Tuesday 23 May 2017 by stebeg. No comments

AWM45 – Copies of British War Diaries and Other Records of the First World War (“The Heyes Papers") 

by Craig Berelle

This series of posts introduces records created 100 years ago: why they exist, and how we can help make them available for research. 


Tasman Heyes served as an agent of the Australian War Records Section (AWRS) abroad, and secured for the Australian Official Histories many valuable military and naval records that describe Australia’s experience in the First World War.

This series began in 1917 when the AIF war diaries were transferred to the newly created Australian War Records Section (AWRS). Diaries of British formations that included Australian units, and of British units flanking Australian units, were also requested.

Delays by British authorities, and their difficulties in producing their own histories, had an effect on the Australian effort, and supply of British records to the AWRS was later suspended. Efforts were nonetheless renewed with the British the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence (CID). 

In May 1922 the British suggested that an Australian officer be attached to the Historical Section to act as liaison between it and the Australian official historian, Charles Bean.  The British also urged that the copies of relevant files be typed as the project would take six to eight years using the Photostat method – an early form of photocopying, which created a photographic negative plate, from which copies could be made.  

In 1922, on Bean's recommendation, Tasman H.E. Heyes, chief clerk at the Australian War Museum, was appointed to travel to London to produce extracts from, or précis of, war diaries and other records. These included documents from formations and units of the British and Canadian armies that had been closely associated with the AIF in France, Palestine, and Gallipoli. Hayes was a veteran, and being posted to the AWRS brought promotion to sergeant.

Heyes was also requested to obtain records for the naval historian, A.D. Jose. He was cautioned not to be conservative; all records were wanted that were necessary "clearly to understand the work of the Australian forces", as Treloar instructed him.

Heyes completed the British copying project in August 1927. After leaving Britain he spent short periods in Ottawa (Canada), Washington DC, and Wellington (NZ) gathering copies of other records needed for the official history.

Informal Photo of Tasman Heyes, Charles E.W. Bean and his wife Effie A05388

Tasman Heyes talking with Charles E.W. Bean and his wife Effie


AWM93 12/5/128 Part 1 [1]

AWM93 12/5/128 Part 1 [1]


AWM93 12/5/128 Part 1 [2]

AWM93 12/5/128 Part 1 [2]


AWM93 12/5/128 Part 5 [1]

AWM93 12/5/128 Part 5 [1]


AWM93 12/5/128 Part 5 [2]

AWM93 12/5/128 Part 5 [2]


AWM45 is an artificial series comprising typescript copies of British - and some Canadian, American and New Zealand - war records.  It consists almost entirely of carbon copies of the documents typed up by Heyes' staff of three from the original records. 

The greater part of the series comprises copies of extracts from British formation and unit war diaries.  They include the diary itself (a day-by-day or hour-by-hour record of activities) and attached appendices (signals, minutes, operations orders, reports, returns, records of conferences, etc.). 

System of Arrangement

A two-number system has been imposed on the series ([1/1] - [49/1]). The first number indicates the provenance of each bundle – for example, the 1 series includes naval records. The second number indicates the order within that bundle.


AWM45 is not presently digitised for access on the Memorial’s website. Researchers may use the National Archives of Australia database, RecordSearch, to examine the items in this series. Items may be viewed in the Memorial’s Reading Room.

We encourage visitors to the Australian War Memorial to also visit the Research Centre to learn more about the history of the of the Australian War Records Section and to research their own family history.