Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (Honours)


School of History and Politics


The Australian Flying Corps (AFC) was one of the world's earliest military air arms yet within Australian military history it has commanded only limited attention. The experience of the infantry in combat and the subsequent development of the digger myth and the Anzac legend (which was informed and shaped by the digger myth) have taken centre stage. But does the digger reflect the experiences of other units within the First Australian Imperial Force (AIF)? This thesis examines the Australian Flying Corps to answer that question in part.

This thesis is a social-military history of the AFC's combat aviators and mechanics, and sits within an Australian tradition of writing about war from below. It is a tradition that bases itself upon a lively discourse between the historian and the letters, memories and diaries of Australian soldiers. This thesis examines the social and cultural backgrounds of these men, the nature of, and how they responded to, a new type of warfare, one that was fought in the air. It argues that the history of the AFC challenges the notion of an AIF that was a socially and culturally homogenous force and that future studies of the smaller units within the AIF may well produce a richer historiography of the experience of Australian men in combat during the First World War.