Australian Screen

Australia’s audiovisual heritage online

Australian War Memorial Film

The Australian War Memorial holds a vast and historic collection of film and video, covering most of the conflicts in which Australia has been involved.

There are more than 7000 titles, comprising 3.25 million feet of original film and over 1000 hours of video. The collection continues to grow as new films are added or donated. Some of these are professionally made, others are amateur footage filmed by service personnel, or relatives and friends. More than 4800 of these titles have been fully preserved and are available to the public in the Memorial’s Research Centre in Canberra. They are also searchable online through the AWM website.

The earliest piece of film depicting Australian soldiers is from the time of the Boer War – parade scenes from 1899. The most recent is from Afghanistan, where Australian troops are engaged against the Taliban. Some of the most significant parts of the collection, in terms of history, are from the First and Second World Wars. The Memorial holds the only surviving copy of Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett’s film of the campaign on Gallipoli – With the Dardanelles Expedition (c1915). Ashmead-Bartlett’s is the only known footage taken on the peninsula during the campaign.

In France, Australia had its own photographers working on the Western Front from late 1916. These included Herbert Baldwin, the first official photographer for Australian operations, followed by Frank Hurley and Hubert Wilkins, who were both distinguished polar explorers and photographers. All of them worked under the supervision of the official war correspondent CEW (Charles) Bean, who was quick to foresee the importance of film and photographs as a documentary record. During the war, Bean was made the official historian of the Australian part in the First World War. After the war, he founded the Australian War Memorial.

In the Second World War, the photographers included Damien Parer, whose Kokoda Front Line! (1942) became the first Australian film to win an Oscar. Parer filmed in the Middle East, New Guinea and Timor for the Department of Information, before leaving to work for an American newsreel company. He was killed in September 1944, while filming an American landing at Peleliu Island in the Palau group, in the Pacific. The AWM holds some of his best work – the unedited camera footage used in Kokoda Front Line! (1942), as well as Assault on Salamaua (1943), Australian Guerillas on Timor (1943), and Bismarck Convoy Smashed (1943). Frank Hurley filmed again in this war – mainly in the Middle East.

The Memorial holds extensive footage from Vietnam and its aftermath, including material shot by Neil Davis, one of the most distinguished Australian cameramen-correspondents of that war. Defence Public Relations also filmed soldiers sending Christmas messages home to their families – including one from 1968 with Tim Fischer, later the Leader of the National Party and Deputy Prime Minister.

In 2006, the War Memorial appointed Canberra filmmaker Robert Nugent as its first official cinematographer. He recorded more than 70 hours of footage of Australian troops involved in Iraq. His film No Dramas premiered in 2008 and was shown at the Canberra International Film Festival in 2009.

The Australian War Memorial also publishes clips from its collection on YouTube.

Titles in this collection

Australia in France, Part One c1918

One of the Australian War Memorial’s most important films – the most accurate filmed record of the Battle of Pozières in 1916.

The Australian Flying Corps in France, England and Palestine 1919

A silent film depicting pilots and crew of the Australian Flying Corps, precursor to the RAAF, in training and at war in 1918 in France and the Middle East.

The Australians at Messines 1917

Silent footage by Herbert Baldwin, Australia’s first official war photographer, of the Battle of Messines in Belgium, June 1917.

The Australians’ Final Campaign in 1918 c1919

A compilation film covering Australian forces on the Western Front in the final year of the First World War.

Bapaume to Bullecourt 1917

Silent footage of Australian soldiers entering Bapaume, in March 1917, pursuing German troops as they withdraw to the Hindenburg Line.

Fighting in Flanders 1917

Silent footage of Australian troops in the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele), fighting near the Menin Road in Belgium, in September 1917.

Incidents in Connection with the Funeral of Captain Baron von Richthofen 1918

The funeral of Germany’s greatest air ace in the First World War, conducted with full military honours by a squadron of the Australian Flying Corps, in April 1918.

Jungle Patrol 1944

The story of eight Australian soldiers fighting the Japanese on Shaggy Ridge in New Guinea, in 1943.

Kokoda Front Line! 1942

This iconic and Academy Award-winning newsreel shot by Damien Parer contains some of the most recognised images of Australian troops in the Second World War.

Prime Minister Rt Hon. WM Hughes visits Western Front 1918

At a time of great controversy, Australian Prime Minister WM (Billy) Hughes consults with his generals on the Western Front.

With the Australians in France 1916 c1917

A silent film of Australian and New Zealand soldiers on the Western Front in France, between June and September 1916, much of it around Pozières.

With the Dardanelles Expedition c1915

The only known moving images of the 1915 campaign at Gallipoli, shot mostly by English war correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett.