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How to access the Roll of Honour

Watch Laura James explore the roll of honour made available by the Australian War Memorial.
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LAURA JAMES: The Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Board sometimes nurtured the hope that a man was still alive. The Roll of Honour is a record of the dead. The names of almost every man and woman that have died as a result of their war service for Australia since 1885 are recorded on a series of bronze plaques outside the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial. The names and particulars of these individuals have now been digitised for researchers on the War Memorial’s website. To search for an individual, the Roll of Honour name search asks for a name, a service number, a unit name, and a conflict.
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The more information that you can provide here, the more accurate your search will be. But remember, not everyone is listed. For the name of an individual from The First World War to appear on the Roll of Honour, they need to have died as a result of their war service between the 4th of August, 1914, and the 31st of March, 1921. The individual that we are researching today is Captain Norman Gibbins of the 55th Australian Infantry Battalion, who was killed during the Battle of Fromelles on the 20th of July, 1916, Australia’s first major enemy engagement on the Western Front.
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I don’t have Norman’s service file number, but I’ve chosen to limit the search down to Norman Gibbins who fought in First World War so this should find him. Here we are. We can see that the Roll of Honour database records the name, rank, unit, date, place and cause of death, age at death, place of association, and any cemetery or memorial details that are available. We can see that Norman was 35 years old when he was killed in action in France. We can also see where Norman’s grave is located and what place in Australia Norman was associated with.
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For many of the names of World War I soldiers, sailors, airmen, and nurses on the Roll of Honour database, a digitised record of the circular completed by an individual’s next of kin is also attached. These Roll of Honour circulars were sent to the families of deceased requesting information about them. In the case of Norman Gibbins, it was his next of kin, his devoted sister Violet, who completed the form. Violet filled out all the personal particulars of the form, including a number of biographical details relating to Norman’s war service. From this form, we learn that he was mentioned in dispatches and was granted a commission for gallantry whilst at Gallipoli.
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Violet also includes other details of Norman’s life that she felt were important to her, including that her brother had been a keen sportsman in his youth and extremely popular with his school fellows, and later with the men at the Bank of New South Wales where he worked. But Violet did not stop there. Attached to this record is a letter she personally wrote to Australia’s Official War Historian, Charles Bean, about a lecture that she’d heard Charles Bean speak at. In her letter, Violet corrects Bean on some information regarding her brother. Across the top of the letter, Bean has written, “needed for Volume III,” demarking that this information was to go into the third volume of the official histories.
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Following the letter are two early drafts of Bean’s entries for Norman Gibbins in the official histories. Not only do these circulars provide an insight into some of the Australia’s service personnel, there’s also something very moving about seeing the handwritten accounts of an individual’s war service written by the next of kin. And for researchers, too, they’re a valuable supplement to other records of the war dead, most notably those hosted by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. [PIANO MUSIC PLAYING]
Watch Laura James guide you through the process of accessing the Roll of Honour on the Australian War Memorial website.
Note: Websites referred to in this presentation were accessed in early 2015 and there may have been minor modifications to some of the sites since then.
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