Researching New Zealand soldiers in the First World War

100,000 New Zealand men signed up to fight for King and Country in the First World War. Their names were listed in the Nominal rolls of New Zealand Expeditionary force, published by the government between 1917 and 1919. These rolls are available through public libraries in their original printed form and on microfiche.

The New Zealand Society of Genealogists has indexed this information into their New Zealand World War I service personnel & reserves index CD-Rom, which is available in many public libraries and to purchase directly from the Society:

Personnel files

Detail from personnel file

Personnel files are the most useful source for researching First World War soldiers, and should be the researcher’s first port of call. They are held by Archives New Zealand, and can usually be located on their Archway database:

Archives have digitised some of these files – view an example here (click on pdf link to download)

Personnel files contain a lot of military short-hand and can be hard to understand. The New Zealand Defence Force Archives provides a useful information sheet to help with interpretation

In cases where the soldier re-enlisted for the Second World War, their personnel files are held by the New Zealand Defence Force Archives:

Reservists

Some New Zealand men were ineligible for military service due to health problems or having large families. Their names were printed in published volumes in 1916 and 1917, arranged by military district. These volumes are available at some public libraries, and have also been published as microfilms by BAB Microfilming.

The New Zealand Society of Genealogists has indexed this information into their New Zealand World War I service personnel & reserves index CD-Rom, which is available in many public libraries and to purchase directly from the Society.

Archives New Zealand holds registers of reservists which explains why they were placed on the reservist roll. They are described in Archives’ ‘War’ research guide (p.6).

Soldiers who were killed

Over 18,000 New Zealand soldiers were killed in the First World War. The quickest way to trace them is through the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website:

The Auckland War Memorial Museum hosts a database of deceased soldiers, which includes photographs of some of the men. It also includes an image of the soldier’s entry in the official The Great War, 1914-1918: New Zealand Expeditionary Force roll of honour, published in 1924.

Many soldiers left wills, which are now held by one of the Archives New Zealand offices. They can be located on the Archives catalogue, Archway

Archives New Zealand also holds casualty lists and records of burials which might also be useful for your research. They are referred to in Archives’ ‘War’ research guide (p.4).

Newspapers sometimes published obituaries for individual soldiers. Some useful newspapers are available (and searchable) on National Library's Papers Past website:

Check your public library for regional rolls of honour, which may include more information about the soldiers you are researching.

Nurses

Records relating to nurses are held at Archives New Zealand. These are described in their ‘War’ research guide (p.6).

Education service workers

A list of teachers and others working in the Education service who served in the First World War was published in the  Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives, 1919, E-1, which has now been digitised. Find links to this, along with a roll of those killed, in our Children, schools and the FIrst World War topic.

Deserters, defaulters, and conscientious objectors

Archives New Zealand holds various files about deserters, defaulters, and conscientious objectors. These are described in their ‘War’ research guide (p.5)

Medals

Personnel files sometimes contain information about the service medals awarded to individuals. Other relevant records are held by Archives New Zealand, and are described in their ‘War’ research guide (p.5).

After the war

Returned servicemen were awarded various privileges after they got home, such as balloted farm land, cheap loans, and pensions. Files relating to these issues are held by Archives New Zealand, and are described in their ‘War’ research guide (p.6).

War memorials

See the NZHistory.net.nz memorials register for links to over 500 war memorials around the country. Many of these show the names of soldiers in a district that were killed or served in the First World War.

Portraits

Digital New Zealand provides access to thousands of images of First World War military personnel from collections all over New Zealand, among other war-related items. Not all soldiers are identified by name. http://www.digitalnz.org

Abbreviations

Some common abbreviations you might come across when researching New Zealand's First World War experience:

  • AA - anti-aircraft
  • ADS - advanced dressing station
  • AEF - American Expeditionary Force
  • AFC - Australian Flying Corps
  • AIF - Australian Imperial Force
  • ANZAC - Australian and New Zealand Army Corps
  • AWOL - absent without leave
  • BEF - British Expeditionary Force
  • BL - breech-loading
  • CB - confined to barracks
  • CCS - casualty clearing station
  • cwt - hundredweight (50.8 kg)
  • DCM - Distinguished Conduct Medal
  • DFC - Distinguished Flying Cross
  • DSM - Distinguished Service Medal
  • DSO - Distinguished Service Order
  • EEF - Egyptian Expeditionary Force
  • FANY - First Aid Nursing Yeomanry
  • HE - high-explosive
  • GHQ - general headquarters
  • HMNZHS - His Majesty’s New Zealand Hospital Ship
  • HMNZT - His Majesty’s New Zealand Transport
  • HMS - His Majesty’s Ship
  • HMT - His Majesty’s Transport
  • ICC - Imperial Camel Corps
  • IHL - imprisonment with hard labour
  • IJN - Imperial Japanese Navy
  • IWGC - Imperial War Graves Commission
  • MDS - main dressing station
  • MEF - Mediterranean Expeditionary Force
  • MID - mentioned in despatches
  • Mk - Mark (as in type)
  • ML - muzzle-loading
  • MO - medical officer
  • NCO - non-commissioned officer
  • NYDN - not yet diagnosed – nervous
  • NZANS - New Zealand Army Nursing Service
  • NZEF - New Zealand Expeditionary Force
  • NZFA - New Zealand Field Artillery
  • NZMC - New Zealand Medical Corps
  • NZMGC -   New Zealand Machine Gun Corps
  • NZRB - New Zealand Rifle Brigade
  • NZVS - New Zealand Volunteer Sisterhood
  • PTSD - post-traumatic stress disorder
  • QAIMNS - Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service
  • QF - quick-firing
  • RAF - Royal Air Force
  • RAP - regimental aid post
  • RFC - Royal Flying Corps
  • RNAS - Royal Naval Air Service
  • RSA - Returned Soldiers’/Services’ Association
  • SMS - Seiner Majestät Schiff (‘His Majesty’s Ship’)
  • SS - steam ship
  • TSS - twin screw steamer
  • USSCo - Union Steam Ship Company
  • VAD - Voluntary Aid Detachment
  • VC - Victoria Cross
  • VD - venereal disease
  • WFF - Western Frontier Force
  • YMCA - Young Men’s Christian Association

How to cite this page: 'Researching New Zealand soldiers in the First World War', URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/war/researching-first-world-war-soldiers, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 11-Oct-2013