National Library of Australia

War and Loss

War, and its inevitable partner, loss—of life, of loved ones, of security—make a deep and lasting impression on a nation’s psyche.

‘War and Loss’ examines the effect of conflict on Australia, from the horror of World War 1 including Gallipoli to 1940s prisoner-of-war camps and Japanese bombing raids in northern Australia, which brought war to home territory for the first time.

It also demonstrates the ingenuity of POWs in recording their experiences and making use of whatever was at hand.

The POWs who created The Happiness Box for the children of Changi Jail, and Margaret Gordon, who cared for her fellow lifeboat passengers after their ship was torpedoed, exhibited the indomitable Australian spirit that focuses on others in times of crisis and does not dwell on personal misery.

Loss arises from other causes too, such as natural disasters like bushfires. It was part of the sometimes difficult relations between Indigenous people and European settlers; the 1832 diary of George Augustus Robinson and the publication Many Voices oral history and publication project, which records the life stories of the ‘stolen generation’, represent this at different periods of our history.

Australian libraries document all of the nation’s wars in many forms, from diaries to photographs, maps, and websites, such as Despatches from Gallipolithey also document contemporary conflicts and loss in many different ways.