Alt banner image

Expert Q&A :: Finding your Anzac using the Australian War Memorial

Q. From Judith: This is a photo of my Great Uncle Thomas Wall (Private 3526 in AIF 5th Pioneers) on the right, with his cousin, Jack McLeod. As I have been able to trace Uncle Tom’s WW1 service I would love to know Jack McLeod’s service as well. Can you identify his uniform and tell me how to find him? Also, is there any way of tracing merchant seamen during this war? My Grandfather George T. Goss talked about taking horses to India.
A. AWM: In the photograph Jack is wearing a Merchant Navy officer’s uniform. Curators from Military Heraldry have advised that he is from a big shipping line to have a uniform with the shipping lines badge in the middle of his hat badge. If you have a high quality version of the photo you may could try zooming in on the image of the badge you may be able to make what line it is. The three chevrons are WW1 service chevrons. As he has them it could mean his ship was requisitioned for the war effort. The National Archives of Australia hold microfilmed employment records for Australian seamen who served on Australian merchant vessels. For more information about these records please see Fact Sheet 30 Navy service records, Jennie

Q. From Cynthia: I have a photo of a soldier in ww1 from my mother’s family. Is there a place I can post a digital copy for naming and bringing into the broader community use – suspect there may be quite a few orphan photos that could be named and brought into collections using the power of social media. Particularly quick way to strengthen collections for the upcoming anniversary period. Thanks. 
A. AWM: @ Cynthia. Somewhere like Flickr or Pinterest that you could put the photograph up on, or your Facebook page. Perhaps a website like ‘Don’t forget the Diggers’ could be of use Alternatively search Google for unknown solier photographs in Australia, other options may pop up – Dianne
A. WW1 Lost Boys: This site is posting photos of those who were KIA and those who returned to Aust Also ANZACs Online and you are most welcome to post photos of soldiers here
A. WW1 Lost Boys: The profile pic has my Great Grandfather with 13 unknown (to me) Tunnellers
A. Cynthia: Thanks to the comments & tips from all. Here is my photo. It looks like a WW1 uniform – can anyone confirm? I’ll try the suggestions from others to name it.

Q. From Leigh: Hi, where can I find pictures of WW1 and WW2 soldiers? Were there photos taken of each soldier prior to or coming back from war? Thanks.
A. AWM: @Leigh. The Memorial collection is one place to start to look for photographs. However, we do not have photos of every person who served in the First and Second World Wars.
In the First World War, portrait photographs were taken by commercial photographers and not everyone had a photograph taken. Photographs of servicemen are held in collections throughout Australia. You can try searching Trove which searches a number of Australian institutions, including the Memorial –
For the Second World War, photographs were taken around the time of enlistment into the Second AIF and copies are usually kept in the service records that are held at the National Archive of Australia. These are ‘mug shots’ more than studio portraits. Like First World War photographs, they are held in many Australian institutions. Dianne
A. Ros: Try the Queenslander on Trove. The Cairns Post published photos in the war in the Northern Herald.
A. Leigh: Thank you very much I will try Trove, I thought photos were taken of all soldiers when they enlisted – it’s a shame would be nice to put a face to so many brave men.
Q (b): Leigh: Also do you have any idea on where to find info on British fleet air arm from WW2?
A. Mark: @Leigh, try the WW2talk forum, they have helped me quite a lot with info and research on WWII.

Q. From WW1 Western Front: Does the AMW have trench maps online? I am tracing my Grandmother’s first husband who is still one of the almost 18,000 missing in France. I know the village he was near on the date he went missing but would love to get as detailed as possible trench maps of the area. Thanks in advance, Ash Hind, WW1 Western Front Admin
A. AWM: @Ash & WW1 Western Front. The Memorial has an extensive collection of First World War Western Front maps which can be viewed in our reading room, they are however not currently available to be viewed online. To find Western Front maps online, you might like to try McMaster University in Canada. McMaster has a substantial collection of Western Front maps available to be viewed online, including aerial photographs and advice on how to read map references. You can find the McMaster University map collection online at Cameron

Q. From Ros: Were records kept of those who could not serve due to being unfit?
A. AWM: Ros – The National Archives of Australia hold applications for those who tried to enlist in the First World War and were either rejected, discharged while still in training, or went on to serve within Australia only [usually as depot troops or camp guards] in the series MT1486/1. Items in the series can be searched using RecordSearch, I haven’t come across similar records for other conflicts.
A. Ros: Thank you I have looked for some of them on the NAA site with no luck but will search again with this series in mind.

Q. From Kay: I would like to know where my 1st cousin (2xremoved) died in France, Lance Corporal Hubert Shea he was with the 13th Batt. And died on the 4th Feb 1917. Would you have a photo of him also? So sad of all the young people. We will remember.
A. AWM: @ Kay. There are several resources you may like to try for locating where Lance Corporal Shea was killed. First is his personal service record. This can be viewed through the National Archives of Australia’s Mapping Our ANZACs page at

Secondly are the Red Cross wounded and missing files held at the Memorial. These are witness statements collected by the Red Cross when investigating what happened to those listed as killed or missing in action. You can find the Red Cross file for L/Cpl Shea on the Memorial’s website at…/person/R1502814/.

Thirdly are the unit war diaries. War diaries rarely mention individuals but can provide information on the activities the unit was involved in when a soldier was killed. You can find the 13th Battalion war diary online at

To looks for photographs you can try the Memorial’s online collection search at If you are unable to locate a photograph o L/Cpl Shea in the Memorial’s collection you may like to try the Trove image search at which searches collections from around Australia. Cameron

Q. From Jenine: What happens to a soldier’s war medals when he dies and has no one at the time of death to pass them onto? My great grandfather Peter Henry Keogh who died in 1936 in Broken Hill served in Unit 3 1st Tasmanian Imperial Bushman contingent 1899 but had separated from his wife and son, my grandfather. Can his medals be tracked down? Also are there troop photos online at the War Memorial site?
A. AWM: @ Jenine. Regarding medals, if he still had them when he died they are treated like any other piece of an estate (he could have lost sold or given them away while he was alive). If he did not leave his estate to his son, it is possible he left them to another family member (such as sibling or cousin) or to a friend or charity (either as part of his general estate or listed individually) or museum. My understanding is if he died without a will the medals would have been with the rest of his possessions and may have been handled by the Public Trustee for his state. The medals may not be easily tracked down. You will need to try a number of options – his local RSL (many have collections), museums, auction houses, local historical societies, militaria dealers, or websites such as and For more information about medal entitlements see Dianne.
A. Christine: Jennie – archives investigator reveals probate for your Peter Keogh – do a simple search with his name as well as death and you can then order a copy – probate was in 1937
A. IHM: Thanks Christine, here is the link to the State Records NSW Archives Investigator for everyone else ::

Q. From Mark: I am seeking specific source material detailing the experiences of Eric John Fuller, who died during the Sandakan Death March 1945.
A. AWM: It can be difficult to locate specific information about an individual’s experience as a prisoner of war, particularly if they did not survive captivity. There are official records in the Research Centre’s collection regarding Sandakan and the marches. There are also some personal papers of prisoners interned at Sandakan. These original records can be viewed in the Research Centre’s reading room. You will find details of some records on the Information Sheet “Australian prisoners of war: Second World War – Prisoners of the Japanese, Borneo (Sandakan)”,…/infosheets/pow/japanese/borneo.asp. You can search the Memorial’s collection databases ( for further sources. There are a number of books about captivity at Sandakan and the death marches, such as:

  • Sandakan: the untold story of the Sandakan Death Marches by Paul Ham.
  • Sandakan 1942-1945 : stories of the local people who heroically helped the Australian POWs by Doreen Hurst
  • Sandakan : a conspiracy of silence by Lynette Ramsey Silver
  • March to Ranau : Australian servicemen at Sandakan, Borneo, 1943-1945 by William E. Thomason
  • Sandakan under Nippon: the last march by Don Wall

If your local library does not hold these publications they can request them via inter-library loan on your behalf.
You may also wish to look at the records of the William Webb inquiry into war crimes, Jennie
A. Mark: Thanks for the pointers on the Sandakan sources. Greatly appreciated.

Q. From Louise: Seeking WW1 or c1916 photo of Sgt John Joseph ‘Jack ‘ GAVIN. SN 2341 26/5th Light Horse Qld. Served also in Provost Corps and married to Edith Plank in Tidworth England. Then transferred to 1st Aust Field Artillery Bgde in France. They had no children when he returned to work at Willowburn Hospital Toowoomba, where he was engineer after the war. Ede returned to England after his death. I have photos of his 4 brothers – James 31st Bn SN 482 killed Fromelles 19/7/16 other 3 brothers Joe, Steve and George all joined 5th Light Horse, all under 18 on enlistment. There is group photo on AWM site but difficult to see him in the large group about to embark from Brisbane. Family from Pechey, Crows Nest Line Toowoomba. That’s about all I have. Any help to get a photo would be much appreciated. My dad, their nephew, knew the four repatriated and would be nice to get a photo for him. Many thanks.
A. AWM: @Louise. Unfortunately we don’t have an individual photograph of 2341 Jack Gavin in the photographs collection. The Memorial collection does not contain photos of every person who served or died in the First World War. Portrait photographs were taken by commercial photographers, and not every uniformed soldier was able or willing to get their portrait taken prior to embarkation. So unless a photograph is donated to the Memorial it is unlikely that we will have one in the collection. I have searched our collection database and was unable to locate one. Dianne
A. Carmel: That answers one of my questions, thanks Louise and for the answer.
Q (b): Louise: Thanks@Diane, am also seeking info on LCPL James Gavin 31st Bn in France 23/6/16- killed Fromelles 19/7/16 buried Rue Petillon that was Eatons Hill Cemetery. Have visited, graves side by side as there with fellow fallen. There is nothing I could locate at NAA Canberra nor Red Cross in regards to death. Realise he was one of 5533 casualties that night but any info appreciated.
A. Louise: Rue Petillon CWGC [see photo here]
A. IHM: Thanks for sharing your photo Louise, here is the link to the Rue Petillon cemetery information on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for everyone else here ::
A. AWM: @ Louise. Sorry Louise unfortunately so many men have no information recorded about how they died. He has no Red Cross Wounded & Missing file, which means the family did not contact the Red Cross to try and find out what happened to him (the families rarely received this information from the Army) and it is rare that the fate of other ranks is recorded in unit war diaries. One suggestion I have is check the local newspapers. Sometimes letters were written to families by colleagues or officers of the deceased soldier and if you are lucky they were published in local newspapers. – Dianne
Q (c): Louise: Also another brother Trooper George Gavin 1566 5th Lighthorse. 1917 casualty form has no recording for gunshot wound- anything?? Been to Repat and NAA
A. AWM: @ Louise – where has the information you have that he was shot come from? It is possible that if he was mildly wounded and did not seek out medical assistance from a casualty clearing station that it was not noted.
A. Louise: Thanks
A. Louise: My dad said that sounds familiar – very tough horseman went on to do shearing, wool classer, etc but was unwell later in life from malaria contracted in Egypt. But brothers confirmed shooting – not recorded and would have toughed it out 🙂
A. Louise: George shot through and through – 1917. He lived with my father and family – saw wound in leg.
A. Louise: So sad these stories can’t be told in person.
A. Louise: 4 of 5 Gavin brothers [see image here]
A. Peta: Look on Trove for newspaper stories – especially for smaller towns. It is amazing what was printed.
A. WW1 Lost Boys: I second that Peta, I have found many letters from mates to Commanding Officers written to grieving families who then took them to the local paper.
Q (d): Louise: @Dianne sorry one more. If there is no record or death plaque on James Gavin’s file would his father have received – no one left in family has it? Would they reissue copy?
A. AWM: @Louise – Unfortunately Defence do not reissue Next of Kin plaques anymore. You can buy replicas. Google next of kin plaque replicas and you should come across a few options. – Dianne

Q. From Gaylene: How can I get my father’s name on one of your WW2 photos? It is Balikpapan and I notice that other photos are named.
A. AWM: @ Gaylene. If you have identified your father in one of the Memorial’s photographs you can contact the curators of the photographic collection by email on If you provide them with the details of the photograph and your father they may be able to update the catalogue entry. -Cameron
A. Gaylene: Thanks Cameron I will do that.

Q. From Carmel: Are all the headstones being photographed? I have some of the War Memorial in Canberra and the names I am interested in but would love to see the headstones. 
A. AWM: Carmel. There are photographs of headstones being taken by the The War Graves Photographic Project – Dianne
A. Carmel: Thank you, for $3.50 this is a good service. Have ordered one.
Q (b): Carmel: Many soldiers say that they served before, I believe cadets of some kind which is local. Are there records for these?
A. AWM: @Carmel, the Junior and Senior cadet units were generally attached to the local militia unit. These units in the pre-First World War period existed as part of the Universal Military Training Scheme. The National Archives of Australia have a fact sheet on what records are available for the period. You can find the Fact Sheet online at Cameron
A. Carmel: Thank you again.
A. Carmel: I have a distant cousin who has done a lot of research into family soldiers and has written blogs as a lasting memorial. This is my grandfather’s brother…

Join our mailing list