Medal Search

Scores of medals and items of military memorabilia are lost & found, bought & sold, or stolen every year …

Every year countless medals and military ephemera of all types are lost and found throughout New Zealand and around the world; many thousands more are bought, sold, swapped and auctioned to the highest bidder for profit.  Theft by opportunist burglars of theft to order is a sad reality of medals that are no adequately safeguarded.  Medal collecting and trading is also big business.  As the years pass the number of medals in circulation continue to diminish as collectors and traders capitalise on their increasing value for investment purposes.  This also means that the likelihood of finding lost family medals becomes harder without a good deal of luck.  

If your family has lost medals that were known to have existed and in the care of someone in your family, there is a good chance they could now be in the hands of someone else, anywhere in the world.

However, medals are still found or handed in every day.  Some of the more common places medals can be found are:  weekend markets, second-hand dealers or antique shops, coin and medal dealers, via Internet trading (eBay, Trade-Me etc), during house moves, with the personal effects of a deceased person or in their estate.  Medals are also dug up, found in waterways or the sea, on the road, at the dump and so forth. 

Whether accidentally misplaced or permanently lost, abandoned (thrown away or dumped), sold or given away, the chances of recovering medals once they have left their custody or ownership, is remote.  If your missing medals include a state order (e.g. QSO), a gallantry or meritorious service decoration, or some other rarity, your  chances of recovery are even less as the value of these is well known by many in the community.  Worse still, if your medals were un-named you have no chance of getting them back since without a name it is extremely difficult to establish the link of ownership even if found.   

Medals Header

Looking for your family’s missing medals …

The Internet provides a vast array of information that can help you research your ancestors military and war service and the medals they were awarded.  A combination of free internet information and websites, government department information and resources, and commercial (pay per view) research tools provide plenty of options to assist a researcher.

Starting your search 

Before starting your search check our Medals~FOUND page for any of your family medals among those we currently hold. 

The following guidelines will provide a proven sequence of research to find the primary information you require when building a picture of any New Zealand military veteran, their medals, family and descendant kin.  This same research methodology can be followed for NZ veterans serving with the military forces of other countries, e.g. New Zealanders who served with the Australian or British armed services.  In most cases familiarity with knowing where to look makes further in-depth research possible.  

Understanding the basics …

Identity Discs (or ‘Dog Tags’)

Dog Tags (colloq – ‘dead man’s meat tags’) is the informal but common term for the identification discs worn by military personnel, because of their resemblance to animal registration tags. They are worn about the neck.  Each tag is impressed with identical personal information about the service person such as, Service (WW1 – NZ Mil. Forces; WW2 – NZ), identity number (which also indicated the unit until 1916), surname and initials, blood type and religion (if applicable).  Many early tags were personalised/home-made or manufactured by commercial traders as mementos whilst on leave.

WW1 ‘dog tags” were made of pressed tin (a circular disc).  One disc only was issued from 1914-15;  in 1916 two discs were compulsorily issued.  From the latter part of WW1 identity discs became ‘tags’ – they were made from fireproof, non-degradable fibrous material of different shapes: Number 1 Tag  (a red circular disc) and Number 2 Tag (green/grey octagonal shaped tag).   They commonly contained identical information on both – one tag (circular) was designed to be collected from a soldier’s body for notification purposes, and the second Tag (octagonal) designed to remain with the corpse when battle conditions prevent it from being immediately recovered.  This Tag was also used for identifying the contents of a coffin, being nailed to the lid.

The New Zealand Expeditionary Force “Dog Tag” format:

  • Service or Deploying Force, e.g.  RNZN / RNZAF / NZMR / 2NZEF
  • Service Number
  • Surname & Initial(s)
  • Religious Preference [RC = Roman Catholic; ANG or CE = Anglican, etc]
  • Blood Group, e.g.  B. POS


  • NZ. MIL. FORCES or NZ from 1899 until 1938.  From 1939 – 1945 2NZEF; NZ from 1946 onwards  
  • 12/854 until 1916 and then, 12854
  • ANG.
  • B. POS  

nz dog tag ww1new-zealand-dog-tags





Military Personnel Identity Numbers

Since the Anglo-Boer War, soldiers have been primarily identified by a number assigned to them to avoid confusion of identity e.g.  between Pte. AG Bloggs and Pte. AB Bloggs, and for security purposes.  Due to the relatively small numbers that went to the Boer War, a 1-4 digit number prefixed wit ‘SA’ was assigned to each soldier.  A revised system was required for WW1 due to the huge numbers of personnel involved.  The following will help you to understand the systems used for identifying personnel and formations within the NZEF (WW1) and  2NZEF (WW2).  After WW2 military organisations have used much the same personnel identifying system with only minor variations.  Some formations, e.g. mounted formations (NZ Mounted Rifles) and some of the soldier ranks (e.g. Lance Sergeant) were made obsolete in order to reflect new roles and unit structures of the post WW1 New Zealand armed services.

Interpreting Identity Numbers

First World War – NZEF

On the outbreak of WW1, the New Zealand Armed Forces adopted a system of numbering soldiers for identification and security purposes by assigning each a ‘regimental number’.  Each soldier’s regimental number was initially based upon their enlistment/assigned unit.  This system, known as the ‘bar’ numbering system, remained in use until the 10th Reinforcements was to be formed at which time the unit identifying number & ‘bar’ were replaced with a simple 4 figure numbering system. 

The unit identification number (1-26) preceded the ‘bar’ (/) and was  followed by a 4 digit number. The smaller the ‘after bar’ number, the earlier the enlistment. e.g.:

7 / 55 = Canterbury Mounted Rifles (very early enlistment)

16 / 1537 = Maori Battalion / 1537

Note:  Soldiers who went to Gallipoli usually had a ‘bar’ service number.

Occasionally a service number was succeeded by the letter ‘A’ or ‘B’ e.g.:  6432 A.  The ‘A’ usually denoted soldiers who had enlisted in the UK, and ‘B’ denoted a service number that was a duplicate of one that had already been assigned e.g.:  7719 B

Second World War – 2NZEF

NZ Army – numbers were generally of five or six figures, the first two numbers in the early years of the war denoting the year of enlistment, e.g. * 425379.

RNZAF – service numbers of personnel who enlisted between 1939 and 1943 were preceded by NZ, e.g. NZ 395379 and later 438653, which denoted the year of enlistment.

Royal Navy (NZ Division) – New Zealanders serving as members of the Royal Navy were assigned a RN number, usually a letter and a four of five digit number, e.g. P 3064.  The letter denoted the home port the sailor was based, in this case, Portsmouth.

* The term ‘Regimental Number’ is commonly used in Army circles and is appropriate to use when referencing  identity numbers for soldiers only; Navy and Air Force identity numbers are referred to simply as, Service Number

WW1 – NZEF Unit Identification Numbers (prefix fm 1914-1916)

1 – Samoan Advance Force 14 – Army Service Corp Divisional Train
2 – New Zealand Artillery 15 – New Zealand Headquarters
3 – New Zealand Medical Corps 16 – Maori Battalion
4 – New Zealand Engineers 17 – Veterinary Corps
5 – New Zealand Army Service Corps 18 – Chaplains Department
6 – Canterbury Infantry 19 – Samoan Relief Infantry
7 – Canterbury Mounted Rifles 20 – Samoan Mounted Relief
8 – Otago Infantry 21 – Pay Department
9 – Otago Mounted Rifles 22 – Nursing Corps
10 – Wellington Infantry 23 – 1st Battalion, Rifle Brigade
11 – Wellington Mounted Rifles 24 – 2nd Battalion, Rifle Brigade
12 – Auckland Infantry 25 – 3rd Battalion, Rifle Brigade
13 – Auckland Mounted Rifles 26 – 4th Battalion, Rifle Brigade

WW1 – NZEF Formation, Unit and Rank Abbreviations

NZEF New Zealand Expeditionary Force
NZEF (Samoa Adv. F) NZ Samoan Advance Force
NZRB NZ Rifle Brigade
NZMR / BDE. NZ Mounted Rifles or Rifle Brigade
NZMR NZ Mounted Rifles
NZFA NZ Field Artillery
NZMGC, R, S NZ Machine Gun Corps, Regiment, Section
NZMC NZ Medical Corps
NZE New Zealand Engineers (e.g. Tunneling Company)
NZANS NZ Army Nursing Service
NZVS NZ Volunteer Sisterhood
 VI (NZ) Corps. e.g. 6th (NZ) Corps
3 Bgde., Bde. e.g. 3rd Brigade
Regt. Regiment
Battn., Btn., Bn. Battalion
Comp., Coy. Company
Pln., Pl. Platoon
Btty., Bty. Battery (of guns – approx 3-6)
Att., Det. Attachment; Detachment
Trp., Tp. Troop 
Sectn., Sect. Section (6-8 soldiers)
3 Reinf. e.g. 3rd Reinforcements
AIB Auckland Infantry Battalion
WIB Wellington Infantry Battalion
CIB Canterbury Infantry Battalion
OIB Otago Infantry Battalion
AIR Auckland Infantry Regiment
WIR Wellington Infantry Regiment
CIR Canterbury Infantry Regiment
OIR Otago Infantry Regiment
AMR Auckland Mounted Rifles
WMR Wellington Mounted Rifles
CMR Canterbury Mounted Rifles
OMR Otago Mounted Rifles
Pte., Pvt. Private  (all Corps)
Rflmn., Rflm. Rifleman (Infantry)
Trpr., Tpr. Trooper (Mounted Rifles – Infantry)
Bmdr., Bdr. Bombardier (Artillery)
Spr. Sapper (Engineer; Tunneller)
Drvr., Dvr. Driver (Service Corps)
Sig. Signaller (Signal Corps)
Gnr. Gunner (Artillery)
Pnr. Pioneer (an Infantry field engineer)
Bglr. Bugler
Tptr. Trumpeter
NCOs Non-Commissioned Officers (collective – Junior or Senior)
JNCO Junior Non-Commissioned Officer (e.g. Cpl >)
L/Cpl., LCpl. Lance Corporal (first NCO rank)
Corp., Cpl. Corporal
Farr. Farrier – eg, Farrier Cpl
SNCO Senior Non-Commissioned Officer (e.g. Sjt >)
L/Sjt., LSjt. Lance Sergeant
Sjt., Sgt. Sergeant
Q.M/Sjt., Q.M.S Quartermaster Sergeant
R.Q.M., R.Q.M.Sjt., R.Q.M.S  Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant
S/Sjt., SSjt., SSgt. Staff Sergeant
C/Sjt., CSjt. Colour Sergeant
S/Maj, Sjt. Maj, Sgt. Maj. Sergeant Major (an appointment, not a rank)
WO I, II, or III Warrant Officer, Class 1, 2 or 3 (not a commissioned rank)
S.S.M, B.S.M, C.S.M, R.S.M.  Squadron, Battery, Company, Regimental – Sergeant Major (Warrant Officers)
Bdmr. Bandmaster
A.D.C. Aide-de-Comp (appointment)
Adjt., Adj. Adjutant
C.O. Commanding Officer
Offr. Officer (commissioned rank)
2nd Lt., 2Lt. Second Lieutenant (first commissioned rank)
Lt., Lieut. Lieutenant
Capt., Capt. (QM) Captain; Captain Quartermaster
Maj., Maj. (QM) Major; Major Quartermaster
Lt. Col. Lieutenant Colonel
Col. Colonel
Brig. Brigadier

Military Personnel Records 

Common Abbreviations found in all Service Records

Some common abbreviations you might come across when researching New Zealanders in the First and Second World Wars:

  • AA – anti-aircraft
  • ADS – advanced dressing station
  • AEF – American Expeditionary Force
  • AFC – Australian Flying Corps
  • AIF – Australian Imperial Force
  • ANZAC – Australian and New Zealand Army Corps
  • AWOL – absent without leave
  • BEF – British Expeditionary Force
  • BL – breech-loading
  • CB – confined to barracks
  • CCS – casualty clearing station
  • cwt – hundredweight (50.8 kg)
  • DCM – Distinguished Conduct Medal
  • DFC – Distinguished Flying Cross
  • DSM – Distinguished Service Medal
  • DSO – Distinguished Service Order
  • EEF – Egyptian Expeditionary Force
  • FANY – First Aid Nursing Yeomanry
  • FP1 – Field Punishment No 1
  • FP2 – Field Punishment No 2
  • HE – high-explosive
  • GHQ – general headquarters
  • HMNZHS – His Majesty’s New Zealand Hospital Ship
  • HMNZT – His Majesty’s New Zealand Transport
  • HMS – His Majesty’s Ship
  • HMT – His Majesty’s Transport
  • HS – Hospital Ship
  • ICC – Imperial Camel Corps
  • IHL – imprisonment with hard labour
  • IJN – Imperial Japanese Navy
  • IWGC – Imperial War Graves Commission
  • MDS – main dressing station
  • MEF – Mediterranean Expeditionary Force
  • MID – mentioned in despatches
  • Mk – Mark (as in type)
  • ML – muzzle-loading
  • MO – medical officer
  • NCO – non-commissioned officer
  • NYDN – not yet diagnosed – nervous
  • PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder
  • QAIMNS – Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service
  • QF – quick-firing
  • RAF – Royal Air Force
  • RAP – regimental aid post
  • RFC – Royal Flying Corps
  • RNAS – Royal Naval Air Service
  • RSA – Returned Soldiers’/Services’ Association
  • SMS – Seiner Majestät Schiff (‘His Majesty’s Ship’)
  • SS – steam ship
  • TSS – twin screw steamer
  • USSCo – Union Steam Ship Company
  • VAD – Voluntary Aid Detachment
  • VC – Victoria Cross
  • VD – venereal disease
  • WFF – Western Frontier Force
  • YMCA – Young Men’s Christian Association

Cenotaph Database – First World War Military Service Records

The best place to start your research is here – by entering the service number or surname/initials of your veteran into the Auckland Museum’s Cenotaph Database here all like surnames in the database will be delivered. It contains both Anglo-Boer (South African) War and WW1 service records of servicemen and women which can be accessed via this site or the Auckland War Memorial Museum website.  It will soon also be available on the Discovering Anzacs website (see below).  Select the name or service number you want and a Cenotaph Record with the basic details of origin, enlistment and service dates & locations, where served, and fate (if killed) will be shown.  At the bottom of the Record you will see  Archives NZ source / Military Personnel File which indicates the presence of a digitised personal file of the veteran which you can access through that link.

Service records range in volume from a few pages providing sparse details of enlistment and discharge, while others are very comprehensive.  If a soldier was hospitalised the record will contain these details but exactly where the soldier fought and what action he was involved in is usually not included. 

The New Zealand Government has digitise all WW1 personnel files to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the start of WW1 making them freely available on-line.  The records also include New Zealanders who served in the Royal Navy and Royal Flying Corps as well as doctors and nurses and the numerous volunteer who supported operations at the front.

Files from the Queen Mary’s Auxiliary Corps, the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry and Red Cross volunteers include such information as: next of kin, enlistment, embarkation and discharge dates, length of service in New Zealand and overseas, postings to military units, promotion, medal entitlements and decorations, gratuity payments made to them or their family after the war.  Marriage, children and address details are also often recorded.

Second World War Military Service Records

The same resource can also be used to track down a WWII service person. Most WWII records have not yet been digitized but they can be requested for a fee via the Archway site or from the NZ Defence Force Archives.  For this fee the file will be digitized, loaded onto Archway and thereafter be available to anyone.   The Cenotaph Record page should also have the link but as mentioned above a few files are missing.    

No Records Found

If you find that there is no record of your ancestor veteran on the Cenotaph website, if a file exists (a few soldiers have no records at all) you can access the file through the NZ Archives (Archway) website unless it remains classified for some reason.

Archives New Zealand (Archway) – military records from all wars 

Currently the best resource/repository for researching any New Zealand WW1 and WW2 servicemen and women’s military records is the NZ Archives Archway searching aid at 

You can also access the names of the hundred or so persons who served in all three conflicts – Anglo-Boer War, WW1 and WW2 through New Zealand History Online here 

Medal Records – NZ and Australia

For those interested in the WW1 medals awarded to an individual, the first page of all WW1 NZ service persons files contain a stamp indicating the medals issued and the date completed.  Sometimes details of an address to where the medals/plaque & scroll were sent is included.  The page should bear a signature acknowledgement that the medals were received (either the soldier’s signature or a paper receipt if they returned), or signed off by the administrator if issued sent to next of kin.  For soldiers invalided out of the service, an illuminated lithograph NZ Military Forces Certificate of Service was issued, and a numbered Silver War/Wound Badge (SWB) – badges issued to New Zealand soldiers were prefixed with “NZ“.  The number was not the same as the soldier’s service number.

For WW1 Australian service persons, the Australian War Memorial (AWM) website contains these records.  The last page of the file (sometimes the first page of the file) generally will show three stamps which are in the shape of the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.  These stamps will have a number on them to indicate the schedule number which authorised the award of the medal, who it was delivered to, and who signed for it. If the initials ‘NE’ are on the stamp this means the individual was ‘Not Entitled’ to receive the medal. There may also be copies of the receipts for the medal. 

If an individual was awarded a bravery or gallantry medal, the initials of the award appear on the file, e.g. MM, DCM, MSM etc and a copy of the recommendation, citation (or wording) may also be included.

Research Assistance

“WW100” – WW1 Research Tools 

The following site is an excellent source | WW1 Research Tools  and links the primary research facilities in New Zealand and Australia, and provides a detailed methodology to research New Zealand, Australian military and Mercantile Marine personnel records from the Anglo-Boer (South African) War through to and including WW2.  You can also use the following link:

“Discovering Anzacs”

This website is jointly maintained by Archives New Zealand and the National Archives of Australia.  It has a unique profile of every Anzac soldier who enlisted in the First World War, linked to their service record (where these exist) here:

Other sites that will help to build the picture of your WW1 ancestor …

  • Mapping Our Anzacs: is an Australian site and is a very good for finding records of New Zealanders who served in the Australian Imperial Force (1st  AIF & 2nd AIF), particularly Gallipoli veterans, and can be accessed directly from this page.

  • ANZACs Online: is another Australian on-line military museum which displays photographs, diaries and letters, relating to the many Australians who served in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) during WW1. 

  • You can also find a number of other useful and related links here: Useful Links

Unit War Diaries

An individual’s service record does not usually provide much information about the actions an individual fought in.  If a soldier was wounded or killed the record might only say that it occurred at Gallipoli or in France.

The unit war diaries of the unit an individual served in might provided more detail about what actually occurred.  The unit war diaries are held at Archives New Zealand: and are accessible on request.  By comparing the date of wounding or death that is given in the service record and locating the corresponding date in the war diary should provide additional information.

Genealogy websites

All of these records tend to provide narrow insights about an individual at various points in time. It is the ability to follow the person as they marry, move from one address to another, have children and who they live with that provides the clues for Medals Reunited New Zealand to eventually make contact with the current generation.  

Genealogy based websites like – zealand (which focuses on New Zealanders and Australians) or Find My Past: are essential for these searches by providing access to historical records that would otherwise not be available.  

Electoral rolls, phone directories, immigration records, embarkation rolls, prisoners of war lists, orders & decorations awarded, medal rolls and rolls of honour also help to build a veteran’s story of their past which we can use to answer the mysteries and questions of the present. 

Government Websites and Newspapers

  • Historical Births, Deaths and Marriage: These records can be found on the NZ Internal Affairs website at:  There are time limitations that limit access associated with these searches and an actual Certificate or a Print Out is required for complete dates and detail.  Historical record access is free however, for privacy reasons, researching current generations will require a fee for access, and/or for copies of certificates and printouts.  Print Outs cost less than a certificate and often contain more information than the official Certificate.
  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission: provides information about where servicemen that died are buried and the next of kin details.  The CWGC can also provide a photograph of the cemetery and headstone, on request (small fee applies).
  • National Library of New Zealand: provides access to documents and photographs that could be invaluable in your research.  Through this site you can access the Alexander Turnbull Library Collections: which hold New Zealand’s national documentary heritage collections, including both published and unpublished items.
  • Papers Past: contains more than three million pages of digitized New Zealand newspapers and periodicals.  The collection covers the years 1839 to 1945 and includes 83 publications from all regions of New Zealand.   It is a great source for names that have made the news and often provides the names of other family members, e.g. in Honour Rolls, Casualty Lists, birth, marriage death notices, etc.
  • Trove: The National Library of Australia has an equivalent website called Trove which provides access to newspaper archives:







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