Australians in World War 1

This guide focuses on Australians serving in World War 1. It also includes some information relevant to Great Britain, other Commonwealth nations and other combatant nations. There is a section on nurses and women's war occupations.

Australian service records

All World War I service records  have been digitised and are available to view on the National Archives of Australia website. This includes army, navy, medical personnel and airforce records.

Their  World War I  page explains what records are held at NAA. To find the service record of an individual serviceman, go to the National Archives website, to the Search box  and type in RecordSearch. This takes you to the search page.  Click on NameSearch. This is the search page where you search by name and conflict (war).

There is also a link to the site  Discovering Anzacs. This website has unique profiles of Anzacs who enlisted in World War I, which are linked to their service records. It includes records of both Australian and New Zealand soldiers.

The service record includes details of enlistment, service, details of war injuries or death, and correspondence from the authorities to families. More detail of what the service record includes can be found on the National Archives site.

These provide the best account of individual service, apart from personal diaries.

They can also be used in conjunction with unit diaries for a detailed account of the activities of the unit the soldier was attached to.

The AIF Project website has a searchable database of AIF members. It gives basic personal information about each member and his war service. Click on the name of his unit to see a list of other members of the unit and their records.  The full service records are digitised and available on the National Archives of Australia  website.

UK National Archives Discovery database

To research Australians serving in the British Army, or any  British service person, try the UK National Archives Discovery database. Discovery is free to use at home by State Library of Victoria users who live in Victoria. Make sure you have registered your address when you become a library member.

Embarkation and nominal rolls

Online

Various records about individual Australian soldiers can be searched through the Australian War Memorial website from the Search for a Person page.

Type in the name, select 'First World War' from the drop-down menu and click on 'search'. Click on 'view record' to see a digitised record. Rolls held include:

First World War embarkation roll

This roll details approximately 330,000 AIF personnel, recorded as they embarked from Australia for overseas service during the First World War.

The index to the Unit embarkation nominal rolls, 1914-1918 war and the embarkation rolls are also held at the State Library of Victoria. Consult the index by unit name and year. This gives you the microfiche and box number of the records at GMF 13 (Family History & Newspapers Centre). The embarkation rolls are organised by the first unit the soldier served in and show the occupation and address at enlistment, marital status, next of kin, pay details and name of ship of embarkation.

National Archives of Australia name search

NameSearch provides digital images of the full World War I service record and other documents on servicemen's files.

This Weekly Times photograph also appears in the Australian military journal, Jan 1915, page 48.

 

First World War nominal roll

Details of approximately 324,000 AIF personnel, recorded to assist with their repatriation to Australia from overseas service following the First World War.

The Nominal Roll is available online at the Australian War Memorial.

The nominal roll includes the service number, name, rank, battalion, date enlisted and date discharged. The State Library holds a microfiche copy of the Nominal Roll which you can  consult  in the Family History & Newspapers Centre at the State Library. First you need to consult the index to the nominal rolls:  the Unit embarkation nominal rolls, 1914-1918,  held at G 994.041 UN3A.  You need to know the name of the battalion and the year. The index gives you the roll number, fiche number and box number of the records held on microfiche at GMF 13.

Details given on unit members include  name of serviceman, regimental number, rank, trade or calling, marital status, address, next of kin, date of enlistment, military units previously served in and pay details.

You will find it quicker to use the online roll on the Australian War Memorial website.

The Embarkation roll gives the first unit the soldier served in, while the Nominal roll, compiled at the end of the war, lists the last unit served in.

Mentioned in despatches

During the First World War, commanders issued despatches outlining military operations. These were published in the London Gazette.

Details of soldiers performing gallant acts might be mentioned by name in these despatches.

The references below will help you locate soldiers mentioned in despatches. 

See also the Medals tab above.

Postcard of Anzac transport in a captured village

The back of the postcard says: "Our boys at the front. Anzac transport halted in a captured village. From official photographs by special permission of the Department of Defence. Proceeds to the Australian Comforts' Fund."

Anzac transport halted in a captured village, H33781/4

Lists related to specific areas of interest

These are additional lists of soldiers from particular organisations, professions or areas.

They are useful if you are unsure of a name but know some other details of a  person (for instance if they worked for the National Bank).

There is also an index to people registered as aliens.

Enlistment standards

There were physical requirements put in place for potential recruits.

As the War dragged on these were relaxed. More details can be found in the Encyclopedia on the Australian War Memorial website, under the heading Enlistment Standards.

 

Online unit histories

Some World War I unit histories held by the State Library which are out of copyright have been digitised.  You can read some of the out-of-copyright unit histories on our website

All the unit histories held by the State Library are listed on the catalogue on the Search & Discover page. Search the catalogue by the name of the unit or battalion to find books held  by the library.

British army records

Some Australians served in the British army during World War I. These records are held by the National Archives, UK. Some records can be found on the Ancestry.com Library Edition databases and  FindMyPast. 

To find these databases on  the State Library website, go to the Search & Discover page, then down the page to  the heading Top Databases. Click on the link  More Databases. Go to the heading Family history & biography to find  the links for Discovery (National Archives UK), Ancestry.com and FindMyPast databases.

The National Archives UK  Discovery  website  has research guides on its World War I resources. Searching Discovery via the State Library website  gives you access to more resources than going directly to Discovery on the Internet. A major guide is British Army soldiers after 1913, but there is much more. Some of the resources have been digitised, but other resources are only available at the National Archives UK.

Discovery can be searched free from home if you have a State Library barcode and live in Victoria.  Ancestry.com and FindMyPast are free only within the library.

The State Library holds some army lists relating to officers in the British army during World War I.

The Quarterly Army list  is a compilation of names of officers, organised by regiment and rank.  It covers the World War I period.  The quarterly Indian Army list is a  list of British army officers stationed in India. It gives the ranks and dates of promotion of each officer. Soldiers who were not officers are not listed.

Staff can request the quarterly army lists from our offsite store if you phone 8664 7002. This information may also appear on Ancestry.com and FindMyPast.

We also hold the Monthly Army list for 1919 on microfiche at GMF 81 Box 3 in the Family History/Newspapers room.

Australians who served with other allied nations

Some Australians served in the armed forces of other nations, so their war service records will not appear on Australian records.

Neil C. Smith has compiled a list of Australians who served in the land, sea and air forces of allied nations. See his book

Under friendly flags: Australians who served in the land, sea, and air forces of allied nations in World War One