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World War I and Australia

Diaries and letters 1914-1919

Diary and letter collections

There are around 500 diary and letter collections in the Library's manuscript collection. Visit the Library's Centenary of the First World War website for a list of the diary and letter collections.

In many cases, diarists kept more than one volume of their writings. Most of the diaries measure around 9.5 cm x 15 cm in size, small enough to fit into a top pocket. Some diaries are hard to read, with tiny script. Some are very clear and could have been written yesterday. Many have next of kin details written on the first page.

Additional material is stored with the diaries. George McClintock’s diary includes a fragile pressed poppy. Alfred Morris’ includes his own set of diaries, as well as a diary taken from a Turkish officer at the Gallipoli Peninsula, along with his copy of the Koran.

Some of the diaries are by well-known men of the time. Noted photographer, Frank Hurley, fresh from his Antarctic adventures, travelled to France and Palestine in 1917–18 to photograph scenes of war. His diary contains vivid descriptions of trench warfare and his work of creating composite photographs, a controversial technique, much criticised by the Official War Historian, CEW Bean.

Other noted diarists are Charles Laseron, who in 1911 joined the Australasian Antarctic Expedition under Sir Douglas Mawson, as general scientific assistant. In 1914 he joined the AIF and survived the war, being wounded and repatriated in 1916. Sir Charles Rosenthal, with his 3 volume set of diaries, provides an officer’s insight into war. A much decorated war hero, he ended the war a Major-General.

Archie Barwick diary, 22 August 1914–September 1915

Digital order number: a3226003

Digitising the diaries and letters

We are progressively digitising the Library's World War I collections. If there are no digitised images on the catalogue record, you may need to visit the Library to view the material.

Finding items

Search the Library's Manuscripts, oral history and pictures catalogue to find diaries and letters.

From the main collection record, individual diary collections can be accessed under the Context tab.

Alternatively, search by the name of the service person and use the terms:

Soldiers, World War, 1914–1918 -- personal narratives

Copying, publishing or purchasing digital copies

You can make copies of pictures for research and study purposes by:

  • using a digital camera
  • using our microfilm reader printers 
  • ordering paper or electronic copies
  • ordering high quality digital scans
  • purchasing microfilm  

You need to contact us for permission to publish our original materials. You must also acknowledge the Library and provide the correct location details. 

Find out more about copying, purchasing digital copies and publishing.