Researching war service

Finding a service record

The National Archives of Australia holds Army, Navy and Air Force service records. This includes service records for World War I and World War II.

To find a service record, search our RecordSearch database.

Enter the person's surname and service number for a basic search.

You can find service numbers by searching the relevant nominal rolls.

Ordering a copy

If a service record has not been digitised, you can order an online copy.

Select 'request copy' on the right side of the screen above the item title.

If your search returns multiple items, you will first need to select the relevant item. Find out more about supplying digital copies of records service

Viewing in a research centre

To view the original record in the research centre in which it is held, check the 'location' field of the item.

Before going to the research centre, you need to submit a 'request to view records' form.

If an item's status is 'not yet examined', you will need also need to submit an application requesting the item's public release. Do this well before going to the research centre. It can take up to 90 business days.

Viewing online records

You can get online copies of:

  • World War I Army service records
  • World War I Navy service records
  • some World War II Army, Navy and Air Force service records

Where an online copy is available, you can view it by selecting 'view digital copy' next to the record in RecordSearch.

Or you can save or print a PDF copy:

  • go to RecordSearch and find the record you are looking for
  • select 'view digital copy'
  • in the digital copy window select the 'Export PDF' icon

The service records page of the National Archives' website has further information about relevant records.

Other sources

Service records set out the essentials of a person's service in the forces.

Service records were used to administer personnel. They were not intended to be an everyday account of a service person's activities. However, you may find such information in other sources.

If a person served in the Army or Navy during World War I or World War II, the Australian War Memorial may hold relevant unit war diaries (Army) or Reports of Proceedings (Navy).

For more information about these records, visit:

We hold Air Force unit histories (as series A9186). Items in this series are listed on RecordSearch.

To find a relevant entry, conduct a basic search for 'RAAF unit history [unit name]'.

Abbreviations in the records

If you'd like to find out the meaning of some abbreviations, the Discovering Anzacs website has video tutorials. This includes one on language in World War I service records.

Other good resources include:

Photographs on service records

Around 40 per cent of World War II Army and Air Force service records include an identity photograph of the service person.

Navy and World War I Army service records do not include photographs.

If you find a photograph of a service person, you can buy a high resolution copy.

If there are multiple photographs on a file, we will copy the portrait photograph, unless you tell us otherwise.

You can also get photographs from the Australian War Memorial's Research Centre. They may hold other records, such as photographs of the relevant unit. Contact:

GPO Box 345
Canberra ACT 2601
AUSTRALIA

Phone: 02 6243 4315
Fax: 02 6243 4545

Collection search: https://www.awm.gov.au/search/
Email: info@awm.gov.au

Service medals

Service records, particularly those of the World War I Army, may include reference to service medals.

However, service records may not include information about which service medals a person was entitled to, or if they were ever issued.

Defence Honours and Awards can help with such inquiries:

CP2-1-016
Department of Defence
CANBERRA BC ACT 2610

Phone: 1800 333 362

Medals are generally only 'reissued' to a service person or their next-of-kin if the medal has never been issued.

You can buy replicas of medals that have been issued from medal makers. Look for medal makers in your local Yellow Pages under 'Medals'.

Records of service after World War II

Records of service after WWII are held by both the National Archives and the Department of Defence.

If you cannot find relevant service records in RecordSearch, submit a 'Defence service after World War II' enquiry.

If you are a former serving member, apply directly to the agency that holds relevant records.

The Department of Defence website includes a summary of where service and health records are held covering World War I to present-day.

Other service records

We also hold records for other service, such as:

  • merchant navy
  • civilian service organisations
  • Commonwealth contingents that served in the Boer War

If you cannot find relevant records in RecordSearch, submit a general inquiry.

Places of burial

You can find information on the burial places of those killed in service and of memorials to the missing at:

Medical records

You can access Department of Veterans' Affairs case files for both WWI and WWII veterans.

These files often include medical records, dating from both during the period of service and after the war.

Some of these records are listed on RecordSearch by searching the person's name.

If you can't find a record, you can ask us a question.

We also hold casualty files from the RAAF for members killed or severely wounded in service. You can request to see these.

Medical records for post-WWII service are held by:

You can apply to see these under the Freedom of Information Act.

Incorrect information

If you think the information in a service record is incorrect, contact Defence Freedom of Information.

If you think information on the World War II nominal roll has been incorrectly recorded, contact the Nominal Roll team.

Eulogy service

For eulogy requests for Navy, Army and Air Force, contact Defence Archives on 1800 333 362 or email ADF.records@defence.gov.au.

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