What we can help with
Every day, our Research Team handles a wide range of research queries relating to many different aspects of RNZAF history and New Zealand military aviation in general.
We use the extensive research collection at the Museum to help find an answer wherever possible.
If you have an Air Force-related research enquiry, browse our list of Frequently Asked Questions to help you get started, then feel free to contact our Research Team directly with the details of your query.
Accessing the collection
Members of the public are very welcome to access the research collection, by appointment, in our Reading Room. The reading room is a well-resourced space, consisting of a reference library of approximately 3,500 books and publications on military and New Zealand aviation, and is equipped with study tables, photocopier, television, video and DVD players, and a microfilm reader.
Our public reading room is open by appointment, 10.30am to 3.00pm Monday-Friday.
Please contact us to make a time to visit, and let us know what you are researching, so we can identify and retrieve items from the archives and library that would be helpful for you to look at.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do I have to make an appointment?
The reading room is located in a ‘back of house’ Collections area, separate from the main Museum complex, which requires all visitors to sign in and be accompanied on site by a staff member. Furthermore, we need some advance notice to ensure that the relevant staff member is available to retrieve objects from storage and assist you during your visit.
For these reasons, unfortunately, we are unable to accommodate ‘drop in’ visitors.
When can I visit the reading room?
The reading room is open for appointments between 10.30am and 3.00pm Monday-Friday.
What if I can’t visit the Museum?
We are happy to take remote enquiries and offer a free research service. Simply contact us with the details of your query.
How do I get hold of an Air Force personnel file?
We do not hold official records of RNZAF personnel here at the Museum. The records of anyone serving in the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) after 1920 are held at the NZDF Personnel Archives at Trentham, Wellington. Details of how records can be accessed or ordered can be found here. Please note that due to privacy laws, the person must be deceased for a third party or family member to be permitted access to their file.
How do I research someone who served in the RNZAF in World War Two?
First, it is a very good idea to get a copy of their personnel file as described above. We would then suggest getting in touch with our Research Team, as we can help explain what it all means and interpret what that person was doing during their service. In addition, we can check to see whether we hold any further information or photos of the individual in our archive.
How can I find out about an individual’s medals and entitlements?
The NZDF Medals Office is situated at Trentham in Wellington. Information about what medals an individual may have had issued, or be entitled to, can be accessed via their website.
Can I get a photograph of my RNZAF ancestor?
Members of the RNZAF were not routinely photographed in the past as they are today. It is possible we may have an image on a course photograph or other images. Please contact our Keeper of Photographs, Matthew O’Sullivan, with as much information about the individual as possible:
Phone 03 371 9600.
Can I get copies of photographs from the archive?
If the image you are after is not already available on our online photo database, please contact our Keeper of Photographs, Matthew O’Sullivan, and he will add the image(s) to the database for you to download, free of charge:
Phone: 03 371 9600
How can I find out more about a person who died while serving in the RNZAF or RAF?
There is a lot of information about casualties available. We hold copies of the official service biographies of all RNZAF casualties during World War Two on microfilm in our reading room here at the Museum. Most public libraries, as well as our reference library, hold the three volume work For Your Tomorrow by Errol Martyn, which lists all New Zealanders who died while in service with the RNZAF or Allied Air between 1915 and 1998. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists deaths during the World Wars and has a searchable database. Auckland War Memorial Museum also has a useful database of New Zealand of war called ‘Cenotaph’. It sometimes contains photographs, and information can be added by users as well.
How do I research a person who served in World War One with the RFC/RNAS/RAF?
Some of the 750 or so New Zealanders who served in military aviation with the British air arms in World War One have base personnel files here in New Zealand, which can be found in digital form on Archives New Zealand’s Archway Database. Other personnel files, information, war diaries of units and medal index cards are held by the UK National Archives, and some are downloadable for a charge. We also hold information and material relating to a small number of First World War New Zealand airmen, including those who trained with the Canterbury (NZ) Aviation Company at Sockburn, Christchurch.