Films by and about Australia's defence agencies

The National Archives collection includes about 17,000 films created and collected by:

  • Australian Army
  • Royal Australian Navy
  • Royal Australian Air Force
  • Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO)
  • Department of Defence
  • Department of Veterans’ Affairs

The earliest of these films date from the 1940s. Many of the films were produced by the armed forces and commercial producers in the United States, Canada and Britain, as well as commercial producers in Australia.

About the films

Defence films held by the National Archives include:

  • newsreels – including the Australian Army’s On Parade: The Army Magazine series and the Royal Australian Navy’s Navy in Focus series which recorded events such as graduations, marches, farewells and visits
  • propaganda films – including films about the expansion of communism in the 20th century and the associated implications on international relations
  • publicity films – ranging from films which show aspects of officer training or detail the responsibilities and status of soldiers, to films which depict the activities of the Pacific Islands Regiment in Papua New Guinea
  • recruitment films – including films depicting the training methods used at the Jungle Training Centre in Canungra, films showing members of the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps training and working at civilian hospitals, and films portraying artillery personnel training at the School of Artillery
  • information films – ranging from films about preventive dentistry and oral hygiene, to sex education films, to films explaining the rules of different sports, to films explaining the characteristics and effects of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons
  • training films – including films describing the basic principles of radar and anti-radar jamming techniques, films providing handling instructions for various types of tools and equipment, films detailing the processes involved in maintaining different types of equipment, and films providing methods for escaping and evading enemy soldiers
  • historical films – including films detailing past campaigns, and films describing the evolution of artillery pieces during the first half of the 20th century
  • military exercises films – including films about Australian Army operations such as a survey of Arnhem Land and nuclear experiments in the Cape York Peninsula, and films re-enacting missions such as the Royal Australian Airforce’s Solomon Islands Earthquake Rescue Mission in April 1977;
  • evidential films – including films recording DSTO projects such as the testing of the Blue Streak missile in 1964 and the development and launch of the Weapons Research Establishment Satellite (WRESAT) in 1967
  • ceremonial films –including films recording the involvement of members of the Royal Family in official openings and award ceremonies

Formats

The original records include:

  • videos, such as two-inch videotape, one-inch videotape, U-matic tapes and VHS tapes
  • 8 mm, 16 mm and 35 mm black and white and colour film components

Locating defence films

The following table highlights a number of series containing Defence films. The links in the table will take you to the National Archives collection database RecordSearch for more information.

In RecordSearch you can browse a list of films in each series by clicking on the 'Find items in this series' button. To see the films themselves you will need to visit the relevant National Archives office.

You can search for specific film titles or topics in RecordSearch by using keywords, or by using a combination of keywords and reference numbers.

For example, a search for the keyword ‘radar’ and the reference number ‘A7665’ will return nine Australian Army films about radar. A search for the keyword ‘blue streak’ and reference number ‘D4994’ will return more than 200 DSTO films about the testing of this missile in South Australia.

For general information about finding and accessing records in the National Archives, see our step-by-step guide for researchers.

Collection references

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2014