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Military Research 101 - How & Where to Start

Military Research 101 - How & Where to Start

Uncovering information about your family military history can be both surprising and extremely satisfying – you also need to be warned in advance that it can highly addictive!

Step 1: Gather Information 

Gathering as much information as you can about your ancestor will provide you with the best possible chance of locating their service history or medal entitlements. The Australian War Memorial, family members and good old Google are great starting places and can be supplemented with these highly useful resources:

FOXHOLE TIP:  For UK family members, the following links may be helpful:

 **if any of the links in this article bounce to a 404 page, just copy and paste directly into your browser 😊**

Step 2: Nominal Rolls

Military Research

Once you’re equipped with your ancestor’s full name and place/approximate date of birth, the relevant nominal roll may help provide their service number, date and place of birth, enlistment location, their unit details, and any eligible honours or awards they have been awarded. 

FOXHOLE TIP:  It can be worthwhile checking multiple campaign nominal rolls if they came home – we continue to be amazed at the number of service people that served in both WW1 and WW2.

Boer War 1899-1902

World War One 1914-1918

World War Two 1939-1945

Korean War 1950-1956

Vietnam War 1962-1975

First Gulf War 1990-1991

Step 3A.  National Archives of Australia (NAA) 

 The NAA has the scanned service records of many Australian Boer War service people and all Australian WWI service men and women; they are currently working their way through the WWII service records. 

The NAA service records are invaluable tools for cross-referencing or verifying your ancestor information, and in a lot of cases assist greatly with medal entitlements.

You’ll see the  icon next to records where the service records have been scanned. 

FOXHOLE TIP: Be prepared to try different combinations of keywords in your NAA search to accurately locate your ancestor and their service campaigns. 

For example, to narrow down the records of Alfred Joseph Bessell-Browne CB CMG DSO who fought in the Boer War, WWI and WWII, I tried numerous searches before a keyword search of ‘bessell-browne alfred’ listed the records solely relevant to him, 5 in total:


Step 3B:  Department of Defence Application

You can also apply to the Department of Defence for a list of medal entitlements for your ancestor.

FOXHOLE TIP:  For UK relatives, you can apply to the UK Ministry of Defence for a list of awards.


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