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Military records identify individuals who either served in the military or who were eligible for service. Evidence that an ancestor served in the military may be found in family records, biographies, census, probate records, civil registration, and church records.
Military records may include:
- Muster rolls
- Personnel files
- Regimental account books
- Letters of deportment
- Lists of officers
- Pay vouchers or records
- Pension records
- Records of leave
- Naval records
- Descriptive rolls
The history of the army in Australia can be divided into three main groups:
- Imperial forces
- Local colonial forces
- Commonwealth military forces
- AIF Project - Australian Anzacs in the Great War - 1914-1918
Imperial Forces (1788–1870)
The marines, under the direction of the Admiralty Board, were the first military presence in Australia. They arrived with the first fleet and were assigned to guard the convicts. In 1790 the marines were replaced by the first army regiment. The British maintained army regiments in Australia from that time until 1870. The following source lists army regiments that were and are stationed in Australia:
Defense. The Australian Encyclopaedia. Third Edition. (Sydney, New South Wales, Australia: The Grolier Society of Australia) Volume 2, (1977): 230. (Family History Library Call Number 994 A5a.)
Local Colonial Forces (1854–1901)
By 1842 Great Britain was pressing the colonies to develop and support their own defense force. By 1870 the last of the British troops had left Australia. In order to keep a strong military force, some colonies, including New South Wales and Victoria, offered land to those who had served at least five years in the military. The colonies soon realized they needed to coordinate their defense activities. As a result, in 1877 a British commissioner of defense came to the colonies and helped organize an army.
Commonwealth Military Forces (1901–Present)
In 1901 the Australian government took responsibility for the defense of for the whole country.
The Australian War Memorial Website Biographical Records has available listings by several categories of military service: http://www.awm.gov.au/database/biographical.asp
The "Debt of Honour Register" is the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's database listing the 1.7 million men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died during the two world wars and the 23,000 cemeteries, memorials and other locations worldwide where they are commemorated. The register can also be searched for details of the 67,000 Commonwealth civilians who died as a result of enemy action in the Second World War : http://www.cwgc.org/debt_of_honour.asp?menuid=14
Graves and memorials of Australians in the Boer War 1899-1902 are maintained by The Heraldry and Genealogy Society of Canberra Inc. The site now has a searchable database of information for South African Graves and Australian Boer War memorials:
The AIF project is a database that has many records of the 330,000 men and women who served overseas in (first) Australian Imperial force in the years 1914-1918.
World War I Service Records
Records of Australian servicemen and women who served in World War I are preserved in the National Archives. Click on the link above
World War II service records - Also held in the National Archives above.
The Archives cares for the service records of Australians who served during World War II (1939–45).
World War II Nominal Roll
You may search for service record details by specifying name, service number, honours, place (of birth, of enlistment, or residential locality at enlistment). Once you find an individual service record you can print a certificate of service, if you wish.
Korean War Nominal Roll
The Nominal Roll of Australian Veterans of the Korean War honours and commemorates the men and women who served in the Royal Australian Navy, Australian Army and Royal Australian Air Force in Korea, or in the waters adjacent to Korea, during the conflict and after the ceasefire, between 27 June 1950 and 19 April 1956.
The Nominal Roll of Vietnam Veterans honours and commemorates the men and women who served in the Royal Australian Navy, Australian Army and Royal Australian Air Force in Vietnam, or in the waters adjacent to Vietnam, during the conflict between 23 May 1962 and 29 April 1975.The roll contains information from the Service records of more than 60 000 military members who served during the Vietnam War. You can seek information on these members using the Search function.
Australian Redcoat Settlers
This Site is dedicated to the Officers, men and families of British Regiments who settled in Australia, including soldiers that served in Australia and settled in New Zealand.
For more details on the history of the army and the navy in Australia, read volume two, pages 215–244, of the Australian Encyclopedia mentioned earlier.
The following book can supply further information on tracing your military ancestors:
Montague, R. H. How to trace your military ancestors'. Sydney, N.S.W., Australia: Hale & Iremonger, 1989. (Family History Library Call Number 994 M27m.)
The organization of the navy is divided into three groups:
* The British era, 1788–1887
* Auxiliary squadrons and subsidies, 1887–1909
* Australian squadron, 1909–
The British navy first arrived in Australia as a part of the first fleet. The first regular warship was stationed at Sydney in 1821, and the navy continued to be in Australia from that point on. In 1855 Australia’s first warship was built. Although Australia had organized its own navy by 1869, it was still under the protection of the British navy. In 1901 the Australian government took over jurisdiction of the navy.
Availability of Records
The records of regiments that served in Australia are available at some archives and genealogical societies in Australia. British military records are held at the Public Record Office listed below. Some records are also available on microfilm through the Family History Library.
Public Record Office
Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU
Military records in Australia can be found in the following repository:
Australian War Memorial
G.P.O. Box 345
Australian Capital Territory 2601
The Australian War Memorial holds a large collection of military records. The memorial has a research center, but the staff does not offer a research service. They will provide a list of other people who do research at their center. The following is a guide to the center’s records:
Bradley, Joyce, et al. Roll call! a guide to genealogical sources in the Australian War Memorial. Canberra, Australia: Australian War Memorial, 1986. (Family History Library Call Number 994 M23r).
Other national offices that have records are:
Directorate of Sailors’ Postings
Department of Defence (Navy Office)
Australian Capital Territory 2600
The Office of Australian War Graves
Department of Veterans’ Affairs
P.O. Box 21
Australian Capital Territory 2606
Military Historical Society
Military Historical Society of Australia
P.O. Box 30
Australian Capital Territory 2605
Australian Archives National Office
P.O. Box 34
Australia Capital Territory 2602
Veterans’ Affairs Network
G.P.O. Box 802
Australian Capital Territory 2601
Most state archives will have some military records. For a listing of the archives and their addresses, see the "Archives and Libraries" article of this wiki. Check their holdings to determine exactly what the state archives have. Two states have military history societies that can help you. The addresses of these societies are:
New South Wales
New South Wales Military Historical Society
112 Irvine Crescent
New South Wales 2112
South Australian Maritime Museum
126 Lipsom Street
South Australia 5015
The Family History Library has some Australian military records. Look in the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:
AUSTRALIA, [STATE] - MILITARY RECORDS
The following are some examples of military records:
Military records: marriages, baptisms and births of military units in New South Wales, ca. 1850–1942'. Salt Lake City, Utah, USA: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1983. (Family History Library Microfilm 1368199.)
Alphabetical lists of deserters from ships, 1852–1952 (South Australia)'. not published, [199-?]. (Family History Library Microfiche 6344807–6344808.)
Australian Army. Southern Tasmania Volunteer Artillery. Register of volunteers, 1879–1903, Southern Tasmanian Volunteer Artillery'. Salt Lake City, Utah, USA: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1975. (Family History Library Microfilm 919514–919516.)
Great Britain. War Office. Muster rolls and pay lists of New South Wales Regiment, 1799–1823'. Canberra, Australia: Filmed by the National Library of Australia, [1908–?]. (Family History Library Microfilm 1483372–1483547.)