New Zealand War and Military History


New Zealand has fought in many conflicts around the world since 1840, including within its own islands. This short guide covers the major record groups and repositories for records related to New Zealanders who saw military service in New Zealand or overseas, including in the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces (NZEF or 2NZEF) of World War I and II, the Royal New Zealand Air Force and the Navy. It should be noted that New Zealanders also served in the Australian and British forces, and records relating to this service will be held by the country in which they served.

Periods of Conflict

The Royal New Zealand Fencibles
The Royal New Zealand Fencibles were retired soldiers recruited in Britain as armed settlers for the defence of Auckland. The 721 men and their families arrived in Auckland between 1847 and 1852. They had nominal military duties in return for free transport to New Zealand for themselves and their families, plus a grant of a cottage with one acre of land, located in Howick, Panmure, Otahuhu, or Onehunga, which became their property after seven years if they had fulfilled their duties.

Auckland Libraries has a range of records relating to the Fencibles in Auckland.
The website of the New Zealand Fencible Society Incorporated ( lists the men, their regiment and the ship on which they arrived. Archives New Zealand’s Research Guide: Migration ( contains information about the Fencibles and records relating to them.

The British Army in New Zealand
Many soldiers in the British Army who came to New Zealand took their discharge here. The names and other details of these soldiers are listed in Discharged in New Zealand: Soldiers of the Imperial Foot Regiments who took their Discharge in New Zealand, 1840-1870 (Hugh and Lyn Hughes, Auckland, New Zealand Society of Genealogists, 1988).

Auckland Libraries have microfilm copies of the records relating to the 80th and Suffolk Regiments and Muster Rolls for the 58th and 65th Regiments. Archives New Zealand and the Auckland War Memorial Museum have material relating to other regiments.

The New Zealand Wars
These military engagements were fought between 1843 and 1872. Libraries across New Zealand have many books on this topic. Original documents, maps of the conflicts, and plans of pa are held in the Sir George Grey Special Collections in Auckland’s Central City Library and at Archives New Zealand in Wellington. Background information on the Wars is available on the New Zealand Wars website (

The Armed Constabulary (1867-1877)
The Armed Constabulary of New Zealand was formed by Act of Parliament in 1867, with constables used as both soldiers and sworn police. It later became an armed police force, with a reduction in numbers from around 2,000 to 776 by mid 1870.

Some members of the Armed Constabulary had previously served in their local Militia. The 1858 Militia Act and its successors provided for the conscription of all Pakeha (European) males between 16 and 55 years of age, and those called up garrisoned outposts and mounted patrols. The more enthusiastic instead formed volunteer corps, and fought alongside regular troops and military settlers.

The New Zealand Militia, Volunteers and Armed Constabulary 1863-1871 database ( contains information about constables in the Armed Constabulary, the various militia and volunteer corps. It covers the period from 1867 to 1871, and lists 3,281 names, including members of the Native Constabulary.

South African War (1899-1902) 2nd Boer War
This was the first overseas campaign in which New Zealand forces served. The number of New Zealand men who served was 6,495, in ten contingents. The first contingent, of Mounted Rifles, left Wellington on 21 October 1899. The second contingent left for South Africa in February 1900, with 258 men. The third and fourth contingents, largely Christchurch and Dunedin residents, and both good horsemen and marksmen, were known as the “Rough Riders”. The third left in mid May 1900, the fourth and fifth in April and May 1900, the sixth in March 1901, the seventh in May 1901 and the eighth in mid March 1902. The ninth and tenth arrived after the war had concluded. See also AtoJsonline for embarkation lists

World War I (1914-1918)
Over 100,000 New Zealanders served in World War I, of whom 18,000 lost their lives. The Sir George Grey Special Collections at Auckland Libraries, the Auckland War Memorial Museum and the National Library of New Zealand have war diaries, letters and postcards and maps from the period. Dunedin Public Library has a large collection of war diaries. New Zealand casualties are commemorated on the website of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission ( and the Cenotaph Database (

World War II (1939-1945)
New Zealanders were involved in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Pacific. After the bombing of Pearl Harbour and the entry of the United States of America into the war, New Zealand hosted 100,000 American troops.

Archives New Zealand holds extensive official material on World War II, including the War History Branch Card Catalogue, located in the Wellington Reading Room, which provides a means of accessing records related to the Second World War records by subject.

Records relating to Personnel

Nominal Rolls
The New Zealand Army WWI Nominal Rolls (1914-1918), New Zealand Army WWII Nominal Rolls (1939-1948), New Zealand Army WWI Casualty Lists (1914-1919) and other military records are available on

Personnel Files
Archives New Zealand holds individual personnel files from the Maori Wars, South African War (1899-1902), and for the period 1914-1920, including the World War I. All files are searchable by name on Archway. Digitised files can be download for free from Archway and requests for the digitisation of individual files in which researchers are interested should be made to Archives New Zealand.

The files for those who served after 1 Jan 1921 have been retained by the New Zealand Defence Force at Trentham ( and requests for access should be directed to their office.

Medal information can be obtained through the website from the New Zealand Defence Force ( NZ Medal CD 1845-66 & Richard Stowers book (doesn’t include those seconded to Imperial troops). AJHRs lists those entitled to claim medal etc

Record Repositories

National Library of New Zealand ( has extensive manuscript and photographic records relating to all periods of conflict in which New Zealanders have taken part. Material can also be found in Papers Past, the digitised newspapers collection, and the AtoJsOnline, the Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives, which are managed by the National Library.

Archives New Zealand ( holds extensive material related to all military service in New Zealand and overseas. The Research Guide: War (, covers all the conflicts and the location of the materials in their offices around New Zealand. Many of the files can be located by searching on their online catalogue, Archway.

Auckland War Memorial Museum ( holds material related to New Zealand’s military history, including manuscripts, photographs and an extensive library of military books and records which are located in the Armoury. The material is searchable on their library catalogue. The Cenotaph Database ( consists of over 140,000 records of servicemen and servicewomen who have died, including almost all of those who served in WW1.

The Official Histories of the New Zealanders in World War I and II are available online at the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre (
National Army Museum, Waiouru - New Zealand museum showcasing our nation’s military history, telling the stories of kiwi soldiers and exploring our participation in major conflicts worldwide.
Photographs of servicemen from Weekly News (WWI) can be found on Auckland Libraries’ on Heritage Images, and there is also an online exhibition titled “Coming Home”

Further reading

Crawford, John, To Fight for the Empire: An Illustrated History of New Zealand and the South African War, 1899-1902, Auckland, Reed Publishing in association with the Historical Branch, Department of Internal Affairs, 1999.
Harper, Glyn, Dark Journey, Auckland, HarperCollinsPublishers, 2007.
Hill, Richard S, The Colonial Frontier Tamed, New Zealand Policing in Transition, 1867-1886, Wellington, Historical Branch, Department of Internal Affairs/GP Books, 1989.
McGibbon, Ian C (ed), The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Military History, Melbourne/Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2000.
Pugsley, Christopher, Gallipoli: The New Zealand Story, Auckland, Reed, 1998.
Pugsley, Christopher, The Anzac Experience: New Zealand, Australia and Empire in the First World War, Auckland, Reed, 2004.
Stowers, Richard, Rough Riders at War, 6th ed, Hamilton, R. Stowers, c2009.


New Zealand History Online
Te Ara
Anzac Day – A Guide for New Zealanders
New Zealand WW100

Sample Guides from The National Archives, London:
Empire and Commonwealth Records held in the UK and Overseas
British Prisoners of the Second World War and the Korean War
Looking for Records of a Person in a Militia