The Discovering Anzacs website has been officially launched by the Governor General, Sir Peter Cosgrove, at a ceremony in Canberra on Tuesday.
Discovering Anzacs is a joint project between the National Archives of Australia and Archives New Zealand aiming to digitise the service records of every Anzac who served in World War I and create a unique profile for each of them. It will also include many who fought in the Boer War.
“The importance of these records cannot be denied,” said Sir Peter Cosgrove at the launch, noting that the site would help him research his grandfather who served in World War I.
David Fricker, Director-General of the National Archives of Australia, said Discovering Anzacs is both a research tool and a tribute to World War I servicemen and women. Using the site, he said, “you’ll find the human beings behind the face of war.”
“All of these records help us discover the reality of war – what happened behind the public face of national pride and heroism,” said Mr Fricker.
He also acknowledged the hard work of archivists past and present in making these accessible to all of us today: “Behind this website is 100 years of archival care by the staff of the National Archives.”
The website displays the records of more than 600,000 people – including 140,000 New Zealanders – who were involved in conflicts or behind the scenes. Munitions workers, internees and merchant marines are featured alongside servicemen and women.
In addition, Discovering Anzacs includes a range of resources attesting to the social history of World War I and life on the home front, such as postcards, photographs and more.
Members of the public are encouraged to become involved in the site by contributing family photographs, news clipping, tributes and mementos.
“We hope the crowd sourcing aspects catch on and people add their own stories,” said Mr Fricker. “I’m sure many people will also enjoy playing an active role in transcribing records online to make them more searchable – as many have done already.”
Zoe D’arcy, the National Archives of Australia’s Director of Business Systems and Online Services, gave more detail about how the site works.
Using the website’s profile of former Governor-General and World War I serviceman Richard Gardiner Casey as a case study, Zoe explained that the website not only displays official service records but can also link to related records from around the world.
As a result, it “draws up an extraordinary picture of those who served at war.”
Explore Discovering Anzacs for yourself here.
To read some stories uncovered on Discovering Anzacs, see Inside History’s prior coverage of the site here.