Chapter 3 - The Nominal Roll of Australian veterans of the Korean War

3.1 Sources of Data
3.1.1 Royal Australian Navy Korean War veterans
3.1.2 Australian Army Korean War veterans
3.1.3 Royal Australian Air Force Korean War veterans
3.1.4 Civilians
3.2 Completeness of the Nominal Roll
3.3Accuracy of Data
3.4 Total Number of Veterans
3.4.1 Male Korean War veterans
3.4.2 Female Korean War veterans

The Nominal Roll is a listing of all those who conform to this study's definition of 'Korean War veterans' (see Section 1.1.5). The roll compiled for this study lists for each veteran their surname, up to three given names, Service number, date of birth, date of death, one or more ship/unit/ squadron posting and period/s of service. As at 30 August 2002, it contained a total of 17,813 male Korean War veterans and 58 female Korean War veterans (see Tables 3-2 and 3-3, respectively). Data from a number of sources were used to compile the nominal roll.

3.1 Sources of data

At the time of the announcement that a mortality study of Australian veterans of the Korean War would be conducted, there were only two nominal rolls available. These were lists of Army and RAAF veterans published by Lt Col Neil C Smith AM1 and Mr David Wilson2 respectively.

Although both rolls were useful, neither list contained all the information needed in a nominal roll for research purposes. The RAAF list for example, gave surname and initials only and did not include Service Numbers. In the case of the RAN, there was no known nominal roll of participants in the Korean War.

3.1.1 Royal Australian Navy Korean War veterans

Preparation of Preliminary Nominal Roll

For many years up until the late 1950s, all ships of the RAN were required to maintain Pay Ledgers setting out rates of pay and allowances for all members of their crews. These Ledgers covered a financial quarter's 'pay and allowances' transactions.

The period during which the Ledgers were maintained covered the full period of the Korean War and post-cease fire monitoring period included in the Mortality Study. The Ledgers are now held by the National Archives of Australia (NAA) at its Mitchell repository.

The study team constructed the RAN component of the Nominal Roll by choosing one Ledger for a financial period falling within each ship's period(s) of service in Korean waters. Draft crew lists were then drawn up by extracting all information available on individuals listed in each Ledger. For most entries, this included Service number, rank, surname and first name. In a number of instances, second initial was included. In all cases, entries were hand-written.

Once crew lists had been prepared, these were combined and sorted alphabetically into one draft nominal roll. Duplicate entries due to misspelling of names in the original Ledgers had to be identified manually, as were multiple entries of individuals with more than one period of service in Korean waters.

The list produced at the end of this work was known to be incomplete as it was likely that crew members who joined ship after the chosen financial quarter would have been missed. It was also suspected that it included individuals who may have left the ship before service in Korean waters. Despite this, it resulted in the first known nominal roll of RAN participants in the Korean War.

Verification of Names for Final RAN Nominal Roll

Because the preliminary Nominal Roll was known to be deficient, all names required verification. Missing details also needed to be collected. This was done by reference to each individual's Service Certificate. At the time this task was undertaken, Navy Sailors Records held Service Certificates for all non-Commissioned ranks who had served between 1901 and the mid-1970s, when records were computerised. These certificates were stored in alphabetical order. Records for Commissioned officers had been transferred to the NAA some years before, but electronic scanned images were still held.

Verification work confirmed that with several of the ships, a significant number of personnel still included on Pay Ledgers had indeed left the ship before departure. In all remaining cases, data comparable to that collected for the other Services was extracted for the Nominal Roll.

One final group of RAN personnel requiring identification and verification consisted of those Commissioned officers, those with acting Commissioned rank and Midshipmen serving on exchange aboard Royal Navy (RN) ships in Korean waters. These were identified by reference to Navy Lists published quarterly by the RAN listing all Commissioned and acting Commissioned officers and Midshipmen serving in the RAN during that quarter. These lists included a record of those serving on exchange with other Commonwealth navies, including the ships on which they were serving.

The details of all individuals identified by this process as serving aboard RN ships during operational duty in Korean waters were verified using the methods outlined earlier.

A consolidated list of all Navy Korean War veterans was prepared by DVA.

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3.1.2 Australian Army Korean War veterans

The list prepared by Lt Col Smith1 was used as the starting point for the Army nominal roll. The Central Army Records Office (CARO) inspected all personal files of individuals identified in the list, recording full name, date of birth, Corps, rank on first arrival in Korea, unit(s) in Korea and dates of arrival in and departure from Korea.

The original list was further developed by incorporation of further names identified from medals lists held by CARO and from the Korean War Database previously compiled by CARO.

All work on identification of Army names, extraction of information and provision of data for entry onto the Nominal Roll was carried out by CARO staff.

3.1.3 Royal Australian Air Force Korean War veterans

A list prepared by the RAAF Historian, Mr David Wilson2, was used as the starting point for the RAAF nominal roll. However, the lack of Service numbers for individuals recorded on the list added to the complexity of the task. RAAF personal files are stored in Service number order. Accordingly, positive identification of individual Korean War veterans and recording of relevant details required two separate exercises:

  • identification of Service number(s) associated with each surname/initial(s) combination; and
  • location of individual personal files to review service history and confirm Korean War service.

The first stage involved examination of a card index system containing a separate card for each member who had served in the RAAF from its establishment in 1921 until the introduction of a computerised system during the mid 1970s. While the total numbers involved could appear daunting, the task was made a little simpler since the introduction of a new service numbering system for RAAF personnel in 1949. This meant that all cards with the older style number could be ignored unless there was reason to believe the card had not been updated with the post-1949 Service number.

In many cases, this led to the identification of specific individuals. However, in other cases, particularly involving more common family names (eg Brown, Smith or Wilson) a number of alternatives were identified which needed resolution by inspection of each file until the correct one was located. Difficulty was also experienced in some cases due to cards having been stored out of alphabetic order.

Although a number of misplaced records were subsequently located, it is likely that this was the reason some names could not be identified. Other names are likely to have been missed due to either misspelt names in the original list or individuals leaving the RAAF during the period when records were changed from manual systems to computer based systems.

A list of names of RAAF nurses who served either in Korea or on medevac flights to Korea was provided by Miss Betty Docker (since deceased) who had served as a senior nurse in Korea. Further names were provided by Mrs Cheryl Tizzard, a former RAAF nurse conducting her own research into RAAF nurses who served in war. Some further identification of individuals was obtained from a book on the RAAF nursing service published by Gay Halstead3.

Names identified from these sources were verified by reference to personal files using the methods outlined above.

3.1.4 Civilians

Central Army Records Officer (CARO) holds records on all war correspondents and members of accredited philanthropic organisations who have served with the ADF. These records were reviewed by CARO to identify those who served in Korea during the period of the Study. In addition, requests for any information held on members of their organisations who may have served in Korea during the period of the Study were forwarded to:

  • The Australian Red Cross;
  • The Salvation Army;
  • The YMCA; and
  • The YWCA.

All names identified were verified by CARO before they were added to the roll.

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3.2 Completeness of the nominal roll

This Nominal Roll is the first complete nominal roll produced of Australian veterans of the Korean War. According to this study's definition, nearly 18,000 armed forces personnel and 29 civilians are identified as having served in some capacity in Korea during the Korean War and the immediate post cease-fire period to April 1956.

Table 3-1, shows the actual numbers obtained on the Nominal Roll of those who served in the Korean Operational Area between 27 June 1950 and 19 April 1956.

Table 3-1: Coverage of the Nominal Roll
Group Collected
Royal Australian Navy  
RAN total 5,769
Australian Army  
  • ARA males
  • ARA females
Army total 10,848
Royal Australian Air Force  
  • RAAF males
  • RAAF females
RAAF total 1,225
Philanthropic organisations  
  • Australian Red Cross
- male personnel
- female personnel
  • Salvation Army
- male personnel
  • YMCA
- male personnel
Philanthropic total 19
  • RAN Ship's Canteen Staff (HMAS Sydney)
- male personnel
  • War correspondents and photographers
- male personnel
Civilians total 10
Total 17,871

There are no earlier lists or estimates of the total number of ADF participants who served in Korea during the period covered by the study. However, a figure of approximately 17,000 has been quoted in the past as representing the total number of Australians who served in Korea during the period of the War, i.e. July 1950 to July 1953.

Robert O'Neill4 (p582) provides a figure of 10,600 Australian Army personnel as having served in Korea between August 1950 and July 1953. He does not provide corresponding figures for either the RAN or the RAAF.

The Nominal Roll contains the names of 10,848 individuals who served in Korea with the Australian Army between July 1950 and April 1956. The figure of 10,600 quoted by Robert O'Neill appears close to the total number for the longer period. However, the source of O'Neill's figure is unclear and it is possible it includes some degree of double counting where individuals undertook more than one operational tour in Korea.

Because of concerns over known deficiencies in the Nominal Roll, the decision was taken to seek input from the Korean War veteran community to ensure individual veterans who had been missed could be identified and included in a final roll. This involved several steps.

The first step was to advertise in all major national and regional newspapers the intention of DVA to publish the Nominal Roll. This was required to meet the provisions of the Privacy Act 1988 by ensuring that any veteran who did not wish to have his or her name included had the opportunity to request that it be withheld. Although four individuals contacted DVA seeking to have their names withheld, several thousand others rang to confirm that they were included.

The next step was the publication of a preliminary Nominal Roll in April 1999. This was formally launched by the Minister for Veterans' Affairs to ensure knowledge of its existence was spread as widely as possible. Articles were also published in the DVA publication ' Vetaffairs', which is distributed to all its clients. This publicity led to further telephone calls from veterans seeking to rectify deficiencies. In all cases where individuals had been missed, their details were confirmed from Service records and entered onto the nominal roll.

Following verification of all Navy records and others who had been missed, a final version of the Nominal Roll was published in April 2000. Despite the publicity prior to and at the launch of the preliminary roll, the names of a further 30 RAAF veterans were provided shortly after the publication of the final roll. Although too late for the printed version, these names were confirmed and added to the roll for the purposes of the Mortality Study.

In the absence of definitive numbers for each Service, it is not possible to estimate how complete the current roll may be. However, given the extensive publicity and feedback from veterans concerning the roll, it is considered unlikely that any significant group of veterans has been overlooked. In this regard, it should be noted that 90.1% of known surviving Korean War veterans are DVA clients. These veterans were kept informed about developments with the Nominal Roll by means of the publication ' Vetaffairs'.

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3.3 Accuracy of data

All details on individual veterans were collected from original Service documents. For the Army and RAAF, available documents included the original enlistment papers signed by the veteran. In the case of the RAN, service certificates only were available. These provided personal details and a history of postings.

Not surprisingly, given the age of the documents, their condition varied significantly, with some having deteriorated quite badly. A number of RAN service record cards, in particular, presented problems due to the inappropriate use at some stage in their existence of Sellotape over areas recording name and date of birth information.

Where discrepancies were detected, and before matching against other databases, all veteran records that had missing or incomplete information for dates of birth, Service numbers, periods of service or showed initials instead of full given names were re-checked against their original service record.

During matching against the DVA client database, a number of discrepancies in the spelling of names or the recorded date of birth were detected. In each case, the veteran's DVA client file was examined to resolve discrepancies. Reasons for discrepancies varied. In some cases, the veteran had been under age at enlistment and had not given his true date of birth. Others, who would otherwise have been too old, reduced their ages. Veterans have advised that these groups referred to themselves colloquially as the 'Unders and Overs Club'.

False dates of birth occurred more frequently among Army veterans than among RAN or RAAF veterans. The latter two Services were stricter in requiring evidence of the enlister's date of birth. In part, this may have arisen because the Army was the only Service to seek short-term special enlistment for service in Korea. The other two Services retained their normal recruitment procedures.

In a number of cases, the veterans had changed their name after completion of military service. Reasons varied, but included those who used the name of an older brother or used a false name to avoid the age restriction. Others changed the spelling of their name, either to anglicise it or comply with changing usage. Some changed their names for personal reasons; however, this was not a common occurrence with individuals in the age group of the Korean War veteran cohort. Name changes were a particular problem with female veterans who had subsequently married, but whose married name had not been recorded on service documents.

In all cases, an individual's Service number was found to be invaluable in ensuring that the correct individual had been identified on the DVA client database. Resolution of these discrepancies revealed that even where an individual had enlisted under a false date of birth, that individual used the correct date of birth when applying for DVA benefits.

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3.4 Total number of veterans

3.4.1 Male Korean War veterans

Table 3-2, shows the numbers of male Korean War veterans, categorised by the first organisation in which they served. Some veterans may have had subsequent service in Korea, generally within the same Service. The civilian groups are, however, mutually exclusive.

The table shows that the Army constituted the largest group within the veteran cohort. The number of regular Army veterans was 10,814. The second largest group was the Navy group, with 5,769 veterans. In the case of the RAAF, there were a total of 1,204 Air Force personnel who served in Korea while posted or attached to No 77 Squadron, entered the Korean Operational Area as aircrew on transport aircraft or made short term visits from outside the area, usually while posted to Japan.

The number of male civilians who served in Korea was 26. These included 16 members of philanthropic organisations, who served alongside their military compatriots as chaplains and social workers, six civilian canteen workers on HMAS Sydney and four war correspondents.

Table 3-2: Number of male veterans by first Korean service
Service Group Number %
Sub-total   5,769 32.4
Sub-total   10,814 60.7
Air Force      
Sub-total   1,204 6.8
Philanthropic Australian Red Cross 7  
  Salvation Army 7  
  YMCA 2  
Sub-total   16 0.1
Civilian RAN Ship's Canteen Staff 6  
  War correspondents 4  
Sub-total   10  
Total   17,813 100.0
Note: Column total may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

3.4.2 Female Korean War veterans

As shown in Table 3-3, classified by first Korean service, 58 female veterans served in Korea: 34 were health professionals serving in the Army, 21 were Air Force nurses, and three were members of the Australian Red Cross.

Table 3-3: Number of female veterans by first Korean service
Service Group Number %
Army Female health professionals 34 58.6
Air Force Nurses stationed outside Korea 21 36.2
Civilian Australian Red Cross 3 5.2
Total   58 100.0
Note: Column total may not add up to 100% due to rounding.


Smith AM, Lt Col Neil C, 1990, ' Home by Christmas: With the Australian Army in Korea 1950-56', Mostly Unsung, PO Box 20, Gardenvale, VIC, 3185
Wilson, David, 1994, ' Lion over Korea, 77 Fighter Squadron RAAF 1950-53', Banner Books, PO Box 937, Belconnen, ACT, 2616
Halstead, Gay, 1994, ' Story of the RAAF Nursing Service - 1940-1990', Nungurner Press Pty Ltd, PO Box 115, Metung, VIC, 3904
O'Neill, Robert, 'Australia in the Korean War 1950-53, Volume II, Combat Operations', The Australian War Memorial and the Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1985