Around 22,000 medals were never claimed by World War II veterans

A new report estimates 22,000 medals were never claimed by Kiwi veterans who served overseas in World War Two.

The New Zealand Defence Force is encouraging whanau to collect medals on behalf of their relatives.

Though the research has found some soldiers didn't want them.

It was the greatest conflict the world had ever seen, and New Zealand was right amongst it. 

More than 100,000 Kiwis left behind loved ones to serve overseas in World War Two. 

Among them was Andrew Neil Macdonald, his daughter Helen still remembers the impact the war had on him. 

"The week before dad was due to leave you could hear him crying in the night, he didn't want to go. He wasn't a soldier or a war man," Helen told Newshub. 

Macdonald was sent to Egypt in 1943 where he served as a tank radio operator. 

He returned home in 1946, and died in 1997 without any formal recognition of his service.

Back then most World War Two veterans had to apply for their medals.

"In his own words William, the bastards know where to find me, to call me up, they should be able to find me, I should not have to apply for them," Helen said. 

Macdonald's family has since claimed his medals, but new research has found he was far from alone in his beliefs.

In fact 75 percent of Army and Airforce veterans refused to apply for their medals in the first few years of distribution. 

"This was very different to what had happened during the First World War when everyone recieved their medals automatically. So the second world war generation felt short-changed," Matthew Buck, NZDF Senior Historian told Newshub. 

The Government at the time said the application process was setup because of the sheer number of World War Two veterans'. 

But by 1960 applications only continued to decline, and it's now estimated thousands of medals remain unclaimed by those who served overseas.

"It's about 22 thousand people who still don't have their medals," Buck said. 

Buck has been scouring the archives to find out why - and says some simply didn't want a formal reminder of their service.

"What mattered to them was the people they left behind. It was about getting home and restarting their lives," he said.  

Inside boxes at the Personnel Archives and Medals Building at Trentham Military Camp are the records of soldiers, sailors and aviators who fought in WW2, and whether or not they were issued medals for their service.

The Defence Force is encouraging whanau to come forward and claim their veterans' medals.

"The really important thing to hold onto is that this special family taonga is still here if people want to claim it," Buck said. 

Special taonga that will help future generations remember the sacrifices New Zealanders made in world war two.