The South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau was formed in December 1915 at the instigation of the South Australian division of the Australian Red Cross Society. It followed the formation of similar bureaux in NSW and Victoria. The legal profession was asked to organise it and provide volunteer workers, on the assumption that lawyers are trained and suited to undertake the kind of investigation seen as the Bureau's main function. Sir Josiah Symon formed a committee of his Law Society colleagues and Dr W.A. Verco made rooms available in the Verco building on North Terrace. The Bureau opened to the public in January 1916.
Example of a letter sent to the Bureau by a relative
The State Library of South Australia's South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau website contains the digitised records of the Bureau related to missing personnel during WW1.
Search records containing information about soldiers, eyewitnesses and enquirers.
The following extract from a report on the operations of the Bureau from its inception to 30 June 1916 explains the basic procedure adopted by the Bureau:
'When an inquiry is received a card is immediately opened with the full particulars of the soldier enquired for, on which card is also recorded from time to time a precis of the correspondence and results of enquiries made. Attached to and filed with this card is a carbon copy of all correspondence with a duplicate of the original enquiry instruction block. This is all placed in a packet carefully numbered and indexed. On receipt of all official lists, Casualty, Hospital, Returned Soldiers etc., so far as they concern soldiers enlisted from this State, are entered upon a card system with a cross reference thereon to the enquiry packet, if any, concerning such soldier. By this means there is ready access to all available official information issued to date. Some 200 of these lists have already been dealt with in this regard.
Nominal Rolls of the various units are also received, and prove useful in verifying numbers and discovering next of kin [Series 37].
Although the bureau was primarily intended only for the purpose of supplying information and furthering inquiries as to sick, wounded or missing, enquiries of a very miscellaneous character are made personally and by letter, and every effort is made to give in each case the information sought, or assist the enquirer by suggesting a channel through which further enquiry could be made.
During the earlier months enquiries were directed chiefly to Cairo, but since the removal of the major portion of the A.I.F. to England and the Western Front the Red Cross Commissioners have removed headquarters to London, whence all enquiries proceed. Except for delays on two occasions due, no doubt, to the exigencies of such removal, all enquiries have been satisfactorily dealt with within the limits of their opportunities by the commissioners, and communicated in due course to the anxious relatives at this end.
It is to be noted with satisfaction that recently the Commissioners have inaugurated a systematic search and enquiry for every missing soldier the moment he is officially reported as such, without awaiting receipt of any enquiry from this end, and the results of such search will be regularly posted to a central office in Australia, thence to be distributed of the particular State Bureau concerned. It is suggested that this Central Bureau should be the Melbourne office. Similar Bureaux exist in each of the states, and the reciprocal relations established between these centres have proved very satisfactory and encouraging.
The expenses of the Bureau are borne by the (legal) profession, apart from cablegrams sent at the request of enquirers, not being necessitous cases.'
Example of an eyewitness account gathered by Red Cross Information Bureau searchers