having read that or perhaps seen the film which came out I think in the 1980s. Helen Hanff, the American author in search of titles difficult to acquire in New York, begins a correspondence in 1949, well after the war ending in 1945, with an antiquarian book store in London. As the relationship develops between the correspondents, food parcels are organised to help out the staff at the bookshop, as rationing in Britain continued for some foods up to 1954.
The Library has a good selection of books covering life on the home front and extends to specialist titles, such as A child’s war: growing up on the home front 1939–1945 by Mike Brown. Virginia Nicholson’s post-war history Singled out, about how two million women survived without men after the First World War and the important interwar period, is also well represented with titles like We danced all night: a social history of Britain between the wars by Martin Pugh. In all, the collection covers the Australian home front very well and includes major works on Britain, the United States and occupied Europe and occupied Asia.
I have a couple of items from our digitised picture collection.
[On screen shows slide of a sepia photograph of three children, the boy and girl lying on their stomachs holding guns aiming off to the right, with another girl sitting in the middle behind a tricycle adapted to look like a tank. White lettering on sepia background reads: Preparing for the Germans. Inset is another photo in a round frame of a boy with the same adapted tricycle; the title with white lettering on a sepia background: Bringing down an aeroplane. Printed on top of the article in red on white background: Preparing for the Germans (postcard, World War 1.]
Steven: This is a postcard from the First World War. This one from the Second World War.
[On screen shows slide of a black and white photograph of about ten children, crouching down into trenches; some are eating apples, and they’re all smiling. Printed on top of the article in red on white background: Brisbane Daylight Air Raid Drill. … [picture].]
Steven: And this is coming up next.
[On screen shows slide of a black and white photograph of women working machines in a munitions factory. Printed on top of the article in red on white background: Australian women in the munitions and aircraft construction industries, World War II.]
Steven: The other home front focus is the wars industries that kept the wars going, and to some degree dictated victory or defeat. The official history certainly covered this topic with individual volumes on the home front industry and civilians, and the Library also has the 12-volume set of the History of the Ministry of Munitions that covers all aspects of the munitions industry during the Great War, including labour supply, wages and conditions. An interesting history that gives a good coverage of many social, gender and political issues is Angela Woolacott’s On her their lives depend: munitions workers in the Great War.
The food industry is also well represented with titles such as The front line of freedom: British farming in the Second World War, edited by Brian Short and Wartime agriculture in Australia and New Zealand 1939–1950 by JG Crawford.
[On screen shows slide of a black and white photograph of one man flanked by two women. They are smiling and proudly showing off two huge cabbages. Printed on top of the article in red on white background: Man and two women in uniform: Cpl. D. Murrowood, Cpl. N. Lothian and Pte. R Herry with cabbages grown at Army farm in Northern Territory, brought to Melbourne for an exhibition.]
Steven: Thought that was a rather good one.
[On screen shows the same slide with close up of photograph only.]
Steven: This must have been a reasonably common sight, I suspect. The Library also has an excellent collection on the merchant marine and the struggle to bring convoys across the world with food and supplies, and the enormous losses suffered in shipping during both world wars. We have at least two dozen books covering the Battle of the Atlantic, and the convoy systems, and works on the merchant marine.
[On screen shows slide of a black and white photograph of a man surrounded by white hens. He is bare chested and wears a hat, long shorts and boots. He is carrying a steel bucket. A corrugated iron hen house is in the background of the dirt yard. Printed on top of the photo in red text on white background: Pte. D.W. Young ) Dandenong Ranges, Vic.) feeding chickens on poultry farm in Northern Australia.]
Steven: There are many more, less well-known, areas of military history that have not been mentioned and I haven’t even started on the great collection of material we have on the ancient wars, including the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans; the wars in Mesoamerica, China and ancient India. We do have many translations of the Iliad by Homer, of course the Trojan War …
[On screen shows slide of a black and white photograph of the bow of a warship at sea. Soldiers line the bow of the ship and look out towards five warships that are on the horizon. The ships are in a convoy and all headed in the same direction. Printed on top of the photo in red text on white background: Convoy shipping off the Australia coast.]
Steven: … and our literature collection will have copies of most of the great epic poems of the ancient civilisations including the Shahnama by Firdausi that you may have seen referenced to in the State Library’s Love and Devotion exhibition last year, showing illuminated Persian manuscripts from Oxford University.
As you can imagine, the collection we have on ancient history and war is well rounded and we have a number of works on Alexander the Great and his conquests in the East, as far as India, as well as books and pamphlets covering the art of war in ancient India. I suspect, however, that many of you are probably more interested in the fact that we have a rather good collection on the more recent history of India, that of the British Raj and the period prior to 1858 under the East India Company. A recent acquisition by the Library to fill in some gaps …
[On screen shows slide of a black and white photograph of a box/trunk/sarcophagus with elaborate carving. Printed on top of the article in red on white background: Marble sarcophagus with bas relief carving depicting Alexander the Great defeating the Persians.]
Steven: … in the British Raj collection was the nine-volume set Frontier and overseas expeditions from India. This was a set put together in the early 20th century and the volumes cover expeditions to Burma, Africa, Afghanistan and many other places including some from as early as 1801, during the Napoleonic Wars. The reports are actually quite interesting but are very, very brief and to the point.
[On screen shows slide of a coloured postcard. A bearded Indian man dressed in a gold tunic and turban sits astride a brown horse. On foot is a second bearded man in navy blue tunic and turban who stands, with hand on hip, looking in the same direction. Each displays a flag on a long pole. Printed on top of the article in red text on white background: 1st Duke of York’s Own Lancers. 3rd Skinner’s Horse. 1910, postcard.]
Steven: But names are often mentioned, and details are given of many minor and less discussed military episodes. The British Raj collection at the State Library is also extremely large and there are directories, there are reports from the different provinces in India, we have military lists; there’s a great range of material on the British in India.
I’ll finish off by mentioning briefly that the Library now has a subscription to the British National Archives. They have been busily digitising parts of their enormous collection including material from the war office.
[On screen shows slide of a screen grab of the homepage from The National Archives website.]
Steven: I’ve just captured that particular page. As you can see, there are sections on medals, RAF combat reports, Royal Marine service records, Royal Navy service records. Here you can find a personal military service record including this enormous amount of material. My understanding is that only about five or six per cent of the enormous collection has been digitised so far. I’ve done a little bit of searching myself and I’ve certainly found some materials and I’ll say that we’ve subscribed to Discovery, and if you have a registration card, a library card from the State Library of Victoria, and you live in Victoria, you can certainly access this material from home.
[Steven turns to face projector screen and presses button]
Steven: That’s it. Thank you very much.
[On screen slide displays white logos for the State Library of Victoria and State Government of Victoria against a black background.]