Looking up a relative who served in the First AIF


To start with, you need to know his or her name. Any the information that you may have, such as unit or serial number may help. If you have any letters or postcards sent to a soldier, they usually contain the name of the unit. Letters or cards from a soldier often contain information in the postmark. Some even show the unit shoulder patch.  


Nominal Roll

The first step is to visit the Australian War Memorial.  If you can visit it in person, do! It is a great experience. But you can always visit online. 

Go to the First World War Nominal Roll.   Type the surname into the box and give it a try. 

For example, typing in "Williams" gives a whole screen of  pages. To find my own relative, Jack Williams, I select the one that says "Williams, John Lloyd" to
"Williams, Joseph Walter".  Note that the alphabetical order is a little bit off! Also note that the Army calls him John Oscar even though his family and friends called him Jack. 

Click here to see an example.

This is a scan of a typescript document.  It was compiled from a number of sources and contains the odd typographical error. In some cases extra details have been pencilled in by the War Memorial staff.  This provides a considerable amount of information. 

At the left is the regimental number. These were allocated within each infantry battalion, light horse regiment or corps, so there were 102 soldiers with number 1 (mostly Regimental Sergeant Majors and Colour Sergeants). Problems occurred when soldiers transferred from one regiment or corps to another. If nobody else had the same number, they usually kept their original number. Otherwise, they got a new number or added a letter to the end. Officers (like the one in the middle of the page) did not have regimental numbers.

Next is the rank.  You may need to consult the Abbreviations to decypher this.

Then follows the name and unit. The unit is always the final unit that a soldier belonged to in the First AIF. Many soldiers were transferred from one unit to another in the course of events.

The date that follows is that of enlistment. This is the date that they joined the AIF. (Jack has a typo -- it should be 18 April 1916.) On this date, he joined the 3rd Reinforcements of the 38th Battalion and was allocated his regimental number. He did not embark for overseas until 25 September 1916.  


Personnel file

The main source of information available for most soldiers is contained in their personnel file. 

Each service record usually consists of the following documents:

A. Attestation paper (111K JPEG)

Usually four to six pages, the attestation paper was completed by the person on enlistment and provides the following information:

full name 
next-of-kin details 
employment / trade details 
marital status, age, place of birth 
physical description 
prior military service 

B. Service and casualty form (43K JPEG)

Otherwise known as �Form B103�, this record provides the following information: 

when and how soldier was injured 
where treatment was received 
movements and transfers between units 

This document provides general locations. It does not pinpoint the precise location of any soldier at any given time. The details given are usually necessary for researching the unit / battalion histories that are held by the Australian War Memorial. 

C. Military correspondence (43K JPEG)

Military correspondence consists of correspondence between the Department of Defence and the soldier�s next-of-kin on the following: 

notification of wounds 
notification of death 
questions concerning whereabouts 
notification of parcel consignments 
awards and medals 
burial details 

D. Miscellaneous 

This category covers everything not covered in the previous categories and includes correspondence about: 

service details 
medals received, not received or lost 
pension information 
wills, bequests, etc 

Purchasing copies of the records

Copies of service records may be purchased by any member of the public. To obtain a copy, provide as many of the following details as possible: 

full surname and given names (this information is essential) 
any known alias 
service number 
army unit/battalion 
age on enlistment 
place of birth 
date of enlistment 
place of enlistment 
marital status at time of enlistment 
distinctive physical marks (eg scars, birthmarks, tattoos, etc.) 
date wounded or killed 
date returned to Australia 

Use the World War I Service Record Request Form or send these details together with your postal address and daytime telephone number by email to ww1prs@naa.gov.au or post to: 

WW I Personnel Records Service
PO Box 7425
Canberra Mail Centre ACT 2610

Service records cost $16.20 each, which covers handling, photocopying and postage within Australia. You can pay by credit card or ask the National Archives to invoice you.

If you have any questions about the service records, or how to obtain them, contact the WW I Personnel Records Service

Medals and pension information and post-world war I records

Information about medal entitlements continues is available from the Directorate of Honours and Awards. This agency also handles inquiries about those who served in the Australian forces after World War I. Its address is: 

Directorate of Honours and Awards
Box 5108BB
Melbourne VIC 3001 

Inquiries about pension entitlements should be sent to: 

Veterans� Advice Network
GPO Box 802
Canberra ACT 2601
Telephone: 1800 046088


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Page created by Ross Mallett
Last update 28 June 2010