Project aims to count Kiwis who fought at Gallipoli

Project aims to count Kiwis who fought at Gallipoli

A combined New Zealand-US project is underway to analyse the service records of all our soldiers who served in World War I.

It should finally answer some long-standing questions, including how many Kiwis actually served at Gallipoli.

Deep within the library of the Auckland War Memorial Museum, a digital revolution is taking place over 100 years in the making.

The museum's Online Cenotaph has embarked on the daunting task of collecting the service records of New Zealanders from all wars and conflicts, and its coordinator, Victoria Passau, says it's extensive.

"It's a pretty massive undertaking," she says. "We have about 140,000 records in there at the moment, and they date from the New Zealand wars up until Afghanistan in the 2000s, and about 110,000 of those are from the First World War."

But Ms Passau and the small team are now getting some much needed help from more than 13,000 kilometres away at the University of Minnesota. He's a professor of population studies by the name of Evan Roberts.

"We started out, a group of university researchers, and we were interested in measuring the ANZACs and looking at the long-term changes in health in New Zealand. And if you want to look at health in the long haul, there's not a lot of sources; prison and military records are kind of your only thing."

The Measuring the Anzacs project relies on citizen transcribers to do the bulk of the work -- ordinary Kiwis who have become their own army of digital historians.

"Bringing the community into helping with scientific research we can create a full transcription of these guys' files and find out a whole lot more about them," Professor Evans says.

Ms Passau says the public has added another dimension to the project.

"To allow the public to add content directly into the records has made it so much easier. We've had almost 35,000 pieces of information added since January 2015, and that's five years' worth of work."

But there are still many unanswered questions from New Zealand's World War I experience. One of the most obvious is -- how many New Zealanders served on Gallipoli? This will come to light once everything is transcribed.

It's hoped the Measuring the Anzacs project will be completed by 2019, but the work will continue for staff at the Online Cenotaph.

They're still to collect data from around 150,000 New Zealanders who served in World War II.