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How to access First World War Official Histories

Watch Laura James guide you through the process of accessing First World War Official Histories on the Australia War Memorial website.
LAURA JAMES: Digitising Australia’s repatriation records is a mammoth undertaking. And even before the war had officially ended, the Australian Government commissioned an official history of a very similar scale. The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914 to 1918 is a 12-volume collection edited by official war historian Charles Bean. You can access this to chart campaigns and battles, but the history is also a handy source for biographical referencing as well. Today we’re going to look at two different volumes of the official histories to reconstruct something of the story of Rowley Lording. Rowland Edward Lording was an Australian soldier with the 30th battalion. He enlisted under age on his 16th birthday in June 1915.
Serving as a signaler, his mother had hoped that her son would be out of much of the action, but this wasn’t to be. Barely a year after joining the AIF during the Battle for Fromelles Rowley was struck down in no man’s land by machine gun fire, which tore open his chest and right arm. Immediately after, he was to sustain significant injuries to his back from shrapnel of an exploded shell. Rowley was rescued by a friend, who dragged his body back across the Australian lines, and he was eventually removed to a military hospital in Boulogne. For six weeks, it was thought that he would not recover, and was considered too fragile to be moved.
Eventually, however, he was evacuated to England where he remained bedridden and dangerously ill for another six months. Rowley was finally invalided home to Australia and discharged from the AIF in February 1917. Over the next 15 years, Rowley underwent more than 50 operations, including the removal of six ribs and the amputation of his right arm below the elbow.
During the time he spent in Australia’s repatriation hospitals, Rowley became addicted to alcohol and morphia. Like many of the men examined in the One Hundred Stories Project, his suffering continued well after he came home. Lording died as a result of his wartime injuries in 1943 at Callan Park Mental Asylum in Sydney. What makes Lording’s story so exceptional is the testimony that he has left us. As he wrestled with his demons, he published an account of his life title There and Back. He was also an advocate for the war damaged generation. Lording founded the 30th Battalion Association and was an active member of the Limbless Soldiers Association.
Rowley’s story is published in Volume Three of The Official History of the Australian Army Medical Service, so I need to select that volume on the search page to find the information that I’m looking for. Once I open the link to Volume Three, I’m presented with a brief introduction to each section of the book, as well as a link to the digitised vision of each chapter. If you are trying to find a specific event or person, it’s sometimes best to consult the index right at the bottom so you know where your information is located. I know that Rowley’s story, however, is located in Chapter 16– The War Damaged Soldier.
So here is a screenshot of the passage concerning Rowley in Chapter 16. While this short biographical excerpt is rewarding enough, there’s enough of volume of the official histories that can help me with my research. If I want to find out more information on the Battle of Fromelles for instance, I need to go back to the Official Histories home page and select Volume Three titled The Australian Imperial Force in France, 1916. This volume has two full chapters dedicated to the Battle of Fromelles. In a way, I can revisit the moment that Rowley Lording’s life was changed forever in France.

Watch Laura James guide you through the process of accessing First World War Official Histories 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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