Early RAAF records to be digitised for public access

Air Marshal Richard Williams (1890-1980) is regarded as the father of the Royal Australian Air Force. He also made a major contribution to civil aviation in Australia. Image courtesy AWM.


The Australian public will soon be able to access a trove of significant Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) documents, many of which have been locked away for one hundred years. 

The public will gain online access to approximately 191 bound volumes of documents – including the signatures of first Chiefs of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sir Richard Williams and Air Marshal Stanley Goble. 

Air Board and Air Council Agendas and Submissions, along with Chief of Air Staff Advisory Committee (CASAC/CAFAC) Submissions, are set to be digitised through a $300,000 project delivered with the National Archives of Australia (NAA). 

Deputy Chief of Air Force (DCAF) Air Vice-Marshal Stephen Meredith, in announcing the project today (23/07/2020) said the detailed records are regarded as key artefacts in the history of the Air Force.

“The Air Board was responsible for all aspects of the daily operations and management of the RAAF, so these documents include intricate details of how the RAAF was initially structured and controlled,” Air Vice-Marshal Meredith said.

“As the Air Force approaches its 100th anniversary, it’s important for us to reflect on our past and what we have achieved – these records tell a story that we are very proud of.”

The Air Board was established on the 29 January 1920 to administer the Australian Air Corps (AAC) and investigate the feasibility of establishing an independent Air Force. It would later oversee the disbandment of the AAC and facilitate the formation of the RAAF on the 31 March 1921.

NAA Director-General David Fricker says metadata will be assigned to the documents so they can be easily searched and accessed. 

“We value the opportunity to provide access through our online database RecordSearch, which will bolster the records we already have available online regarding the Air Force’s history and heritage,” Mr Fricker said. 

“We know the Australian public is particularly interested in our military history and expect these records will be highly sought after.”

Director General History and Heritage – Air Force Air Commodore John Meier says the age and fragility of the documents has meant access has been heavily restricted, until now.

“Some of the documents are quite fragile, being on thin paper that has worn away or been torn over the years,” Air Commodore Meier said.

“There is always great concern over providing physical access to these documents, as this increases the risk of damage and potential loss.

“This project will ensure they remain safeguarded, while being readily available to the interested public.”

The project is expected to run for 12 months.

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