Two shortlived committees for returned soldiers were established in Dunedin during World War I. The Otago Old Boys formed themselves into the Soldiers' Club House Incorporated, while, at the same time, the YMCA opened a furnished clubroom in its premises that was known as the Otago Soldiers' Club. In 1916 the Royal New Zealand Returned Services' Association itself was founded by wounded veterans returning from World War I. William Patrick, a local businessman provided the whole of the funds necessary to purchase their premises, which was originally the 12 room two storey home of Dr Hocken in Moray Place. At the time, only soldiers and returned nurses were eligible for membership. After World War II the scope was widened to include all returned servicemen and women and the name was changed to the Returned Services Association. Its establishment recognised a need to provide care for returning soldiers and to assist the families of those who would never return.
At the end of its first year of existence, the Dunedin Returned Services Association had a membership of 283 and in the 1980s it had grown to over 6,000. Members served in the Boer War, First and Second World Wars, and wars in Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Vietnam. Following World War II the club rooms in Dunedin were modernised and extended and in 1962, following a fire, they were rebuilt and modernised.
The Mayor of Dunedin called a public meeting in January 1918, at which a committee of prominent citizens was formed to establish a Returned Soldiers' Memorial Club. The foundation stone was laid in 1920 by Sir William Birdwood, commander of the ANZAC force in Gallipoli. The Dunedin Returned Services Association Tin Hat Club was founded in 1954 and ceased to function in 2002.