The Ursula Davidson Library is temporarily closed. Please contact the Royal United Services Institute on (02) 8262 2922 or [email protected]. You can also stay updated via RUSI's website www.rusinsw.org.au.
The Memorial’s Flame Room on the eastern side of the Hall of Memory was originally designed to be an Archives Room, where details of the 21,000 NSW men and women who died serving their country in the Great War would be recorded. Dellit believed the facility would be used by families to find out about their lost relatives, but the room was never used as the architect had planned.
The Anzac Memorial Centenary Project provided a perfect opportunity to finally realise the original intention to house a research library and invited RUSI NSW to transfer its library collection, and its research and educational activities to the Memorial Centenary Extension.
Brigadier David Leece, former RUSI NSW President described the point in time as a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the Institute and the Anzac Memorial to forge a scholastic collaboration of mutual benefit and to the benefit of the people of New South Wales and beyond.
The Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies NSW (RUSI NSW)
In 1829, the Naval and Military Library Museum in London was established to promote the ‘study and advancement of professional knowledge’ relating to the armed services. Its first patron was the Duke of Wellington. In 1834, the name was changed to ‘United Service Museum’ and in 1839 to ‘United Service Institution’, with the Royal Charter being granted in 1859. It is now referred to as the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies or RUSI.
A Military Institute, based on the British RUSI, was formed in NSW in 1888, and adopted rules that included:
- “This Institution shall be called ‘The United Service Institution of New South Wales.’
- The promotion of Military and Naval Art, Science and Literature is the object of the Institution. The principal means by which this object is sought to be obtained are:
- A Library, containing historical, scientific and professional works.
- A Topographical Room, with maps, charts and plans…..”
RUSI NSW began its book and map collection in 1889 and continued to attract the involvement of senior Army and Navy personnel through the period of the Boer War (1899-1901), the formation of separate Australian Army and Naval forces (1901), and First World War (1914-1918). Women were first admitted to membership in 1957 when Captain Jean Bromell became the first woman on the RUSI NSW Council.
Other Australian states and terrirories formed thier own RUSI branches in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The United Services Instutue of Australia was formed in 1974 to act as a peak body at the national level for the state and territory RUSIs, which in other respects remained independent and self-governing. It was subsequently granted the title “Royal”, as was the NSW body in 1990.
In 2016, the RUSI of Australia became a company limited by guarantee titled the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, Australia, Ltd. This company seeks ‘to promote understanding of strategic security, defence and wider national security issues’. The company continues to act as a peak body at the national level for the state and territory RUSIs, which otherwise remain independent.
To emphasise its role in promoting understanding of defence and national security to the public, and to the Australian Defence Force, in 2016 RUSI NSW changed its name to mirror that of the national body.
RUSI NSW makes policy submissions to government; conducts regular lectures and seminars; produces a widely respected quarterly national journal; maintains a website that provides updates on current defence and security issues, and searchable digital versions of journal articles; and issues a monthly electronic letter.
History of the RUSI NSW Library
The library was integral to the activities of RUSI NSW from its formation in 1888 and now contains more than 25,000 volumes, maps and pamphlets.
The stalwarts of RUSI NSW and its library for over three-quarters of a century were sisters Miss Shelagh Southwell-Keely and Mrs Ursula Davidson. Shelagh was office manager and librarian from 1930 to 1942, and Ursula was executive officer and librarian from 1942 until 2005. The library is now named after Ursula Davidson, who was awarded an OAM for her services to the Institute in 2002.
The library’s operations are governed by a By-Law enacted under the RUSI NSW Constitution that sets out collection policies and management of the library. The Library Committee meets monthly to decide on book accessions.
Developments in the management of the library include:
- obtaining Deductible Gift Recipient status under the public library category that assists donors by providing tax deductibility for donations;
- conversion of the previous card indexes to a computer catalogue that has enabled the library holdings to be progressively entered onto the National Bibliographic Database (Trove). This has generated researcher interest in individual holdings as well as in the collection as a whole.
The Library Collection
The library includes British military history from the Civil War (1642-1651) onwards and Australian military history from the nineteenth century. It also contains material on other theatres of war, along with multi-volume editions of despatches, including those of the Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722) and Admiral Lord Nelson (1758-1805). However its strength is more than the sum of its parts, because it provides access both to contextual material and detailed information on a wide range of topics.
The RUSI NSW corporate archives
includes minute books and related papers from 1888 to the present. These records document the history of RUSI NSW and also provide an insight into the voluntary activities of men and women who were active within the Australian armed forces.
First World War trench maps
Printed maps of trenches on the Western front, showing place names and topographical information. The library holdings were donated by members returning from overseas service and now include over 700 maps, with the oldest dating from the Boer War.
Training manuals collection
includes pamphlets produced for training service personnel in signals, gunnery, musketry and other military activities.
Twenty titles includes 46 volumes of Colburn’s United Service Gazette, 10 volumes of the Journal of the Royal United Service Institution, and 40 volumes of the Naval Chronicles covering the period from 1799 to 1818, as well as full sets of RUSI NSW’s own publications.
Australian Army unit histories
include 132 titles ranging from the Rifle Regiments and Light Horse units of the late nineteenth century to modern units deployed in 21st century operations. Holdings include the Shaping History: a bibliography of Australian Army unit histories (1996).
include copies of Australian Army, Navy and Air Force lists from the 19th and 20th centuries that are useful for tracing the careers of individuals and also the development of units.
British regimental histories
include 48 volumes of Historical Records of the British Army published in the 1830s, and 31 volumes of the Famous Regiments series published in the 1960s and 1970s.
War of the Rebellion: a compilation of the offical records of the Union and Confederate Armies
includes over 150 volumes on the American Civil War, published between 1881 and 1901.
include over 50 volumes including Jane’s Fighting Ships (1898-1980) and Jane’s Historical Aircraft (1902-1916).
Histories of wars
include extensive holdings on conflicts such as the Peninsular War of 1808-1814, the Crimean War of 1856, Franco-Prussian War of 1870, and the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5.
Pictures and regalia holdings
include the service medals of the RUSI NSW’s founder, Major General John Soame Richardson CB, the sword of Brigadier Sir Frederick Galleghan DSO OBE ISO ED (RUSI NSW President 1958-1962), a collection of Australian navy ships’ badges and pictures, including a print, ‘The Waterloo Banquet, Apsley House, 1836’, that depicts an early event of the British RUSI.
Origin of the Library Collection
From its inception, the library obtained material from both donations and from purchases. The first Library Committee minutes in January 1889 noted donations from members, while those of the second meeting included a list of recommended purchases from Dymock’s Book Shop.
Over the years substantial donations have been received from branches of the armed services and from individuals. One example was a collection of original World War I newspapers in English, French and German.
A major donation was a bequest of 3000 books from member John Laffin who was a journalist, teacher, author, lecturer and historian, and who died in 2000. Laffin wrote around 130 books, many concerning military history. More recently, the library received books that had been acquired by the late Brigadier John Hooper, the late Lieutenant L. G. (“Mick”) Sweeney and the late Temple Kehoe.
A major bequest in cash from the late Colonel John Hill MBE ED will enable repairs and refurbishment to be made to a large number of books.
Assessment of the Library
In 2013, an assessment was undertaken of the library for the National Library of Australia by Dr Anne-Maree Whitaker, Fellow of the Royal Australian Historical Society, who found that the library collection was a collection of ‘national significance’.
In 2016, RUSI NSW received a grant from the National Library of Australia to undertake an external “Preservation Needs Assessment” of the library. This assessment found that the majority of the collection was in a sound and stable condition. The assessment made a number of short, medium and long term recommendations to cater for the imminent move of the library to the Anzac Memorial (see below) and the projected increase in visitor numbers in order to help preserve the collection. RUSI NSW is currently implementing these recommendations.
Movement of RUSI NSW and its Library to the Anzac Memorial
The Anzac Memorial Centenary Project was approved by State Cabinet in July 2014. It would serve to complete the original 1930's concept design by architect Bruce Dellit delivering a contemporary interpretation of his intended water cascade to the south of the Memorial, and additional education and interpretation spaces. On 4 August, as the world marked 100 years since the Great War began, the NSW Government annoucned the project as the centrepiece of the state's Centenary of Anzac Commemorative Program.
Following this announcement, the Trustees of the Anzac Memorial invited RUSI NSW to transfer its library collection, and its research and educational activities, to the Memorial. The move has enhanced the Memorial’s scholarship and allows the public to easily access the library collection for research and educational purposes, which in turn will increase the RUSI NSW interaction with the wider community. It is exciting for both the Trust and RUSI NSW.
The Trust and RUSI NSW have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding that sets out the relationship between the parties for the operation of the library within the Anzac Memorial. Under the Memorandum of Understanding, the library collection remains the property of the RUSI NSW, which will remain responsible for the upkeep and preservation of the collection.
RUSI NSW embarked on a major campaign through its tax-deductible Library Gift Fund to raise funds to purchase a purpose-built compactus to house the current library collection and cater for additional future books; and to engage a librarian.
Location of the Library Collection
The library is located in the Anzac Memorial Centenary Extension and can be entered via the Memorial's new equitable entrance via Liverpool Street.
The libarary is currently open to the public two days a week and to researches two days a week. Should you wish to discuss the Ursula Davidson Library or seek further information, please contact the RUSI NSW Office on (02) 8262 2922 or by email at [email protected]