Researchers open database of New Zealanders who went to war

Posted on on 20 August 2015
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Researchers have launched a website aimed at providing a comprehensive biographical record of all New Zealanders who served overseas in the First World War.

The NZEF project is compiling information about each of the 100,000 or so troops of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF).

All the names are listed on the project's database, New Zealand Anzacs in the Great War 1914-18, together with embarkation details and burial records for those who did not return.

But the site is going further, adding information such as profession/occupation, marital status, next of kin, decorations, religion, and even the height or weight of individiuals

The NZEF database is drawn from official records created during 1914-18 and is not yet complete.

It went publicly online for the Centenary Anzac Day in April 2015.

The project is a personal venture led by Emeritus Professor Peter Dennis at the University of New South Wales/Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra.

It's the companion to a larger biographical database listing First World War members of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) which Professor Dennis has been running for 25 years.

New Zealand soldiers marching through Bailleul, France, May 1917 (Photograph by Henry Armytage Sanderscourtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington)

Professor Dennis told Centenary News why he was also focussing on New Zealand: "The NZEF Project database aims to complement the AIF Project database by providing comprehensive and accessible information about those who embarked from New Zealand to serve overseas in the First World War.

"While all such names are on the database, together with embarkation details, and records of burial for those who died in the war, the task of adding additional material from individual service files is a necessarily slow process. 

"To date some 2,000 entries have been enhanced, and more detailed entries are added every day. 

"Why is such a project based in Australia? The answer is partly because it seemed to be a natural fit with the much bigger AIF Project database, but also as a response to the largely justified claim by New Zealanders that Australians habitually leave the 'NZ' out of ANZAC."

Members of the public can carry out basic searches for individual soldiers and a 'correction notification form' is available for those who find an inaccuracy in a soldier’s entry.

'Wide audience'

The NZEF database should appeal to a wide audience, says Dr Damien Fenton, a New Zealand First World War historian who's worked with Professor Dennis on both databases.

Dr Fenton, a Research Fellow at Massey University in Wellington, told Centenary News: "The ultimate aim of the NZEF project is to create a rigorously researched and comprehensive dataset for use in academic studies. But it should also be of interest to a wider audience from genealogists to military history buffs.

"Even at this relatively early stage of the development of the database I have found it of great use in my own work – for example confirming a soldier’s first name. That's very handy given that only a person’s initials and last name were routinely cited in the publications of the era."

To search 'New Zealand Anzacs in the Great War 1914-18', go to the NZEF Project website. The Australian database can be found on the AIF Project site.

Source: NZEF Project

Images courtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington (New Zealand soldiers in Bailleul - no known copyright restrictions, Ref:1/2-013395-G); Centenary News (NZ Division Memorial, Messines)  

Posted by: Peter Alhadeff, Centenary News

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