Archives Outside

For people who love, use and manage archives

Archives Outside - For people who love, use and manage archives

Staff Pick : Soldiering in the late 19th Century

Larger version on Flickr

Jim Sinclair is the Executive Officer for State Records NSW. He is also a foundation member of “The Razor Gang”,  our newly formed fundraising team   for the World’s Greatest Shave 2013. This is a charitable event run on behalf of the Leukaemia Foundation. Watch this space for more information! (Editorial note: Go Jim, you’re a legend, we’re all behind you!!)

I have a long-term interest in part-time soldiering in Australia, as I have myself served as a part-time soldier since 1973. I like this image because it represents a forgotten period of part-time soldiering, the late 19th century. After the withdrawal of British troops from the Australian colonies in 1870, the States and Colonies were responsible for providing their own military forces. The image shows Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) of what appears to be the 2nd Battalion, NSW Infantry, in the latter years of the 19th century, probably attending an Easter camp. The image is interesting as it shows a group of older men, all sporting beards and the pill box hats which were typical of this period. Even today part-time soldiers are usually older than their Regular Army counterparts. The NCOs are standing in front of a marquee tent, a style which, with minor modifications, remained in use by Australian Army Reserve units until the 1970s

 Other military records in our collection

  • Additional military photographs from State Records collection can be viewed on Flickr
  • Information about the military, war and related collections at State Records can be found on our specialist research page War and Australia (includes the Sudan, Boer War, World War I and World War II).
  • The blog  A Land Fit For Heroes which is about the  Soldier Settlement Program (1916-1939) may also be of interest.

World War I Service Personnel Records

If you are interested in records about World War I Service Personnel then I can also highly recommend Tim Sheratt’s aggregated search engine which covers:


Revisiting: Australian Soldiers in black and white

Back in April 2010 we highlighted some photos of Australian soldiers from our collection. Quite early ones, in fact, perhaps dating back to the 1870s. We received many comments on the post at the time with most suggestions pointing to around 1870-1890. With only a rural landscape and no obvious landmarks/features, the site remains a bit of a mystery.

This post has been a bit of a slow burner; eight months after it was initially published it caught a second wave of  interest and has just recently grabbed the attention of some of our readers. One in particular has made several observations about the possible location of the photos.

Can you help?

Some comments are also on the photo pages themselves and not on the post. Select a photo below to read more comments:



We’ve also replaced the Flickr versions with larger images so the uniforms and civilian clothing are now much clearer.

Using shadows to date photographs

This is a guest post from William Oates, University Archivist, Heritage Centre University of New England.

The team at the University of New England (UNE) and Regional Archives has been trialling dating some of the photographs in their collection using the shadows cast by the sun. The two photos in this post are from a series of 29 photograph albums created by the White sisters of ‘Saumarez’ Homestead near Armidale. Donated by the family to the regional archives at UNE, these images capture aspects of the late Victorian and Edwardian rural lifestyle enjoyed by the White family.

Military Rally - Imperial Hotel, Armidale

Military Rally - Imperial Hotel, Armidale

The photographs in question portray scenes from a recruitment rally in the streets of Armidale during World War One. One precise method for dating of the event could have been obtained by reviewing newspaper articles during the war years. Instead, dating methodology using the shadows cast by the sun on a given map reference was tested by a volunteer at the UNE & Regional Archives.

Military Rally - Imperial Hotel Armidale. Click for larger size

Military Rally - Imperial Hotel Armidale

The location of the photo was easily identified from the hotel in the background. A shadow of identifiable length was found in one picture and from this a number of possible dates generated from the available algorithm. Once this date was calculated, we then searched the newspapers to locate the story.

On the 11th August 1917, a recruiting team for the Australian Imperial Forces was invited to a series of functions in Armidale according to the Armidale Chronicle. This team included Victoria Cross winner Billy Jackson who lost his hand in action in France in 1916. The moment captured by one of the White girls clearly shows the recruiting team with Jackson in attendance.

Using shadows to date photographs (part 2)

William Oates

(Photographs  courtesy of:  University of New England and Regional Archives – (A1473) White Family Photographs – Album 4.  Please contact for further information)