What's in the Files?

Military service files are highly specialised records that can be difficult to follow for those who don’t have a lot of experience with them. They typically consist of several key documents:

The History Sheet records brief personal details. It includes next-of-kin information (which may have been updated from time to time), a summary of the date of enlistment, embarkation and discharge dates and length of service spent at home and overseas. However, the main part of the History Sheet records an individual’s postings to military units. Promotions, medal entitlements, decorations, particulars of marriage and children’s details are also often recorded.

The Attestation Record was completed on or close to the particular day an individual entered the service. It contains additional personal information, such as address and civilian occupation, and their signature which can be very useful for verification purposes.

The Casualty Sheets are not quite what the name first suggests. They were the record sheets that travelled with the service person from posting to posting. They record similar information to that contained on the history sheet, but usually in greater detail. Unfortunately, not all of these have survived, but we will certainly include them if they appear in the file.

The War Services Gratuity Assessment records the payments that were made to individual service persons or their dependants after the war, calculated according to their length of service both at home and overseas. It also confirms details such as service numbers and the Arm(s) of the Service in which an individual served (Army, Navy or Air Force).


The greatest obstacle to understanding these records are the numerous and occasionally difficult to read abbreviations.

We will provide you with a list of the most commonly used, but we do not have a complete list. Further lists of abbreviations can be found in military dictionaries and the official war histories available from libraries. You may also find help at your local Returned Services’ Association, museum or historical society.

You can find lists of some of the most commonly used abbreviations here:

Purging of Files and Microfilms

In accordance with the archival legislation pertaining at the time, almost all of the files were purged in order to reduce the number of documents and make more room for storage. Although most of these documents were microfilmed before they were destroyed, the films were often of poor quality or have deteriorated over time, resulting in poor quality reproduction.

We will indicate those portions of the file which were microfilmed and you can be assured that we have taken the trouble to make the best possible copies. The purging was undertaken before the documents arrived at NZDF Archives. Current archival legislation does not permit us to purge files.


Unfortunately we do not have any photographs of either individuals or units.

Major General Sir Bernard Freyberg, VC [Detail] Artist: Peter McIntyre Date: 28 March 1943 Archives New Zealand/Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga Wellington Office [Archives Reference: AAAC 898 NCWA 15]

Major General Sir Bernard Freyberg, VC
Artist: Peter McIntyre
Date: 28 March 1943
Archives New Zealand / Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga. Wellington Office. [Archives Reference: AAAC 898 NCWA 15]

This page was last reviewed on 24 May 2010.