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Showcase Record – March 2014

Victorian Railway Employee records

VPRS 13537 Employee History Sheets, Traffic/Transportation Branch circa 1910 to 1926

This series comprises self-indexed volumes containing staff record sheets of employees who worked with the Victorian Railway Traffic/Transportation Branch.

The information recorded includes:

  • Name, date and place of birth, address and qualifications
  • Date of their appointment,
  • Position held (porter, signalman, guard, shunter),
  • Other information (date of permanent appointment, place of employment, resignation, retirement or transfer, leave taken).

The series appears to have commenced in 1910, however, the contents date range extends back to about 1885.

The P1, P2 P3 and P4 consignments of this series were previously processed as VPRS 12596 Employee History Sheets, Rolling Stock Branch, P1, P11, P12 and P13 consignments.

The Victorian Government Gazettes also can be searched from 1884 to 1929 for lists of railway employees in the Victorian Railway Triennial lists.  See PROVguide 40 for further information. –

I have chosen this record to showcase the information available in relation to movement of railway staff around Victoria.

Middleton, William L Pg 1

Middleton, William L Pg 1

Middleton, William L Pg 2

Middleton, William L Pg 2

Agency responsible

VA 2876 Victorian Railways (Also V R Commissioners 1883-1973)  Victorian Railways Board 1973-1983

VA 4853 Department of Transport II 2008-cont

Pam Sheers, Access Services Officer

Burning land: Victoria and bushfires

VPRS 24-P2-Unit 293-Item 1969_1054 Aerial photograph Lara

VPRS 24-P2-Unit 293-Item 1969_1054 Aerial photograph Lara

Parched land, plumes of smoke and burning embers. All of these phrases have been in the headlines in the last few weeks since the devastating fires raged to the north of Melbourne, fires which are still smouldering. These fires are not the first to cause devastation across the state as Victoria has a long history of bushfires.

Just over five years ago Victoria watched the ‘Black Saturday’ fires cause immeasurable damage, including loss of property, livestock and lives. However, this is not the first time that Victoria has been razed by fire. In fact ‘Black Saturday’ and the more recent fires of February 2014 are just a number in a long line of bushfires that have impacted on Victoria and Victorians.

On Friday 13 January 1939, in the peak of summer, as hot northerly winds played havoc, Victoria was once again alight. On “Black Sunday”, thirteen years earlier, almost to the day Warburton was ravaged by fire. Now, more than a decade on, Warburton, along with Yarra Glen, Woods Point and as far as Mansfield, the Grampian Ranges and the Otway Ranges were again burning. This time the fires covered over 1.5 million hectares of land and claimed seventy-one lives, up to 1300 buildings and completely destroyed the town of Narbethong. The fires that ripped through Warburton, St Clair, Woods Point and Matlock on their own claimed seventeen lives. At James Michael Fitzpatrick’s Mill at St Claire, near Matlock the fire claimed fifteen of those lives; one person lost their life at Yelland’s Mill at St Clair and one woman, Vera Ada Maynard died from ‘effects of suffocation and burns caused when they were overtaken by a bushfire (sic)’. The forest and the mills that these men were working in would have been the perfect dry tinder for the fire to latch on to, and evidently cause further deaths in the area.

Photographs from the inquest show trees and land blackened by fire, unrecognisable bodies and the utter destruction of the saw mills, of which a total of 69 timber mills were destroyed.

Only a few years later in early 1944 whilst Australians were overseas fighting the battle of the Second World War, fires tore through Victoria again. Forty-nine lives were lost, more than five hundred homes and vast amounts of livestock was destroyed in ferocious fires that covered over one million hectares of land. The Central and Western districts, including Hamilton, Dunkeld, Skipton and Lake Bolac were deeply affected, as well as plant works in Morwell and Yallourn.

However, another fire in Woodend would prove fatal with the death of a woman in her 70s. As it happens, this particular fire would also take place on 13 January, and an inquest into Sarah Lugg’s death was held at the Woodend Court House in May 1944. Her inquest details how ‘the fire had evidently started near a small rubbish tip in [a] paddock, on the side of a hill about 150 yards south of [the] dwelling house and 50 yards away from the milking sheds.’ Once this fire had been ignited it seemed as if it would be a matter of time that it would erupt into something larger with ‘the conditions on that day…conducive to the rapid spread of fire. The temperature was high with a strong north to north west wind blowing which caused the fire to frequently change direction over a wide front.’

Sarah Lugg had packed her belongings into two suitcases and along with Bridget Connelly, whom she had known for sixty years, the two made the decision to flee the dense smoke and retreat to an open paddock for safety. However, it appears that Lugg that retreated on her own, with Connelly eventually making her way to the paddock to find that she was not there. By this time the fire had swept across Ashbourne Road, taking in its path the life of Sarah Lugg.

Forty-five years ago on the 8 January 1969 total and utter devastation would befell the small community of Lara, between Geelong and Melbourne. However this destruction would be widespread, affecting communities across the state and even the country.

VPRS 24-P2-Unit 293-Item 1969_1054 Weather summary

“Summary of Aerodrome Weather Reports” – The weather and conditions the day of the Lara Fires (8 Jan 1969)

Conditions during the 7 and 8 January were hot and windy, the perfect combination for the fast and the wide spread of fire. An initial fire broke out on Tuesday 7January near Anakie at a large grazing property called Woollomanata, close to Lara. This fire was contained before it broke out again on the 8 January. In the inquest held at the Geelong Coroner’s Court on the 9 and 10 June 1969 the coroner stated that ‘the evidence adduced [did] not enable [him] to say what was responsible [for the fire], or perhaps, further, who was responsible, if anybody, for the starting of the first fire.’ There was contention as to whether the initial fire was ignited by a spark from a passing truck or caused from a cigarette butt thrown from a car.

VPRS 4-P2-293-1969_1054 Photo 13

VPRS 24-P2-293-1969_1054 Photo 13

Whilst this was never established, the facts of the fire detailed in the coroner’s inquest, along with news reports and eye witness accounts from the day are all wracked with tragedy and devastation. The losses from the fire included thousands of livestock, the destruction of many homes and properties, grievous bodily injuries and the death of 18 people.

From the eighteen lives that were lost on this day, 17 of them had been caught on the Princes Highway at Lara in their vehicles. The fast moving grass fire had caused thick smoke, which in turn caused low visibility along the highway. Eye witness accounts from the day describe the panic and terror that ensued as people decided to flee their cars and attempt to outrun the fire. Ultimately this decision took the lives of seventeen people, including one family and several members of others. The tragic circumstances of the day have also helped in establishing the changing of guidelines for people in cars during bushfires.

Bushfires are a part of Victoria’s history, and no doubt will be a part of our future. The tragic events detailed here are just a small handful of Victoria’s bushfire history, with PROV holding a large and varied range of records relating to events and outcomes surrounding these wild forces of nature.


A selection of available sources at PROV:

Black Saturday bushfires Royal Commission (digitised online) – VPRS 16295/P3

Bushfire inquest – VPRS 24/P0/1379 1939/818

Sarah Lugg inquest – VPRS 24/P0/1492 1944/507

Lara bushfire inquest – VPRS 24/P2/293 1969/1054


Phoebe Wilkens

Access Services Officer

Structured Data


For some time, information management practitioners have been challenged by how to manage structured data over the long term.  You may find other blog entries relating to this topic interesting or even informative:

If you don’t find these either interesting or informative, go to your favourite search engine enter the terms “structured data and records management” and pull up the results (“My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.[1]”)


To help PROV and other information management specialists meet the structured data management challenge, PROV commissioned Recordkeeping Innovation Pty Ltd to prepare an Issues Paper (presented Dec 2012).  Barbara Reed who wrote this paper, made a number of recommendations.  Over 2013, PROV commenced to deliver many of the recommendations.  Two recommendations resulted in substantial projects; one being the trialling of SIARD (see a separate post) the other a stocktake (survey) of databases across the VPS.  PROV commissioned Nous Group (Nadia Mecoli) to undertake the Stocktake project.  In addition we worked closely with the Digital Government Team in the Department of State Development, Business and Innovation to ensure that the report had reference to and value for the Victorian Governments ICT Strategy action items;


So what did the Stocktake find?:

Rather than overwhelm you with detail or go through the entire recommendations and findings I’ll just give you “the vibe of the thing….[2]”:

“… operational management also generally addresses record management, the greatest risks arise when records are no longer operationally relevant but they have not reached the end of their record retention period. Typically this affects permanent and long term records.

Making it easier for agencies to identify high value permanent and long term records is the first step in reducing these risks.[3]


The Report reinforces this view with the following diagram[4];

 Risk gap

What does this mean?

A few things are important from this:

  1. Agencies don’t usually rate/prioritise long term preservation.  This is not just for records of enduring (archival/permanent) value its even for records that continue to have operational value.
  2. The risk gap opens before systems are being retired (although that is clearly a critical time).
  3. Agencies (and Archives) desperately need tools and policies that help identify what has value.  Such tools have to be measurable and applicable to a wide range of users not just archivists and records managers


Lastly while the challenge of effective information management is daunting keep in mind the need for effective organisation and planning “There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organization. If there are such things as angels, I hope that they are organized along the lines of the Mafia.[5]


If you have any questions or would like to pursue this further don’t hesitate to contact David Brown or Andrew Waugh at PROV.

[1] Hedley Lamarr

[2] Dennis Denuto

[3] p7 Final report – Stocktake of Victorian Government Databases February 2014 Nous Group

[4] p15 Ibid

[5] Kurt Vonnegut

PROV Highly Commended at Arts Portfolio Leadership Awards

The hard work and dedication of Public Record Office Victoria’s staff and volunteers was recognised at the Arts Portfolio Leadership Awards last night.

The Awards, held at the State Library of Victoria, recognise the outstanding achievements of Victorian Government arts agencies and cover a wide range of categories from excellence in public programs through to leadership in technology and disability access.

Andrew Abbott, Acting Director of Arts Victoria and Hon Heidi Victoria Minister for the Arts presented Public Record Office Victoria with a Highly Commended in the category of Leadership in Public Programs for the 40th Anniversary Program. The 40th Anniversary Program included the curation of a special exhibition, Victoria on Record which celebrates the Public Record Office Victoria collection by showcasing rare treasures of the archives.

Another key part of the 40th Anniversary Program was Public Record Office Victoria’s first Open Day which was held on 20 April 2013. The Open Day, which introduced people to the archives through a series of informative and entertaining tours, talks and information sessions, was a major success attracting almost 500 people.

Public Record Office Victoria also produced a special edition Guidebook and Annual Report to mark Public Record Office Victoria’s 40 years of operation.

The work of volunteers was celebrated at last nights Awards, with Ms Victoria commenting that Melbourne’s thriving arts sector relies on the dedication and passion of its volunteers.

Public Record Office Victoria’s Volunteer Program was awarded a Highly Commended with Mr Abbott noting that in 2013 volunteers contributed over 20,000 hours, an all time record for the Public Record Office Victoria Volunteer Program.

A big congratulations to all staff and volunteers at Public Record Office Victoria and to our colleagues within fellow arts agencies.

For further information on the Arts Portfolio Leadership Awards visit Arts Victoria.

Showcase Record – February 2014

The “Gentle Sex” – Women convicted of Murder

VPRS 264 and VPRS 1100 consist of files compiled to assist the Governor in deciding whether the royal prerogative of mercy should be applied to persons convicted of a capital offence and given the mandatory death sentence (although some offenders, notably those under 21 years of age were sentenced to the Governor’s pleasure). VPRS 516 comprises registers created by the Penal and Gaols Branch to record the registration number, name and personal details of female prisoners in custody in Victorian gaols.

Olga Radalyski, Prisoner number 6644

Olga Radalyski, Prisoner number 6644.
VPRS 516/P0, Volume 12, Page 230

These records intrigued me as they show a sadder, seedier and more desperate side of life than the one that most of us experience. They reflect the standards and hardships of life in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.

What drove these women (and in some cases, girls) to an act of desperation? In some cases, such as infanticide or deaths through abortion, it is a reflection on the social mores of the time – pregnancy outside marriage is a falling from grace and “sinful” – or perhaps an attempt to limit the size of the family. Sometimes, it appears that the acts of infanticide may have occurred as a result of post-natal depression. In other cases, the murderess sees the death of another – usually her husband – as a means to protect her family from drunken rages and physical, verbal and sometimes sexual abuse.  In yet other instances, acts of murder are committed for revenge and, in one very interesting case, I discovered a case of “unrequited love”, stalking, poetry, unbridled rage and insanity culminating in the death of an innocent woman.

Information on this topic is found in VPRS 516 Central Register of Female Prisoners, VPRS 264 Capital Case Files and VPRS 1100 Capital Sentences Files.  Further information can be obtained through research in VPRS 30 Criminal Trial Briefs and VPRS 521 Register of Names, Particulars and Person Description of Prisoners Received.

Creating Agencies:

Christine O’Donnell, Access Services Officer

Reviewing Our Collection

As part of its routine collection management program, Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) is reviewing its collection of physical records held at the Victorian Archives Centre in North Melbourne. We will be looking at our existing collection to ensure that we are retaining only those records of permanent value to the State and people of Victoria. As part of this review we will be identifying records that do not need to be held in the State’s archive any longer.

The great bulk of our Collection will not be affected or even considered during the course this project. What we will be examining is a relatively small portion of our collection that has never been fully appraised (that is, the worth of the records have not been determined) or that requires a review of the original appraisal decisions. These are predominantly records that were taken into archival custody many years ago without thorough examination or with their archival status uncertain, sometimes in order to assist agencies facing crisis situations.

This project is likely to take several years to complete. It will involve examining the records and the original decisions behind the records being transferred into PROV’s custody. We will be referring to our current appraisal decisions and criteria which provide guidance as to which records need to be retained as part of the state archives. PROV will be working alongside each agency responsible for records that have been identified through this project, to ensure they agree with us when we identify records that can be returned to the agency or immediately disposed of. Our decisions will be rigorously tested, documented and approved prior to any final action being taken.

You may be wondering, what are the benefits of doing this? This project will help ensure that our unique collection continues to hold those records that are of permanent value to the government and people of Victoria. It also provides us with the added benefit of freeing up valuable space in our purpose built archival storage facility to ensure our collection can to continue to grow for years to come. This is also great news for our researchers who will benefit from a richer, more valuable collection.

Charlie Farrugia
Senior Collections Advisor

Showcase Record – January 2014

Showcase Record – January 2014

VPRS 16930: important historical pieces from the Second Boer War, including soldier’s private papers & their family member’s personal records

Records relating to the early Victorian Defence forces are somewhat of a rare finding within Public Record Office Victoria’s collection. The Commonwealth assumed responsibility for all Australian defence forces from 1901, and as a result, many of these records were transferred in to the custody of the National Archives of Australia (NAA). This is not to say that we don’t hold sources relating to the early defence forces, rather that they are hidden away within the records of various government departments, who were responsible for defence prior to federation. Tracing these sources is not for the faint hearted given the complicated cataloguing system of many government department series. Of the records we do have, they often document the central administration of the defence forces. There are also fortunate and surprising instances, where one can view sources of soldier’s private papers, as well as records revealing the impact of the Second Boer War within Australia. VPRS 16930 The Empire’s Patriotic Fund Application is one such series.

Fig 1 – Some images showing the different articles found in the fund applications.

Fig 1 – Some images showing the different articles found in the fund applications.

Several patriotic funds were established across Australia after Britain declared war on the Boers in October 1889. The Victorian Empire’s Patriotic Fund was one which raised almost $65,000 from its beginnings on 9 January 1900. Applications for the fund were mostly made by returned injured soldiers or families of soldiers who were over in South Africa. They often contain supporting documentation – in most cases these are in the form of discharge certificates, doctor’s certificates, marriage certificates or letters of character recommendation. Memos from the Victorian Military Forces, or correspondence between the Defence Department and the fund, are also quite common. At times applicants attached personal mementos; these include letters between soldiers and their loved ones. Surprising and poignant little treasures, no doubt, to their now living families, at the same time they are valuable historical pieces detailing the experience of the Second Boer War from a variety of sources.

In a technical way, the applications show the decision making process of the executive committee, in relation to the disposal of the money raised, and the ways in which they framed or altered bylaws relating to this task. $40,000 of the funds raised was sent to the Patriotic Commission in London in 1900 and the remainder of the monies raised was allocated as grants to Victorian soldiers and their dependents from 1900 to 1918. By 8 November 1918, all monies had been disbursed and the fund was officially disbanded. Although we can be sure that the committee used the utmost consideration for each application that was lodged, there would have been some backlash when grants were refused to applicants. We can see as much in Application 283. Private McNamara wrote a letter complaining that the heads of the Patriotic Fund were granting money to people not by merit of their situation but according to the recommendations attached to their application: “I know myself to be permanently injured, have been removed from your fund, while men who can daily go to work, but who are fortunately more influential than I, are kept on” letter dated 7 October 1904; his daily allowance from the fund had been discontinued after two years.

Fig 2 – Application 206 made by the mother of Peter Davies, Fifth Victorian Contingent (VPRS 16930/P0, Unit 2)

Fig 2 – Application 206 made by the mother of Peter Davies, Fifth Victorian Contingent (VPRS 16930/P0, Unit 2)

The series also provides a unique opportunity for us to learn about the Victorian soldier’s experience in the somewhat forgotten Second Boer War. At least 16,500 Australian troops were committed to fighting the Empire’s war. Of the Australians serving, they were either part of the contingents raised by the six colonies, or after 1901, by the new Australian Commonwealth. Many had also made their own way to South Africa, or were already in the country when the war broke out and joined local or colonial units. Some prolonged their service by joining the other colonial or local units, after their enlistment in an Australian contingent ended. Although support for Britain was unequivocal when the war began, the patriotic feelings eventually faded as more and more people at the front, as well as back home in Australia, became disenchanted with the conflict. We find a letter in Application 206, sent by Peter Davies, part of the Fifth Victorian Contingent, writing to his mother on the 25/7/1901 who had applied for some relief from the fund. He writes of his worry for her as he has been unable to forward money back and describes a narrow escape from death. He wishes the war was over, describing it as a hard life and how he thinks “it will tell on some of us in years to come”. Such sentiments are echoed in other letters found within these applications.   

Fig 3 – Section of the letter Peter Davies sent to his mother while he was serving in South Africa (VPRS 16930/P0, Unit 2)

Fig 3 – Section of the letter Peter Davies sent to his mother while he was serving in South Africa (VPRS 16930/P0, Unit 2)

Several historians view the Second Boer War as a military and socio-political debacle. The concentration camp and “scorched earth” policy adopted by the British military forces had certainly brought the British Empire under much disrepute. Many Australian soldiers were fighting during this third phase where military tactics were changed to meet the Boer use of guerrilla warfare. Perhaps this is why the Victorian soldier’s letters illustrate a sense of disillusionment with the war. Conflict was dragging on and an end to the war seemed to be nothing but a distant hope. Accustomed to traditional warfare, the British forces had been ill prepared against the remaining bands of Boers. Although the Boer’s army was fragmented, they had formed into groups of highly mobile commandos. After September 1900 many Australian soldiers, seen better able to fight the Boer guerrillas, were either sweeping the South African countryside, and enforcing the British policy of cutting the Boers off from their support by burning farmhouses and capturing civilians, or pursuing the Boer units themselves and attacking their encampments. As the soldier’s letters confirm, the war essentially involved long rides and regular onslaughts from Boar units. Application 249, made by the wife of Thomas Theobold, a member of the Second Kitchener’s Fighting Scouts, describes just this. In a letter to his wife, dated October 20th 1901, he tells of the 2nd Kitchener’s Fighting Scouts troubles during their travels to Pretoria. They were surrounded and ambushed by the Boers, just as they had camped after travelling a far distance. Thomas says that four of their men were killed, fifteen wounded and twenty four taken as prisoners. He speaks of the harsh conditions, dealing with the changing climate and going days without food. Many soldiers died from exhaustion and starvation on the long treks across the countryside.

Fig 4 – Application 249, Carrie Theobald also attached a letter sent by her husband, Thomas, from Pretoria in 1901 (VPRS 16930/P0, Unit 2)

Fig 4 – Application 249, Carrie Theobald also attached a letter sent by her husband, Thomas, from Pretoria in 1901 (VPRS 16930/P0, Unit 2)

The letters found in Application 261, made by the wife of Charles Nolen who was part of the Imperial Light Horse, unmistakably illustrates the guerrilla war phase. Charles wrote to his wife Frances in January 1901 from Pretoria. He speaks of the Boer’s tactics having himself passed a station with his unit where there were “200 burned trucks, laying on all along the line there is train wreckage (Letter January 20 1901). Charles describes how the soldiers kept their weapons by their sides at all times as “we expect to be attacked at any moment” (Letter January 21 1901). He recounts that a squadron had a narrow escape the day before: “the Boers blew up the line about 3 station(sic) back & the squadron had just passed over it, as the line was blown up there was another train load of goods burned” (ibid). The railway lines were integral for British military strategy, they carried vital supplies and communication; the Boers were essentially disrupting the operational capacity of the British army. Charles believed it would be some time before the war would be over, although some with him were certain it would only be a matter of months.

Fig 5 – Application 261, the letters sent by Charles Nolen clearly illustrate the tactics the Boer’s used to disrupt the operational capacity of the British forces (VPRS 16930/P0, Unit 2)

Fig 5 – Application 261, the letters sent by Charles Nolen clearly illustrate the tactics the Boer’s used to disrupt the operational capacity of the British forces (VPRS 16930/P0, Unit 2)

A letter sent by Alfred Ferne of the Imperial Light Infantry, in Application 269, similarly discusses this doubt regarding the end of the war. Alfred writes at a later date, however, in August 1901. He recounts to his wife how the Boers raided his camp some nights prior, clearly indicating that attacks were still taking place and the enemy wasn’t yet thwarted by the British forces. Just as Thomas Theobold described in his letter, dated later in the same year. Alfred’s letter is particularly interesting given the recollections he provides of his treatment while serving in the war. After arriving in Natal he talks about the poor reception the discharged soldiers received. Instructions were given to get out of their military clothing or else risk getting harassed by others in the town, “I could put up with the hardships but I did not like being treated like a dog… I can tell you it is a fearful thing to go through, it is not the fighting that is so hard but it is the hardships one is to put up with and after all what thanks do you get.” He writes this in response to his wife’s letter, informing him of the poor reception many soldiers received upon their return to Melbourne, and how fearful they looked to her.

Fig 6 – Application 269, Alfred Ferne, of the Imperial Light Infantry, writes to his wife while in Natal. He is clearly troubled and disappointed with the treatment of the soldiers. (VPRS 16930/P0, Unit 2)

Fig 6 – Application 269, Alfred Ferne, of the Imperial Light Infantry, writes to his wife while in Natal. He is clearly troubled and disappointed with the treatment of the soldiers. (VPRS 16930/P0, Unit 2)

It is true that as the conditions of the camps were becoming public knowledge, there was public outcry both in Britain and Australia. Many women and children were taken to concentration camps and thousands died in these camps from malnutrition and contagious diseases. The reaction and condemnation from the people living in South Africa would have been even more heightened. Britain had essentially sent thousands to fight against an enemy they were convinced they understood, in a war they were certain they could quickly win.   

Most had thought that by September 1900, since the British had been able to regain control of many of the territories in South Africa, after winning major battles and capturing the Boer capitals, the war would come to an end. This was not the case, much of the fighting would continue until early 1902 when a treaty was agreed to. It was only by this time that the forces were finally convinced that only peace would bring the war to a close. The Second Boer War was certainly marked with great protest and back in Australia families were also facing personal and financial hardships. Many of the fund applications recount similar predicaments, forwards of payments sent by the serving soldiers were never received, although arrangements were made with the paymasters in South Africa. Pensions for wives whose husbands had died in the war were still being processed by the government, so they were essentially living with no means. Application 302 indicates such troubles; Mrs Walton’s application is accompanied with the actual letter sent by NSW officials informing her of her husband’s death in South Africa. We can read later letters sent by the NSW government advising that her pension is pending, given the question of “Pensions for Widows” is still being decided upon by the government. Many letters were sent by the wives of soldiers, who were forced to sell their furniture, other belongings, or even their houses, simply unable to support themselves and their children.

Fig 7 – Application 302, sent by Susan Walton who has learned of the death of her husband while serving in South Africa and is in need of assistance (VPRS 16930/P0, Unit 3)

Fig 7 – Application 302, sent by Susan Walton who has learned of the death of her husband while serving in South Africa and is in need of assistance (VPRS 16930/P0, Unit 3)

The aftermath of the returned soldier’s lives is also frequently marked with their trouble to find employment and to be supported after sustaining war injuries. A number were permanently injured. As the sole providers of their families, the help from this fund, as well as other government pension assistance, would have been their only means of existence. The struggles of wartime were certainly felt by everyone, undoubtedly the most to those directly affected by what was taking place in South Africa, the civilians and the forces of both sides.  

These applications are, essentially, invaluable family history records; through them people can gain an intimate glimpse into an ancestors experience and feelings during a certain time period. Quite often the applications show instances of people having to overcome considerable personal hardships in their lives. The knowledge of this must bring a new perspective of ones ancestors, one that should recognise the great inner strength needed to endure such hardship. Application 141 contained the greatest number of personal letters. Each letter passes on an amazing personal account of life in South Africa, during the Boer war, from a husband, Arthur Horwood, who had avoided the dangers of serving in the British forces and, by luck, found civil employment as a jailer in Capetown. He writes to his wife of his impression on the country, the village where he is working and his hopes to have her travel to him so they can be together. The experiences of the different generations of our families no doubt contributed to the life we now live. Records and memories bridge a gap across time and allow us to understand and appreciate these experiences, this is essential if we want to know where we have come from and what has shaped the history of our families.

The Empire’s Patriotic Fund Application series bring to light the true and unfortunate nature of the Second Boer War, as experienced by Victorians. In South Africa where the fighting was taking place, back home in Australia where many were struggling and then the often difficult aftermath once the war had ended. They focus on a part of history which some may not be aware of. They are important historical pieces but they are also key family history records, giving families the opportunity to connect with the memories and lives of lost relatives.

Fig 8 – Application 141, enclosed personal letters sent by Arthur Harwood, who had found work in South Africa; they are addressed to his wife, Mary. (VPRS 16930/P0, Unit 1)

Fig 8 – Application 141, enclosed personal letters sent by Arthur Horwood, who had found work in South Africa; they are addressed to his wife, Mary. (VPRS 16930/P0, Unit 1)

To read more about the history of Australians in the Boer War, the Australian War Memorial has a great write up, Australia and the Boer War, 1899–1902, on the War history section of their website:

Additionally, the National Archives, Guide 9 The Boer War: Australians and the War in South Africa, 1899–1902, is a comprehensive resource and can be accessed on their website:

Jelena Gvozdic – Access Services Officer

Disposal Remodelling Project

After an extensive review, PROV has commenced a Disposal Remodelling Project to deliver new streamlined processes for authorising the disposal of public records.  Thirty-two recommendations have been developed to transition the disposal program over the next 2-3 years.

Existing RDAs including PROS 09/05 Retention and Disposal Authority for Local Government Functions and PROS 07/01 General Retention and Disposal Authority for Common Administrative Functions will remain in place.

Under the new disposal regime there will be greater use of general disposal authorities based around broad functions, there will no longer be a requirement for each agency to have its own specific RDA unless it meets certain criteria around archival significance and risk.  Further advice guidance to assess significance and risk will be made available during 2014. We are also looking at establishing an approach to expand existing RDAs to cover agencies that perform similar functions.

The RDA development process will also change. During 2014 PROV plans to implement an online web based application, known as ORDA to enable government agency staff, and records consultants working with government agencies, to draft and submit Retention and Disposal Authorities to PROV online.

While the Disposal Remodelling Project is underway, agencies with RDAs expiring during this period, will be granted an extension of the expiry date until project completion in 2016 to maintain disposal coverage and to reduce administrative burden.

During transition the RDA program has been minimised so that resources can work on the recommendations and new agency specific RDA projects for agencies have been put on hold.

See the Summary Recommendations Report and Summary Implementation Schedule for further details.

Christmas – New Year Closures:

Our reading rooms will be closed over the Christmas – New Year break on the following dates:

Victorian Archives Centre closes COB Tuesday 24 December and reopens Thursday 2 January 2014

Ballarat Archives Centre closes COB Tuesday 24 December and reopens Monday 6 January 2014

Geelong Heritage Centre closes 1.00pm Tuesday 24 December 2013 and reopens 10.00am Monday 6 January 2014

Bendigo Regional Archives Centre will be closed from Thursday 12 December 2013 until Wednesday 29 January 2014. This extended closure is due to the relocation of Bendigo Library to its renovated site. For further information and updates please visit:

We will also be keeping you up to date via our facebook page and twitter account.

Seasons greetings from all the staff at Public Record Office Victoria.

13141-P0004-000020-4023-neg2984B We found Santa hiding in the archives

Gas and Fuel corporation Collection: Brighton Social Club at Highett 12 December 1964
VPRS 13141/P4, Unit 20 iten 4023, image 2984B



Showcase Record – Great Tobacco Scam

Texas Tobacco Plantations (QLD) Scam

The King vs Charles Anthony Brough

Frederick Joseph Field and Richard William Musson

 – Criminal Trial Brief -VPRS 30/P0 Unit 2507 Item 153

A deal, seemingly too good to be true, usually is…

In 1932 seven eager individuals were swindled into investing their money and goodwill into the ‘Texas Tobacco Plantations Propriety Limited’ Scam.

'Samples' of Tobacco leaves supplied by C Brough on behalf of the Texas Tobacco Plantation Propriety Limited.

Fig 1 – ‘Samples’ of Tobacco leaves supplied by C Brough on behalf of the Texas Tobacco Plantation Propriety Limited

No one would have suspected esteemed Army Captain Charles Anthony Brough and his well-to-do pals, Frederick Joseph Field and Richard William Musson of being fraudsters and so the well orchestrated ploy to relieve excited potential Tobacco Farmers of their hard earned cash was well advertised in the Argus and actively promoted by unaware business and estate agent, John Jessop.

The accused claimed that they were representing the Texas Tobacco Plantations directly in relation to land situated in Texas and Archerfield Queensland.  They offered investment and farming opportunities on both farms, going so far as to provide ‘Samples’ of Tobacco, Photographs of the plantation, bogus farm maps and a promise of rations, lodging and training once the farm was up and running.

Each man was to pay a 100 pound deposit to secure their rations and lodgings on the Archerfield tobacco farm for 12 months with future prospects of having individual options over 15 acres of Tobacco farmland once they were trained.

Such an exciting prospect was never meant to be.

Upon arriving in Queensland, the seven individuals followed instructions set out by Charles Brough to meet at a Farm house and were advised that they would be collected the following day and taken to Archerfield.  The following day their ride didn’t come.  After much wiring to and fro they finally made their way to Archerfeild, where it came to light that the Texas Tobacco company had no stakes or ownership over the land there, nor were there any prospects of them obtaining such land in the future.

A bogus Map of the Archerfield used as a prop to lure unsuspecting farmers.

Fig 2 – A bogus Map of the Archerfield used as a prop to lure unsuspecting farmers

The men, confused and angry, demanded their money back. This was refused.  Instead a pay off of 50 pounds was suggested to be given in installments. The men agreed as they were all broke.  Some of the men received their 50 pounds over a matter of weeks, but not all.

The situation went to Court and after a lengthy trial involving many witnesses and a plethora of evidence the three men were sentenced to three years imprisonment for ‘Conspiracy to defraud’.

Frederick Field and Richard Musson were released on good behaviour 2 years later, but sadly Captain Charles Brough passed away 6 months into his sentence at the age of 43.  It is claimed he died ‘peacefully of natural causes’.

Criminal Trial Brief -VPRS 30/P0 Unit 2507 Item 153  - Conspiracy to Defraud

Fig 3 – Criminal Trial Brief -VPRS 30/P0 Unit 2507 Item 153 – Conspiracy to Defraud


Lee Hooper – Access Services Officer

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