MV Blog


WWI ambulance arrives

by Kate C
Publish date
25 June 2014
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On Monday evening, perhaps just as you were eating dinner, a crew carefully unloaded an extraordinary object from World War I and placed it in the foyer of Melbourne Museum.


This is a British-made Ambulance Wagon MK VI. It dates from 1914-18 and is on loan to us from the Australian War Memorial for our upcoming exhibition WWI: Love & Sorrow

One hundred years ago, these horse-drawn ambulances transported wounded soldiers from the battlefield. Unarmoured and vulnerable, they often travelled by night to avoid becoming targets. The journey between trench and casualty clearing station could take many days over rough tracks—an agonising journey for men with terrible injuries.

WWI: Love & Sorrow marks the centenary of the start of World War I. It opens at Melbourne Museum on 30 August 2014.

WWI & Australian military history

by Meg
Publish date
20 August 2013
Comments (1)

Question: My great-great-grandfather served in Egypt during the Great War – where can I find out more information about soldiers’ war-time experiences and Australia’s military history more generally?

Answer: A useful starting-point for general archival research of Australian military history is the National Archives of Australia Fact Sheets – enter the term ‘military’ in the search field to refine your results.

Private Albert Edward Kemp, 1916-1917: Albert Edward Kemp Mourning Collection Service photo of Private Albert Edward Kemp, who served in France + Belguim in World War 1 and was killed in action in 1917.
Source: Museum Victoria

Your next port of call might be the Australian War Memorial. The War Memorial is a rich source of information about specific conflicts, terminologies and people. Examples of documents held by the Australian War Memorial include:

You can also find information specific to Victorian military service on the Veterans’ Unit website.

Extreme right of Anzac showing soldiers outside dug out and supplies on the beach. Extreme right of Anzac Cove showing soldiers outside dug out and supplies on the beach.
Source: Museum Victoria

If you’re interested in undertaking research on particular soldiers, such as your great-great-grandfather, there are a number of approaches to take:

  • Nominal rolls list members of Australia's defence forces who served during particular conflicts. A handy short-cut to the rolls is hosted by the Federal Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
  • The Australian War Memorial can help you ‘Research a Person’.
  • The National Archives of Australia holds military service records and attestation documents. World War I records are extensively available online, while World War II records are partially online and may be ordered.
  • Trove, hosted by the National Library of Australia, facilitates searches for newspapers, maps, books, images, historic music, archives and more.


'Captain Hunter', Egypt, Captain Edward Albert McKenna, World War I, 1914-1915: : Military Memorabilia Collection Portrait of Captain Hunter in the camp.
Image: Captain Edward Albert McKenna
Source: Museum Victoria

Finally, another good source of general information on military history is the museum collection. Today museums typically have at least some of their collections online – the Museum Victoria Collections Online may be a useful starting point, and you could also browse the Australian War Memorial collection online.

While the Shrine of Remembrance is synonymous with the military history of Australia, traditionally it is not a collecting institution, although it does hold a small collection of objects for display purposes.

Beyond Australia, most nations hold national military collections, often in national museums, and some battlefields have museums specific to those conflicts. International collections that may be of particular interest include the National Army Museum and the Imperial War Museums in the UK.

World War I, Two Nurses, Heliopolis, Egypt, 1915-1917: Sister Selina Lily (Lil) Mackenzie Collection Two nurses standing on a street out the front of Heliopolis Dairy building.
Image: Selina Lily Mackenzie
Source: Museum Victoria

If you have a collection of material you need advice on managing, the Veterans’ Unit in Victoria provides workshops and information guides. Museums Australia (Victoria) also provides training workshops and printed information on managing collections.

Diggers in Birmingham

by Emily Woolley
Publish date
30 November 2012
Comments (2)

Emily is a third-year History of Art student at the University of Birmingham. She worked at MV after winning a Global Challenge award which gives students opportunities to work overseas.

In August and September I spent six weeks in Museum Victoria's Humanities Department helping to plan for the Centenary of World War I exhibition, which will be held at the museum in 2014. My main focus was on a collection of magazines named Aussie published for soldiers during and after WWI.

At the end of my placement I came away eager to contribute more, however small, and link up Melbourne Museum's WWI centenary commemorations with those that will happen in the Birmingham. I set out to find any connections between Australia and the University of Birmingham relating to WWI.

Australian and New Zealand soldiers came to Birmingham in 1914 to be treated at the University of Birmingham’s Great Hall, then called the 1st Southern General Hospital (and it is where I will be graduating next summer). Looking through the university’s collections, I came across an embroidered quilt that was produced by convalescing soldiers. Made up of nine panels, it includes an Australian panel depicting a crown with ‘Australian Commonwealth Military Forces’ written on a scroll underneath and a New Zealand panel featuring an intricate fern with ‘NZ’ over the top.

white stitching on cloth Australian Servicemen embroidery detail on Matron Kathleen Lloyd's linen cloth.
Source: BIRRC-H0013, Research & Cultural Collections, University of Birmingham

stitched fern pattern on cloth New Zealand Regiment embroidery detail embroidery detail on Matron Kathleen Lloyd's linen cloth.
Source: BIRRC-H0013, Research & Cultural Collections, University of Birmingham

I also found photos at the Birmingham Archives and Heritage collections, with wounded soldiers from Australia and Scotland posing with nurses in the grounds of the hospital. Museum Victoria also holds many photographs taken and postcards purchased by soldiers from their time in England during WWI.

group of soldiers Australian soldiers with nurses at the 1st Southern General Hospital, now the University of Birmingham's Great Hall.
Source: UA10/i/4, Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections, University of Birmingham

In addition, in the university’s collections there is an interesting article in The Mermaid magazine, entitled A Trip to Gallipoli’ by Percival M. Chadwick. He was a Civil Engineering Lecturer at the University of Birmingham who left in 1915 to go and fight in Gallipoli for twelve months, only to return to Birmingham again to be treated at the university in the 1st Southern General Hospital. He was attached to the New Zealand Engineers working with Australian and New Zealand Infantry and Cavalry regiments including a Maori contingent. He states:

The officers with whom I worked gave me a homely welcome, and I speedily felt quite at ease among them.

I could reiterate what Percival M. Chadwick said about Australians, about my colleagues at Melbourne Museum. It was a pleasure working there and one of the most enjoyable work experiences I have had. I very much look forward to seeing what Melbourne Museum puts on in its centenary exhibition in 2014 and I hope it is a success for everyone.


Percival M. Chadwick, R.E, ‘A Trip to Gallipoli’, The Mermaid, issue 13, p121, 1916-17, University of Birmingham Research and Cultural collections.


University of Birmingham collections

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.