Researching the Stories

State Library of Victoria Reading Room, 1913 (SLV Collection)

State Library of Victoria Reading Room, 1913 (SLV Collection)

The task of researching 538 individual stories is ambitious by any measure. So where did we start?

To determine exactly how many tramway employees volunteered and served in the armed forces, we began with photographs of tramway honour boards from the First World War. The soldiers who died on active service were the easiest to investigate – the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website was the first port of call. This valuable website would produce service number, regiment, date of death, and the place of burial (where known). From that point, it was relatively easy to find service records in the National Archives of Australia, as well as embarkation records and the Red Cross files at the Australian War Memorial.

The Public Records Office of Victoria was also an excellent starting point – as there were was a ledger detailing the names and occupations of volunteers from the Melbourne Tramways Board.

But this was still the beginning – there was no single list of Tramway Anzacs, as records were incomplete, and the various tramway authorities in Melbourne (there were seven of them) had differing levels of record keeping.

The Trove digital archive of Australian newspapers on the National Library of Australia website was invaluable, allowing us to scan family notices for volunteers with a tramway connection.

We dreaded trying to find details of Smiths and Joneses, Greens and Browns. It was only after contacting the National Archives regarding the lack of a service record for Albert Cubitt that the Archives discovered that his file had been incorrectly indexed. They were happy to fix this, and we got to read his service details.

The research was a slog that required a combination of patience, dedication and sheer bloody-minded stubbornness. We trust the result is of benefit.