This post continues the analysis, in six-monthly intervals, of several key characteristics of all those with a link to the Shire of Alberton who enlisted in WW1. The relevant previous posts in the sequence are:
The specific characteristics covered in the attached table are: the place of birth, the place of enlistment, the address of the next-of-kin at the time of enlistment, the address of the individual volunteer at the time of enlistment, the occupation at the time of enlistment, and age and marital status at the time of enlistment. For a more detailed account of the methodology and sources refer to the earlier posts.
The number in this cohort is very small and it is difficult to draw definite conclusions. However the same general features observed with the earlier, larger cohorts appear to apply. Only about half were born in the Shire of Alberton and, of those born in the Shire, several had moved out of it by the time they enlisted.
This is the first cohort not to feature anyone born in the United Kingdom. All previous cohorts have featured men, usually young men, who had been born in the UK and immigrated to Australia, in most cases, as farm workers. They had enlisted in the AIF and returned to fight for the ‘mother country’ or, more correctly, their ‘home land’. In all, there had been at least 100 such cases. It appears that by the end of 1917 this particular group was exhausted.
There were 3 of the cohort linked in some way to the family farm. As usual, the relationships were complex. Lee Furlong described himself as a ‘labourer’ but, according to the 1915 shire rate book, his father held 12 acres at Won Wron. Similarly, Leonard Jeffs described himself as a ‘labourer’ but his father held 170 acres at Boodyarn. The exception was Ernest Gay who described himself as a ‘farmer’. But it was his mother who had the 35 acres at Devon North. All 3 men were either 21 or 22 years old so it seems reasonable to presume that all had some sort of association with a family farm. There was also another of the men – Reuben Godfrey – then living and working in West Australia, who described himself as a ‘farmer’. He was 34 yo. It is not known if he held the farm in his own right or he was working as a ‘farm labourer’ or on a family farm; and as has been pointed out, it was possible for men to work on the family farm and also on the farms of others in the district. Besides the 4 linked to farming in some form or other, with one exception – James Rodgers, the young bank clerk – the rest were employed in manual work of various skill levels.
Again the numbers are too small to make statistical significance of them. The table below shows the ages for this cohort.
Ages of volunteers – second half of 1917
One of the common criticisms raised by the civic elders at local recruiting drives was that the ‘older’ single men – those in their twenties and thirties – refused to enlist and left the burden of service to the very young. The table, with 8 of the ‘men’ 22 yo or younger – and 4 of these were 20 yo or younger – does tend to support the claim. As mentioned, the other dynamic probably at play here was the appeal that the heroic ideal of the soldier’s life – particularly the life of those serving in the AIF – held for the younger generation. Enlistment at a young age offered the chance to attain manhood instantly.
Only one of the men was married. William Mason first enlisted in January 1916 but he only lasted one month before being discharged as medically unfit. At the time of this first enlistment he was married. When he enlisted again in December 1917 he was a widower. By then he was living with his mother in Prahran. If there were children, possibly the mother looked after them when he enlisted. When he returned to Australia (March 1919) he was again discharged on medical grounds (pleurisy).
Arguably, with this very small cohort, the most telling observation is that the War – or more correctly, the appeal of life in the AIF – was still a powerful attraction for the young.