Media release: Friday, 4 November 2011
Portraits of 500 Australian First World War diggers will soon be seen in Australia, many for the first time, in a collection of digitised photographs revealed today by the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Warren Snowdon.
Mr Snowdon presented the images to the National Archives of Australia and said the images will be a valuable piece of the puzzle for many Australians tracing their family history, helping to put a face to the name of a long-lost relative and ensuring the links to our wartime past remain strong.
'These 500 images of Australian soldiers have now been digitised with the support of the Australian Government, and in time will be recorded against the Mapping our Anzacs website at the National Archives of Australia,' Mr Snowdon said.
Mr Snowdon said the images tell a moving story of a number of Australian troops that never made it home.
'It was a common practice during the First World War for many Australian troops to visit a photographic house in London before heading to the Western Front, the plan was to send their portraits back home to their families.
'Sadly for some, they never made it back to collect the photos, and their families may never have known they existed,' Mr Snowdon said.
After the war, the portraits were collected by the Imperial War Museum in London, together with other photographs donated by Australian families and the Australian War Memorial, forming part of collection called the Bond of Sacrifice.
The complete collection of 16,000 images was created as a tribute to the servicemen of the British Empire who risked and lost their lives during the First World War.
Over the past 18 months Courtney Page-Allen, a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship recipient, examined the entire Bond of Sacrifice collection and identified 500 Australian portraits that were unique to the collection, and the Australian Government funded the digitisation of the photos.
The Minister for Freedom of Information, Brendan O'Connor, said the portraits will complement official war records such as enlistment documents already available through the Archives, and help to teach us more about those who served in the First World War.
'Until now, this collection has been inaccessible to most Australians, but we are now able to link the portraits to the online records and help bring the stories of these men to life,' Mr O'Connor said.
Media Note: thumbnails of four images from the collection are attached. High resolution portraits and accompanying stories from the collection are available from the DVA Media Centre www.dva.gov.au/media.
For more information on Mapping our Anzacs visit http://mappingouranzacs.naa.gov.au/
Minister Snowdon: Marcus Butler 0417 917 796 or 02 6277 7820
Department of Veterans' Affairs Media: 02 6289 6203
National Archives Media: 02 6212 3957