These files consist of approximately 32,000 individual case files of Australian personnel reported as wounded or missing during the First World War.

Background

The files were created by the Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau of the Australian Red Cross, which was a branch of the British Red Cross. The Bureau, which commenced operation in October 1915, sought to identify, investigate and respond to enquiries made regarding the fate of Australian personnel. It investigated the majority of personnel posted as wounded and missing on official Army lists, as well as written enquiries from concerned relatives and friends. In 2002, the files were digitised to preserve the fragile original documents and to provide greater public access to this valuable and unique information.

Coverage

While the bulk of the records relate to those in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), there are a few that relate to Australians wounded, missing or captured while serving with the Merchant Navy or as civilians in occupied countries.

Content

The most complete files typically include:

  • The Red Cross Bureau's Searchers' report.
  • Eye-witness accounts by men who knew the soldier concerned or statements by men who served in the same unit or the same action as that soldier. These statements may include such information as: the circumstances of the death or wounding; a physical description of the soldier and the place of burial. The truth and accuracy of this information was dependent on the memory and reliability of the soldier giving the statement.
  • Letters sent to the Bureau by relatives or friends.
  • The Bureau's replies to enquiries.
  • Correspondence between the Bureau and the wounded or missing man.

Note: Sometimes an image of a page appears that seems to be in the wrong file. Often old paper was re-used, and whereas the front of the page refers to the person concerned, the reverse often relates to someone totally different. These images have been retained as they represent the physical integrity of the original file.

Search tips

Name

The search will automatically search using a wildcard at the end of the name you search. For example a search using John will return results with John, Johns, Johnston, Johnstone, etc.

You can also search using wildcards in the middle of a name. If unsure of spelling, use an asterisk to replace the letters in question. For example a search using Sm*th will return results with Smith and Smyth and a search using M*Donald will return results with McDonald and MacDonald.

To search for an exact phrase, enclose the name in quotation marks. This will return results with the name in the order you have specified. For example a search using “John Smith” will return results with John Smith, Robert John Smith, etc.

Service number

The search will match the number you enter into this field. So if you search using 10 with will return all results with 10 in the service number field.

If you are unsure of a single digit within a service number you can search using a full stop in place of that digit. For example a search using 10.7 will return 1007, 1017, 1027, 1037, etc.

If you are unsure of more than one digit within a service number you can search using an asterix in place of the digits. For example a search using 1*7 will return 17, 107, 1007, 10007, etc.

Unit name

The search will automatically search using a wildcard at the end of the terms you search. For example a search using 2 Batt will return 2 Batt, 2 Battalion, 2 Battery, 2nd Battalion, 21 Batt, 21 Battalion, 2/1 Battalion, 2/1st Battalion, etc.

Please note that unit names are not entered in the database consistently so a unit name may be recorded in a number of ways. For example the 2 Battalion could be entered as 2 Batt, 2nd Batt, 2 Battalion, 2nd Battalion, 2 Battalion Australian Infantry, 2nd Battalion Australian Infantry.

Please note names have been indexed in the form by which the soldier was officially known. This can sometimes vary from that actually recorded in the Bureau's file.

Further information

Enquiries relating to information contained in the Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau files should be directed to the Research Centre.

These files form part of a Private Records series known as 1DRL/0428. This series also contains general Red Cross administrative files and files relating to the Australian Red Cross Prisoner of War [POW] Department. These files have not been digitised, but can be viewed in the Research Centre.

Please note personal service records are not held by the Australian War Memorial. They can be obtained through the National Archives of Australia.