Detailed Description of First World War Embarkation Roll
The Embarkation Roll contain personal details of service personnel and also identifies the units with which they embarked from Australia in the First World War. The following information describes the various information fields contained in the rolls.
Port of Embarkation
Personnel usually embarked from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Hobart or Fremantle. The port of embarkation does not necessarily indicate the state from which they originated.
Ship of Embarkation
Most ships were ex-passenger ships provided by Britain, although a few were captured German ships. Ships were identified with the following prefixes:
- HMAT - His Majesty's Australian Transport
- SS - Steamship
- RMS - Royal Mail Ship
Date of Embarkation
Ships usually sailed on the date recorded on the Embarkation Roll or shortly afterwards.
The unit at embarkation is usually the unit in which personnel enlisted, whereas the unit recorded in the Nominal Roll reflects the final unit with which they served. Many units had four or more sub-sections. For example, Infantry Battalions had a Headquarters Section, 4 to 8 Companies and often Machine Gun, Transport and Medical Sections. Infantry Battalions, Light Horse Regiments and Pioneers Battalions, however this was not the case for most other units.
Subsequent to embarkation most units required reinforcements. Batches of reinforcements were usually numbered. Most units required continuing reinforcements throughout the war. For example, the first sixteen Infantry Battalions, each with an original strength of 1,000 men, required 25-26 batches of reinforcements of some 150 personnel each. From 1916 onwards, many units were formed overseas from personnel already serving and therefore rolls only exist for subsequent reinforcements actually formed in Australia.
Regimental numbers were allotted to non-commissioned "other ranks" but not to officers or nurses. Officers are usually listed in the rolls before those with regimental numbers. Regimental numbers are usually sequential but out of sequence numbers often appear, especially at the beginning or end of a sequence. Regimental numbers were generally not unique, however in 1917-1918 "general reinforcements" were raised and these were allotted unique numbers in the range of 50000-80000. Each Infantry unit, Pioneer Battalion, Light Horse Regiment and Machine Gun Company issued their own ranges of regimental numbers, which resulted in many men being allocated the same number. Other major formations such as Artillery, Engineers, Signals, Medical and Service Corps allotted unique numbers within their Corps, however these numbers often duplicated those issued by other formations. On transfer to another unit, men were either allocated a new number or retained their original number but with an alphabetical suffix e.g. 2399A. Regimental numbers are often prefixed or suffixed with letters. Some of the more common are:
- R - Indicating a re-enlistment
- N - Previous service with the Royal Australian Naval Bridging Train
- A or B - Indicates the number had already been allotted in the given unit to another soldier.
Symbols are also used to designate embarkations of a unit when one or more ships were involved. Both the ship and the personnel embarking on that ship are prefixed with the same symbol.
Names are usually in alphabetical order. Names such as Steven/Stephen, Green/Greene, Philip/Phillip and so on are often misspelt or the 'given' names transposed. Sometimes only the initials are given. Many soldiers are also known to have used an alias.
The rank at embarkation will often differ from that at the end of service.
The minimum age for enlistment was 21, or 18 with the written permission of parents. The age given by many enlistees is known to be incorrect.
Trade or Calling
This was the trade, calling or occupation in civil life as given by the enlistee.
Married or Single
Three abbreviations were used in this column:
- S - Single
- M - Married
- W - Widowed
MD (Military District)
Australia was divided into six Military Districts:
- MD1 - Queensland
- MD2 - New South Wales
- MD3 - Victoria
- MD4 - South Australia
- MD5 - Western Australia
- MD6 - Tasmania
The Military District column was not always used and does not appear on many of the rolls.
Address at Date of Enrolment
This contains the enlistee's address at the date of joining.
Next of Kin and Address
The next of kin (NOK) could be anyone nominated by the soldier enlisting. Soldiers usually listed their mother, father, wife or other close family member. Usually, the next of kin was allotted a portion of the soldier's Daily Pay, excluding Deferred Pay.
Several abbreviations were used in this column, for instance:
- RC - Roman Catholic
- CofE - Church of England
- Pres - Presbyterian
- Meth - Methodist
- Cong - Congregational
- SA/ Salva - Salvation Army
Date of Joining
This was the date of joining the unit and was not necessarily the date of joining the AIF. The date of joining the AIF is given on the First World War Nominal Roll.
AMF Unit (Australian Military Force)
Compulsory military training for men had been introduced in 1910 and by July 1914 many thousands of men had some degree of military training. Service with the AMF was quite distinct from service with the AIF which was completely voluntary.
On embarkation the Daily Pay rate was increased by a Deferred Pay amount which varied according to rank. Allotment of part or all of the Daily Pay could be made to any nominated person, usually the next of kin. Deferred Pay could only be collected on completion of service with the AIF or, in the event of death paid to the next of kin.
- The temporary award of "Acting Rank", which appears to have been unpaid and only awarded for the duration of the voyage.
- Details of any previous service, such as unit, regimental number or a previous embarkation.