New Zealand WWI service records opened to public

Millions of WWI service records have been opened up to the public, allowing families to see their ancestors' actions during the conflict.

Ancestry.com content manager Jason Reeve put the collection together using the records from all the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) staff who served during WWI in France, along with other Allied troops.

The files have been made available online as part of collaboration with Department of Internal Affairs and Archives New Zealand.

"As you can imagine, they have everything: poignant, tragic, human, brave, inspiring, warts and all!" Mr Reeve told NZME.

"It is interesting, if this was your ancestor, to look at a record like this and see what this individual had been through and help grasp that it is not just 'wow, fantastic, he won a medal', it is much deeper than that."

Every soldier has a file, which can be up to 30 pages long - and some of the contents may come as a shock to families.

The information shows many soldiers awarded medals for heroic conduct were also punished for binge-drinking and causing mischief.

"This is a pretty common sort of offence that you see within those military forces; taking a leave of absence or being drunk and disorderly are the common offences we saw during this time," Mr Reeve told NZME.

Records including everything "from incredible bravery, to disobeying orders; drunkenness, desertion, rioting, injuries, and of course in many cases, how they were killed in action, or died of disease."

They are available on Ancestry.com for free until Wednesday.

Newshub.