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Research (Finding Information)

These are steps that can be followed to find information to put together a soldier's story. The first step is to choose a name to research. This may be a relative or person from your town or district. Once you have found a name to research, you need to collect information by following suggested links. The information will not be in a neat sequence but will need to be collected and rearranged. Write rough notes to begin with using one of the scaffolds.

1. Choose a name. Go to Discovering Anzacs (if this is working) and search using the name of your town. This will list all the soldiers that were born in your town. It is a reliable way to find a relevant soldier's record. The list may differ from the names on your town memorial.

Visit your local War Memorial to choose a name, or go to Register of War Memorials in NSW and type in your town to see the names on its WW1 Memorial.  Make sure that you do not choose WW2 names. Note memorials have only surnames and initials, some names may be misspelt and there may be duplicate names when records are searched.


2. Find their service record Every WW1 soldier has a digitised service record in the NAA. Try finding it using this NAA guide - Researching war service This should help you to find the service record. Check the number of pages in the record, some soldiers enlisted but did not see service or enlisted when the War was almost over. If that is the case you may have to choose again.   If you cannot locate a digitised record try NAA NameSearch. You will also find information on your soldier at AWM Search for a Person or The AIF Project
Records can be challenging to read. Choose 'stacked' and magnify to see entries clearly. Look through all pages at the start as some pages may be clearer than others. There may be duplicate entries. Use the Abbreviations or AWM Glossary or More Abbreviations to interpret the record.


It is particularly important to identify the Unit or Battalion that the soldier belonged to as this can then be used to deduce some of the soldier's experiences. Service records show only events and dates for the soldier and will indicate when he was in the field with his unit. Unit and Battalion histories are well recorded - see below.


3. Battalion and Division Details

Their Battalion or Unit was the group they stayed with throughout the War and can be found in their Service Record. Find which Brigade and Division they were in. If blocked use this link.


Find the individual Battalion and Division Details on Ross Mallet's site and AWM Units of the First World War or AWM World War One  



Once the Division is known, and you know when the soldier was with his Unit, it is possible to work out which battles he fought on the Western Front. or Palestine. Also see the Timeline of WW1 to put these battles in perspective. If blocked try Dates or Campaigns

Each unit kept a daily diary. These have been digitised and it is possible to download these original documents to see what your soldier may have been doing on a particular day. See digitised AIF Unit Diaries and digitised AIF Infantry Diaries.

Find out more about the battles by going to Australians on the Western Front or Australian Battlefields of WW1 or do a Google search.

Virtually visit the present locations where Australians once fought through the immersive panoramic images at Anzac Battlefields of World War One
Find grave details from the Commonwealth War Graves site

Search Find a Grave

Search NSW Births Deaths and Marriages

Use the name and service number to find additional information from Biographical Databases in the AWM

Search Trove to see whether the soldier has featured in any newspaper articles.


5. Additional Details
Try to find a photograph of the soldier or his Battalion within the Collections of the AWM. Look at Bean's First World War Official History available on the AWM site or his original digitised diaries.
Search the Red Cross Wounded and Missing. This may give eye witness reports of what happened to your soldier

These sources will give you the basis of your story on the 'name'. You may find further interesting information from an internet search or the links on the Resources page. The story can be embellished with knowledgeable speculation based on the written experiences of similar soldiers at locations where your soldier was known to have been.

The story should be shared with others in an accessible form such as a newspaper article and/or website. It is timely to publish these in your local newspaper in the weeks leading up to 25th April (ANZAC Day).

Other resources suggesting a method of researching a WW1 soldier can be found at NSW DET Research and Adopt a Veteran, and Stuart Curry's excellent site.


53rd Battalion drill practice in Egypt after Gallipoli evacuation
(Photo H G Carter courtesy Mrs Shirley Clifton)

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Dr P. Morrissey 2010 (updated May 2016)