Stories from the memorial board is a World War One Centenary project of the Supreme Court of Victoria, supported by the Victoria Law Foundation.
The memorial board, at the William Street entrance to the Supreme Court, lists 159 members of the legal profession who fought in World War One.
About the board
The memorial board is made of blackwood with copper decorations. Chief Justice Sir John Madden unveiled the board in July 1917, which was extraordinarily early considering the war still had 18 months to run.
There were 125 names on the board at the time it was unveiled, although it was clearly noted there would be more to come. In the end 159 names appear on the board, with an 'in memoriam panel' that noted the 22 men who died.
Omissions from the board
Given such an early date for the commissioning of the board, it is understandable that there are a number of omissions, including future judges and two presidents of the Law Institute of Victoria.
We believe that the missing names can be explained by the fact that most of these men had either not yet completed their legal studies or hadn't yet been admitted to practice.
Research for the biographies of the 159 men was undertaken by a project team drawn from the Archives unit at the Supreme Court of Victoria, with help from members of the Victorian Bar. This work commenced in March 2013.
The main information source about these men was the service records of Australians who served during World War One, which can be found at the National Australian Archives (NAA). It was discovered that not everyone on our memorial board served with the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF), as some served with the British army.
Vital clues about what someone did during, after and before the war could be found by searching TROVE, the National Library of Australia database, and in particular the digitised newspaper records.
The Australian War Memorial holds a vast repository of knowledge about the war including letters and diaries of the men that served. Many of the images used in this project were found on the Australian War Memorial website.
The legal profession's role in World War One
- pay clerks
- in the Postal Corps,
- medical orderlies
- staff officers
- in the Artillery, sometimes as machine gunners.
A very few were in the Flying Corps, but the overwhelming number were with one of the infantry battalions.
They served at Gallipoli where four of the men listed on our board died. They also served in Palestine. The majority were on the Western Front and they saw all of the major battles.
As lawyers they also contributed to law and order on the battlefields. Frederic Eggleston saw most of his service with the Court Martial service; many others acted as Judge Advocates or appeared as prosecutors or 'friends' of the accused.
John Latham (later Chief Justice Latham of the Australian High Court) worked in naval intelligence during the war and along with Eggleston was present at the peace treaty negotiations at Versailles.
Those that stayed home helped to raise funds; the Victorian Bar raised enough funds to provide an ambulance for the front. Others were involved in the patriotic funds and assisted with the work of the Red Cross in providing a tracing service for missing and wounded soldiers. A significant number were active in the conscription debates including Sir William Irvine, who was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria in the last year of the war.
What happened after the war?
After the war most of the men returned to the legal profession and resumed their careers at the Bar and as solicitors.
An Act of Parliament was passed in 1915 that reduced the requirements for the completion of articles for those that served during the war. So the surviving young law students quickly sought admission on their return to Australia in 1919 and the 1920s.
Others returned with limbs missing and other physical injuries. A number of the men had been gassed with differing levels of severity, which would go on to affect their overall health. Others certainly suffered psychologically from their time as soldiers during World War One.
Many became active in returned services and veterans organisations; others lead parades and many if they had been young during World War One sought to make further contributions during World War Two.