The AIF Project

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is a name I am looking for missing from the database?

It may simply be a case of human error since all the data was entered by hand. More commonly it is because not all units that embarked from Australia for service overseas were listed on the Embarkation Rolls. Since the Embarkation Rolls were the starting point for the construction of the database, the names of some individuals have not been entered because they are, so far, unknown to those who developed the database.

If you know of a name that is missing, please send the details to and we will correct the omission as soon as we can.

Why is the name of an individual and or details of address and next of kin misspelled?

The Embarkation Rolls were compiled from the individual Attestation Forms completed by each individual at the time of enlistment. In some cases handwriting was such that when details were transcribed on to the Embarkation Rolls, errors were introduced because of lack of clarity. In other cases individuals did not personally fill out their own forms but dictated their answers to an official. Unfamiliarity with place names often resulted in errors being introduced on the Attestation Form, and these were subsequently transferred to the Embarkation Rolls and then reproduced on the database. Sometimes the mistake occurs in the development of the database, when human error mistypes correct information. Lastly, spelling changed over time, and family names have variations over several generations.

Why do several men sometimes have the same number?

When a man enlisted in the AIF he was given a regimental number. (Officers and nurses did not have regimental numbers.) Most units began from number 1; thus there are many men with the same number but in different units. For example, 102 men in the AIF had the regimental number 1. The difficulty with tracing men through their regimental number is that it sometimes changed. For example, many men who were wounded at Gallipoli were returned to Australia and discharged. Quite a few subsequently re-enlisted when they had recovered. Sometimes they were given their old number, other times they got a completely different number. (This problem was avoided in the Second World War when all those who served, officers and men and women, were given a discrete number that did not change, with one or two signifying letters: N for New South Wales, V for Victoria etc, and X for a volunteer for overseas service.)

What is the significance of A or B in a regimental number?

Sometimes through transfers two men with the same number finished up in the same unit. On transfer a man took his number with him, but if that number was already in use the suffix 'A' or 'B' was used to distinguish between the two. 'A' does not signify, as one enquirer not unreasonably thought when asking about a relative who had lost a leg, 'Amputee'.

Why do entries for some individuals have more than one ship of embarkation?

Most units or parts of units (e.g. companies or squadrons) embarked on one ship, but sometimes several ships were involved in transporting a unit to Egypt or the United Kingdom. In the construction of the database, all ships were recorded in cases of multiple ships of embarkation; the embarkation/ship code has then to be adjusted for each individual to enter the correct ship. This is an extremely time-consuming process, involving as it does scores of thousands of individuals, and, given our resources, will take some time to achieve. In a few cases of multiple ships of embarkation, the Embarkation Roll does not provide any means of determining which individual embarked on which ship. The only way to resolve this question is to examine the personal dossier of each individual, an exercise that is unlikely to be completed in the foreseeable future.

Why have you recorded my relative as 'returned to Australia 19 April 1918' when his diary says he disembarked in Melbourne on 3 June 1918?

The term 'Returned to Australia' is a technical term used by the AIF to denote the date on which an individual commenced his/her return to Australia. Where the date of arrival (disembarkation) in Australia is available, that is recorded separately.

What does 'Effective Abroad' mean?

The Nominal Roll, which records 'end-of-war' data, was compiled in mid-late 1919, listing each AIF member's status at that time. The most common status was 'Returned to Australia' (RTA); some 60,000 were variously listed as 'Killed in Action' (KIA), 'Died of Wounds' (DOW), 'Died of Disease' (DOD), 'Died of Illness' (DOI). Those listed as 'Effective Abroad' (EA) were still employed in the AIF, mainly in administrative positions in London. Thus even though most subsequently returned to Australia, no date for their return is recorded on the Nominal Roll.

Why is there no citation attached to the award of a decoration?

As the war progressed it became impossible to keep up with the administrative load in writing and recording citations in every case. Medals were awarded for outstanding work, sometimes without the details of the particular exploit being recorded. Indeed, there may not have been a specific act.say capturing a pill box.but a period of valuable contribution to a unit's work. In the case of foreign decorations, these were often awarded en masse to a formation, with battalion commanders responsible for allotting them to individuals. In these cases also there are no citations.

Why are only two of three brothers who served in the AIF listed under 'AIF connections'?

We can identify brothers (and fathers and sons) by comparing names and addresses of next of kin. A single man usually (but by no means always) listed either his father or his mother as his next of kin. In the case of a man who was married, he almost always listed his wife as his next of kin. Thus married brothers in a family group cannot easily be identified through the information provided at enlistment, but it is possible to identify at least some through other sources such as 'War Families' books.

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