About triciaf

I have a passion for family history and have been lucky enough to have worked as a specialist librarian in this area for the past eight years. I live in Perth, Western Australia but come from England originally.

Prisoner of war toilet roll diary now online

One of the more unusual items in the State Library’s collection is this diary written by Raymond Stewart on a toilet roll while he was a prisoner of war during World War II. Raymond kindly donated this unique diary to the Library in 1999. It is written in pencil on poor quality paper and is housed in our rare materials security stack at a controlled temperature of 20 degrees +/- 2 degrees with a humidity level of 50% +/- 5%. These stable conditions  help to preserve this fragile item.

Toilet Roll Diary02

Raymond Stewart’s toilet roll diary housed in its special conservation box, ACC 5062A/5

Lieutenant Raymond Stanley Stewart (2/28th Australian Infantry Battalion) enlisted in Northam in 1940 and was captured on 27 July 1942 at Ruin Ridge, El Alamein, Egypt. He was held as a prisoner of war in Europe, firstly by the Italians and later by the Germans, until 1 May 1945. He recorded his experiences in this most unusual diary between 27 July and 12 September 1942, later continuing in two notebooks.


Raymond’s prisoner of war card with photograph, ACC 5062A/11

Keeping such a record was a tremendous risk so Raymond kept the diaries hidden in an Australian Red Cross Society gift box.


The Australian Red Cross Society gift box where Raymond kept his diaries hidden, ACC 5062A/15

The toilet roll diary provides a fascinating insight into the daily life of a prisoner of war. Raymond describes his feelings on being captured:
“I feel miserable, angry, disillusioned and relieved in turn. I think everyone feels the same way. The boys crack jokes to hide their feelings.”

There is confusion about the fate of his comrades:
“Did Jack come through? Where is Smithie? Is it true that Snooks was killed?”

On 5th August 1942, just over a week after his capture, he describes his hunger:
“Already we are all feeling continuously and desperately hungry. Our ration is eaten as follows:- 1/2 tin bully and 1/3 bread for lunch, ditto tea, and coffee and remainder of bread for breakfast. I myself am feeling very weak and have a temporary blackout once during the day on getting up from my bed. This may have been due to bad ventilation as much as anything else. It is an effort to walk around very much as I simply haven’t the energy.

Just through the fence they are dumping hundreds of cases of lemons. We are so hungry we beg for them from the guards, and eat them raw peel and all. However they don’t give much away and even then I think it is only for the amusement they get from seeing us scramble for them.”

This diary formed part of the National Treasures from Australia’s Great Libraries exhibition which toured capital cities around the country from 2005 to 2007. Now the Raymond Stanley Stewart diaries have been made available for anyone to read online. In some places they are difficult to decipher but a transcript has also been placed online.

As you can imagine, digitising a toilet roll presented some challenges. The diary is extremely delicate and fragile; of course the paper is biodegradable and was never intended to last. Our reformatting staff  say that this is the most challenging item they have ever digitised; the toilet roll diary alone took over twenty hours to complete. It was photographed using a Hasselblad camera which has extremely accurate colour fidelity and the ability to retain exceptional quality of detail. The images shown here illustrate some of the processes involved in bringing this item to you.


The toilet roll diary held in place with glass weights

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Our Senior Conservator unwinding the toilet roll during filming


Carefully rewinding the diary after filming


Returning the diary to its box

Toilet Roll Being Shot035

Checking the quality of the digitised image

It is wonderful that Raymond Stewart realised the historical significance of his diary and had the forethought to donate it to the State Library so it could be preserved for the future. What other treasures could be hidden in wardrobes or attics in private homes around the state?

If you are interested in finding out more about donating to the Library please visit our Donations page.

Dads’ Army?


Unidentified group of soldiers, 229234PD

Do you know anything about this photograph which is part of the E. L. Mitchell collection? These men were photographed in about 1916 in a makeshift studio. In this image they are wearing caps and in another photograph the same men are wearing hats. A sticker on the back of one of the negatives reads ‘possibly Bunbury camp’.

On close inspection you can see that most of the men are older than the usual young recruits you would expect to see in a photograph from this early stage of the war. You can see both photographs in our catalogue:
A group of soldiers photographed in a makeshift studio wearing their hats and caps, possibly at Forrest Park Military Camp near Bunbury

If you can offer us any clues as to the identity of any of these men or the group to which they belong, please comment at the bottom of this post or beneath the images in our catalogue.

Saved from the skip!

Brabner Harold

Portrait of Harold James Brabner, BA2594

This photograph of World War One soldier, Harold James Brabner, nearly didn’t survive. It is a very large portrait measuring 65 x 41 centimetres which was hanging in the Midland Railway Workshops for many years. When the workshops closed in 1994 it was about to be thrown out but was rescued by someone who appreciated its significance.

The gentleman who rescued the photograph displayed it in his own home for quite some time, despite having no personal connection with the subject of the photograph.That was until 2014 when he saw an article in the West Australian newspaper calling for donations of WWI material to the State Library. He contacted the Library and offered the portrait for our Pictorial collection. Our Conservation staff have done some restoration on it and it has now been digitised and made available online.

The portrait simply has the word “Brabner” on the reverse. Research reveals that he was Harold James Brabner of the 11th Battalion who was killed in action on 17 September 1917 at Bullecourt, Belgium aged 23. His service is commemorated at Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres. His connection with the Midland Railway Workshops is that he worked as a painter in the locomotive workshop.


Death notice in the Swan Express, Friday 2 November 1917 page 2.

Harold was born in Victoria in 1894 to James and Georgina Brabner nee Sherwell. The couple had another son, George Alexander, in 1896 and a daughter, Nelly, in 1899. By 1906 the family had moved to Bellevue in Western Australia. Both sons enlisted in the 11th Battalion and, sadly, both men lost their lives.

Australias Fighting Sons

Entry for the two Brabner brothers, Australia’s fighting sons of the Empire: portraits and biographies of Australians in the Great War, page 36

The State Library welcomes donations of material relating to the history of Western Australia. Please see our Donations page for more details.

Extra! Extra! Adultery, murder, scandal and gossip – more than thirty years of the Truth newspaper

Adultery, murder, scandal and gossip – this was the sort of fare dished up by the Truth newspaper. The Perth edition of the Truth ran from 1903 to 1936, titillating Western Australian audiences for more than thirty years. It also covered less salacious topics such as politics, sport and society news.

Now you can delve into this publication yourself because the Truth newspaper has been made available online.

Photographic Negative - Glass

Linotype in operation at the Truth newspaper, 1930, State Library of Western Australia, 233089PD

The State Library of Western Australia collects, preserves and makes accessible our state’s documentary heritage and this, of course, includes newspapers. We aim to collect every newspaper published in Western Australia and currently hold close to 1,000 different newspaper titles. Some of these are selected to feed into Trove in the Digitised newspapers and more section.

Audacious_adventuress_-_Truth_29_Feb_1908 page 8

Audacious adventuress masquerades as a man – an article which appeared in the Truth newspaper on 29th February 1908, page 8


Josie Bungalow, brothel in Roe Street, that allegedly lures married men to folly and infidelity, State Library of Western Australia, 048405PD

The Truth is one of our recently added titles, chosen because of its interest as a scandal rag. If you haven’t searched Trove before you are in for a treat! If you have searched before, remember that new titles are being added all the time so it is well worth revisiting.


Alleged stabbing in Bridgetown divorce. Kidnapped from racecourse – an article which appeared in the Truth newspaper on 27th July 1930, page 16

The State Library also holds the Truth newspaper collection of over 3,000 photographs, some of which you can see here. They include images of weddings; politicians; sportsmen such as jockeys and boxers; police constables and detectives; weapons and scenes of crime and much more.


Jockey Jack Corry in hospital following an operation on a cist ‘in a place which makes the saddle no cushion’, State Library of Western Australia, 049257PD


Detectives Lewis and McLernon who effected the arrest of the Pardelup escapee, Playford, State Library of Western Australia, 049172PD


The wedding of Kevin Sullivan and Kathleen Walsh, 14 January 1931, State Library of Western Australia, 048924PD

Real estate plans online

57/8/16: Sandringham Estate

57/8/16: Sandringham Estate

Have you ever thought about looking for a real estate plan of your suburb or a suburb where someone in your family lived?

The Library holds hundreds of real estate plans which were produced when new land releases became available. Most are for suburbs in the metropolitan area and date from the late 1800s or early 1900s. Although it looks as though many of these plans are adorned with the swastika symbol, it is in fact a sacred good luck symbol for some religions in India.

57/7/7: West Guildford

57/7/7: West Guildford

57/7/33: Scarborough Beach Estate

57/7/33: Scarborough Beach Estate

A project has begun to digitise these plans and many of the ones produced by Peet & Co. have now been completed and can be viewed online through our catalogue. They show blocks of land, often with the dimensions, roads and features such as lakes, tramlines or railway stations; sometimes individual houses and landowners are marked. It is really interesting to see the prices charged for land 100 or so years ago.

You can find real estate plans in our catalogue by searching under keyword for ‘peet and co real estate’ and selecting State Library Maps from the drop-down box.

57/7/2: Cityview Estate: the dress circle of Kalamunda

57/7/2: Cityview Estate: the dress circle of Kalamunda

Another significant early photograph album digitised by the Library

In September 2014 I wrote a blog post about an album of photographs taken by Alfred Hawes Stone during the 1860s which had been digitised by the State Library.

Tim Croft, who is a direct descendant of Alfred Stone, read the post and showed the online photographs to his mother, Dorothy. Dorothy Croft is Alfred Stone’s great-granddaughter and the pair was impressed with the quality of digitisation and the way the photographs had been described and presented. The family has another album of photographs taken by Alfred Stone which had been lent to the Library for copying back in 1976. Of course, there have been huge advances in technology since then. In light of this,Tim and his mother decided to offer the Library the chance to copy their album – this time in a digital format.

Tim Croft with the Stone album of photographs (6923B)

Alfred Hawes Stone’s great great grandson,Tim Croft with the Stone album of photographs (6923B) in the Library’s Preservation Services workroom

Tim Croft, Les Tucker and Tricia Fairweather

Left to right: Tim Croft and State Library staff Les Tucker and Tricia Fairweather. Les photographed the album and Tricia is one of the subject specialists in family history

The Collection of photographs taken by A.H. Stone during the 1860s and featuring people, buildings and scenes in Perth is now available for viewing online. It contains 204 photographs from the 1860s featuring members of the Stone family and their friends as well as numerous buildings in and around Perth. Alfred Stone was a very keen photographer and it is wonderful that so many of his photographs have survived and are now able to be shared online. The State Library acknowledges the generosity of the Croft family in sharing their family treasure with us.

The individual photographs are yet to be catalogued but you can browse through the album using the link above and a small sample of images is included below.

Alfred Hawes Stone, October 1861 (6923B/119) appears on page 49 of the album

Alfred Hawes Stone, October 1861 (6923B/119) – appears on page 49 of the album

Alfred Stone's home Alpha Cottage, St George's Terrace, Perth (6923B/181) appears on page 86 of the album

Alfred Stone’s home Alpha Cottage, St George’s Terrace, Perth (6923B/181) – appears on page 86 of the album

Corner of Murray and Irwin Streets, Perth taken from Perth Public Hospital (6923B/62) appears on page 26 of the album

Corner of Murray and Irwin Streets, Perth taken from Perth Public Hospital (6923B/62) – appears on page 26 of the album

Aboriginal man, Daakin (6923B/26) appears on page 12 of the album

Aboriginal man, Daakin (6923B/26) – appears on page 12 of the album

Mr and Mrs R.D. Hardey, nee Maria Jemima Stone (6923B/146) appears on page 60 of the album

Mr and Mrs R.D. Hardey, nee Maria Jemima Stone (6923B/146) – appears on page 60 of the album

View of St George's Terrace to Perth Boys' School taken from William Street. J. Dyer's store is in the foreground (6923B/106) - appears on page 44 of the album

View of St George’s Terrace to Perth Boys’ School taken from William Street. J. Dyer’s store is in the foreground (6923B/106) – appears on page 44 of the album

Miss Elizabeth Louisa Hardey, September 1862 (6923B/143) - appears on page 59 of the album

Miss Elizabeth Louisa Hardey, September 1862 (6923B/143) – appears on page 59 of the album

Government House and the WA Volunteers after the presentation of Commissions to the Officers by Governor J.S. Hampton, December 1863 (6923B/196) - appears on page 96 of the album

Government House and the Western Australian Volunteers after the presentation of Commissions to the Officers by Governor J.S. Hampton, December 1863 (6923B/196) – appears on page 96 of the album

Heritage digital content now easier to find

A new series of web pages makes it much easier to find some of the Western Australian heritage content which has been digitised by the State Library. Arranged by theme such as Birth, Marriage and Death, Crime and Punishment and Migration, you can browse these pages to find some hidden treasures!

Go to the Heritage Online page to see how to download and search content and then browse the list of themed pages on the left-hand side.

The first illustration below is from the Biographies and Directories page and the second is from the Births, Marriages and Deaths page.

The Ho. Edwin Rose from Men of Western Australia, Plate 4

The Hon. Edwin Rose from Men of Western Australia, Plate 4


Studio portrait of Mrs Nuttall in her wedding dress c.1917, 153000PD

Studio portrait of Mrs Nuttall in her wedding dress c.1917, 153000PD

The longest name in Western Australia?

Wanerenooka track, north of Northampton, 1948, 067385PD

Wanerenooka track, north of Northampton, 1948, 067385PD

Anyone researching their family history will have come across interesting or unusual names in the course of their research. I recently found just such an entry in the Historical indexes to Western Australian births, marriages and deaths on the Department of the Attorney General website.

The entry was the birth registration for a baby girl who was given eleven forenames! She was named:

Charlotte Elizabeth Mary Eliza Octavie Therese Margaret Edith Blanche Olympiad Jane Du Boulay.

Her parents were Julius and Elizabeth Du Boulay and the birth was registered in Greenough in 1864. Sadly she only lived for a few months. Interestingly, the Dictionary of Western Australians lists this child as being eleven separate children, all baptised at the same time. This led me to do some research on the family to find out whether or not this was the case.

Using the London Parish Records on Ancestry, which is available here at the State Library, I found that Julius Houssemayne Du Boulay married Elizabeth Solly at Jesus Chapel in the parish of Enfield, Middlesex in England on 20 June 1860. They had their first child, Flora H (probably Houssemayne) in Capetown, South Africa in about 1862. By the following year their second child, Emma Mary Houssemayne was born at Wanerenooka near Northampton in Western Australia. Charlotte Mary Eliza Octavie Therese Margaret Edith Blanche Olympiad Jane Du Boulay was born in 1864 before the family returned to England.

The 1911 census for England and Wales is available on both Find My Past and Ancestry within the Library. This census is often referred to as ‘the fertility census’ because, for the first time, questions were asked about the length of a couple’s marriage, how many children had been born and how many had died. The Du Boulay family’s entry in the 1911 census confirms that Julius and Elizabeth had a total of eight children of whom four had died and four were still alive in 1911. Using the free website FreeBMD, I traced the births and deaths of the couple’s English-born children. All were registered in the district of Elham, Kent and the family is known to have lived in Sandgate which is within this district so it is likely that all the births and deaths occurred there.

Flora H – born Capetown, South Africa c1862 – survived
Emma Mary Houssemayne – born Wanerenooka, WA 1863 – died aged one month
Charlotte Elizabeth Mary Eliza Octavie Therese Margaret Edith Blanche Olympiad Jane – born Greenough, WA 1864 – died aged 3 months
Minna H – born Elham registration district, Kent, England 1866 – survived
Francis Houssemayne – born Elham 1868 – died aged a few months
Lola Houssemayne – born Elham 1870 – survived
Isabel Violet H – born Elham 1871 – died aged 12
Thomas William H – born Elham 1875 – survived

Almost certainly, those children with the initial ‘H’ were given the name Houssemayne. It’s interesting that Charlotte appears to be the only child who wasn’t given this name – perhaps the eleven forenames were to make up for that! Julius and Elizabeth Du Boulay only lived in Western Australia for a few years although other members of the Du Boulay family settled here.

Is this the longest name registered in Western Australia or do you know of someone with more names?

J J Talbot Hobbs’ WWI diaries online

Landing at Gallipoli (ANZAC 1915), BA780/23

Landing at Gallipoli (ANZAC 1915), BA780/23

Sunday April 25th off Anzac Cove
“6 a.m. Enemy commenced firing on ships. Some shell fell within 150 yds of Minnewaska. Launches & boats returned bringing some dead & wounded. Watching shell falling on our men ashore. We have not landed at the place where it was intended but to the north of it.”

“Conference of Gen. Birdwood, Gen. Bridges & staff as to whether we shall clear out or try & hang on. The position is extremely serious. I could not from where I was sitting help hearing the discussion. I think they would decide to clear out but the Navy can’t do it (take us off) so they have decided to stay if we can hold on.”

April 28th. Wednesday
“The stream of wounded at Beach Hospital continues. Some have most ghastly wounds but heard no moaning no complaint.”

Joseph John Talbot Hobbs, 1919, 011114D

Joseph John Talbot Hobbs, 1919, 011114D

These extracts are taken from the first volume of Sir Joseph John Talbot Hobbs’ personal diaries which were kindly donated to the State Library by his descendants. The five volumes cover the period from April 1915 through to July 1919 and have recently been digitised and made available online.

Sir Joseph John Talbot Hobbs is well known and respected in Western Australia as both an architect and soldier. At the outbreak of World War One he was given command of the artillery of the 1st Division of the Australian Imperial Force and went to Gallipoli. Later he served in France, commanding the 5th Division. In 1918 he was largely responsible for the recapture of Villers-Bretonneux.

After the war he took a keen interest in the commemoration of war dead through memorials and, sadly, he died at sea while en route to Villers-Bretonneux for the unveiling of the war memorial there in 1938.

Sir Joseph John Talbot Hobbs personal diaries
Notes on tour of Australian cemeteries and war memorials in Egypt, Gallipoli, France and Belgium, 1930
Australian Dictionary of Biography entry

Early Perth photograph album digitised

Mill Point from Mt Eliza and little Lizzie, 6909B/23

Mill Point from Mt Eliza and little Lizzie, 6909B/23

A fascinating album of some of the earliest photographs of Perth has recently been digitised and made available through the State Library catalogue. The photographer is Alfred Hawes Stone who compiled the album for his daughter, Fanny, on the occasion of her marriage to George Hampton in 1868.

Alfred Hawes Stone was born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England and arrived in Western Australia on the Caroline in October 1829. In 1831 he was issued a permit to practise law and this was followed by a succession of official appointments including Registrar of Births, Deaths & Marriages in 1841, making him Western Australia’s first Registrar. Together with his brother, Frederick, who followed Alfred out to the colony in 1831, he established a firm of solicitors originally called A H & G F Stone. Alfred eventually rose to the position of Attorney-General.

Outside his professional life he was a keen musician and gardener and, most importantly for the Library, was an avid photographer in what were the early days of photography. The album comprises 146 photographs most of which were taken during the period 1860 to 1868 and bears the following inscription:

“Fanny Annette Hampton from her affectionate father A.H. Stone with his blessing & fondest love. 30th October 1868.”

The photographs capture scenes in and around Perth and Fremantle as well as images of family and other members of Perth society at that time. You can see Perth Town Hall during construction, the Pensioners’ Barracks, Government House, the Bishop’s Palace and more. Some images are delightfully informal, such as the one featured here with Alfred’s grand-daughter, Lizzie, in the foreground.

It has been difficult to accurately date some photographs and some of the subjects are not fully identified. We welcome any further information you may be able to supply about individual photographs. This can be done by filling in the online form that appears once you click onto a photograph to enlarge it.

If you are interested in reading more about Alfred Hawes Stone, there is an excellent book on him entitled Court and Camera: the life and times of A.H. Stone: a pioneer lawyer & photographer in Perth. Copies are available to view in the Battye Library (3rd floor) or may be purchased in the State Library Bookshop.

View the Stone album of photographs of early Perth and Fremantle or alternatively go to our online catalogue and type ‘stone album’ under keyword and select State Library Pictures from the drop-down box. The first result is for the album and the other results are the individual catalogue records for each photograph. Many of these have additional information in the notes or summary.