Australian Military Records
November 07, 2013
My mother told me that her grandfather, Charles Curnow Ladner, fought in World War I and was missing in action. She said her grandmother believed that he suffered from shell shock and would one day come walking through the door. He never did return from the war, and my mother never knew what happened to him. I decided to find out. World War I service records are available, so I got a copy of my great grandfather’s dossier. His service records contained not only service information, but also letters that my great grandmother, Emily, had written. Reading through the file, I understood why she was not convinced that her husband had died. At first, it was reported that he was wounded and taken prisoner. Later, she heard through a sister-in-law, rather than military channels, that her husband had died. Emily even wrote a letter to the Royal Prussian War Office in 1920, three years after his death, asking if the Ladner they had reported as dead had any tattoos. She signed the letter “a lonely widow.” The letter was forwarded to the Australian military and they responded by telling her that her husband was killed in action and buried in a cemetery in France. Several years ago, a friend visited the cemetery in France and was able to take a photo of the grave.
Charles Curnow Ladner was among the 4000 soldiers that enlisted from the Ballarat area and one of 531 who died during World War I. Ballarat honors their soldiers with an Avenue of Honour, where trees are planted in the soldier’s memory, and the entrance is marked by an Arch of Victory. On Remembrance Day, Australians observe one minute's silence at 11 a.m. on November 11th each year to remember those who died or suffered for Australia's cause in all wars and armed conflicts.
I found several helpful websites for researching my Australian ancestors that served in the military during World War I. Digital copies of World War I service records for Australian soldiers can be accessed through the National Archives of Australia. You can also search for information about your ancestors on the Australian War Memorial website. They have a page on family history and how to research the service and wartime experiences of your relatives. Since my great grandfather was killed in action, I also used the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to find the location of my ancestor’s grave.
Midwest Genealogy Center