World War Two 1939-1945
We hold a great variety of records of New Zealand participation in the Second World War. Most are Army records, but there are also some Air Force (RNZAF) and Navy (RNZN) records.
Access to some Second World War records can be gained through the War History Branch card index in the Register Room, Wellington. For detailed listings of the WW2 War Archives see Volumes 3, 4 and 5 in Volumes 3, 4 and 5 in Agency note for ADQZ.
Although New Zealand was less prepared for the Second World War than for the First, by mid-1940 some 20,000 men had embarked for overseas service with the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force (2 NZEF). They went first to the Middle East, Greece and Britain. Later many were also to fight in North Africa and Italy.
New Zealand first sent troops into the Pacific, to Fiji, in November 1940. After war was declared against Japan in December 1941, many more troops were sent into the Pacific, though some were later transferred to Italy.
The Home Guard in New Zealand was an important force until the threat from Japan eased in late 1943.
A total of about 105,000 men and women from New Zealand served overseas during the Second World War. Of those nearly 7000 died on active Army service and a total of over 11,000 in all services. Nearly 16,000 were wounded as well. Casualties were a much smaller proportion of service men and women than in the First World War.
WW2 personnel files
WW2 personnel files are held at the New Zealand Defence Force Personnel Archive and not with us. You can contact them to gain access.
(Enemy) during the Second World War see our Citizenship research guide.
Decorations and Awards
Rolls & Citations ADQZ 18886 records with prefix DA 409
Files on specific awards to New Zealanders, including decorations given by other governments. AAYS 8638 subseries 248/ & 323/
Nominal list: ‘Unclaimed commemorative scrolls for those who died on Active Service’ AAYS 20193
Merchant Navy War Medal Card Index ABPL 7461 boxes 47-49
Defaulters, Deserters and Conscientious Objectors
Most of these WW2 files are found in the records of the National Service Department (Special Tribunal and Appeal Board records) and Labour Department District Offices (Conscientious Objector files). Note: the term ‘Conscientious Objector’ applies to both military service and to Trade Union membership
National Service Department- District offices - Restricted.
Personal Files (Auckland) AEJC 18892
Special Tribunal Appeal Registers (Auckland) AEJC 19018
Personal Files (Christchurch) AEJH 18946
Appeals Registers etc. (Dunedin) AEJI 18953
Personal Files (Hamilton) AEJD 18948
Personal Files (Lower Hutt) AEJF 18947
Personal Files (Wellington) AEJG 18952
Army and Labour Departments (Access restrictions may apply)
The New Zealand Home Guard existed from mid-1940. Instituted as part of the Army in August 1941, it was formalised in early 1942, and was wound down in later 1943. At its peak it involved some 123,000 men. Some records, but no full rolls, are held.
Various files, mostly administration AAYS 8638 subseries 281/ & 304/
Appointment to Commissions, Rolls of Officers, etc. ADQZ 18899 subseries 13/7/ and 13/12/
Civilian Narratives – including Home Guard AAQZ 18912 subseries 21/.
Two books about the Home Guard:
Nancy Taylor The Home Front 1986, Vol.1
Peter Cooke Defending New Zealand 2000, Vol.2.
Maori Battalion - 28th NZ Battalion
Personnel Files (so-called ‘Duplicate Files’ are supplementary to the originals still held by NZDF Archives - Restricted. ABFK 18805 Accession W3629
Unit Diaries ADQZ 18886 records DA 68/1/7 – DA 68/1/73: use WAII card indexes in Register Room to identify specific date range for each diary.
Moana-nui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu, VC
Other material on the 28th Maori Battalion is with Māori Affairs, External Affairs and Army Departments files.
WW2 maps from the Second World War Archives ADQZ (formerly WAII)
Italy & North Africa (74 maps) PACB 7375
El Alamein, Monte Cassino & Field Medical Service PACB 7376
Allied garrison at Tobruk AABK W4471 part 1
In the Index Cards maps can also be located through the heading ‘Maps’ or a place name in the system (see above). Unit records also hold maps. See also published works on the Official War Histories.
Most medical records of the 2 NZEF, including official reports, Operational Unit records, Medical Narratives and Medical Unit Diaries, have been collected into one archive series. ADQZ 18903
Embarkation and Disembarkation Rolls
Rolls usually include: name, number, rank, occupation, unit, conjugal status, place of enlistment, last New Zealand address, name & address of next-of-kin. Some are organised by Brigade or similar level unit. See records for the relevant date range in AAYS 8657
Embarkation rolls may be found elsewhere in several departments’ records.
Nominal Rolls – 2NZEF 1940-1942 AAYO W3120 box 1 parts 2 - 9
AAYS 8638 subseries 349/
ADQZ 18886 Embarkation Roll for keyword
Soldiers Returning from Overseas 1940-1941 – Nominal Rolls ADBO 16141 record 11/6/14 Restricted.
The Card index in the register room in Wellington, provides a detailed chronology of embarkation and disembarkation.
WW2 and J-Force (in Japan 1946-1948): mainly unit histories and administrative files, but some files include details of individual nurses. AAYS 8682 items 33-41
Two major series of Second World War (Pacific) photographs:
Official photographs taken by RNZAF photographers in NZ and the Pacific. ADQA 17263 albums and photographs
Semi-official and private photographs, Pacific: mostly army (2 NZEF) but also some Navy (RNZ) ADQZ 18905
Smaller collections include:
Māori in armed forces (includes Māori Battalion, Vietnam & Singapore) AAMK W3495 items 23f- 23q]
Women at War AAUR W3263 box 1 item a
Works Department Official War History
Photographs ADQZ 18912 record 128 parts 1, 2, 3 & 4
NZ Patriotic Fund Board – Photographs: WW2 & after AAYO 25284
Photographs can also be found through the Second World War subject card index in Wellington.
Other institutions, such as the Alexander Turnbull Library and service museums, hold significant collections of Second World War photographs.
For more information on finding photographs in our archives see our Photography research guide.
Prisoners of War – New Zealanders Overseas
Records relating to people who were Prisoners of War (POW) or Civilian Internees overseas.
Prisoner of War section – London ADQZ 18899 box 21
Questionnaires filled in 1947 by ex-prisoners of war and ex-internees. ADQZ 18902 boxes 50-53
Casualties: Prisoners of War in enemy hands AAYS 8638 subseries 339/
Evacuation (includes Prisoners of War) AAYS 8638 subseries 357
NZ Missing & POW Agency; Civilian Internees (including merchant seamen) Card Index 1939-1945 AAYS 8666 item 41
Allied Prisoners of War and Civilians in Enemy Territory ACIE 8798 subseries 88
Civilian Internees & evacuees ACGO 8333 subseries 171
Major Kippenberger’s Personal Files 1945-1954: ex-prisoners of war April 1949 to November 1950 ACGO 8399 box/item 2/9
2 NZEF members reported missing and prisoners of war 1941-1957 ADBO 16141 record 11/6/21
Grants to New Zealand ex-prisoners of war ADBO 16141 record 11/6/38
- Prisoners of War and Internees – in New Zealand
Rehabilitation and Pensions after WW2
Our holdings are limited. They include:
Former Servicemen’s Rehabilitation files listed by name. Restricted. AADK 20203
Some servicemen suffering from shell-shock, etc. spent time in the Queen Mary Hospital, Hanmer Springs. See Guide: Mental Health.
Pensions and other payments and assistance for personnel who returned to New Zealand, Niue, Rarotonga, and adjacent islands ADBO 16141 subseries 11/.
The War History Branch card catalogue, located in the Wellington Reading Room, provides an excellent means of accessing Second World War and J-Force (Japan) records by subject.
Unit diaries of the 2 NZEF were collected to provide material for New Zealand’s Official War Histories. These Diaries are listed under Unit name. See a list in Volumes 4 and 5 of the ADQZ agency description.
Each diary usually covers a calendar month. Some are available on microfilm. It may be necessary to use WAII card indexes in the Register Room to identify specific date range for each diary.
Two card indexes for graves of WW2 service personnel
War Graves Index of Servicemen who died overseas: arranged by place of burial but there is an index to these records. AAAC 17726
Non-War Graves Index of deceased ex-service personnel (alphabetically) AAAC 21829
Other relevant records are:
War Graves (various formats) ACGO 8398
War Graves, monuments, etc. ACGO 8333 subseries 7/
War Pensions and War Veterans Application, Bursaries, Funeral Grants, Registers etc. AADK 7916 Restricted.
Information about most war graves can be obtained from
Last updated on 12 May 2022