172. Enlistments in the first half of 1918: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

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:

Post 22: Enlistments to the end of 1914: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

Post 56: Enlistments in the first half of 1915: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

Post 62: Enlistments in the second half of 1915: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

Post 82: Enlistments in the first half of 1916: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

Post 102: Enlistments in the second half of 1916: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

Post 127: Enlistments in the first half of 1917: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

Post 145: Enlistments in the second half of 1917: background characteristics Part 1 – movement, occupation, age and marital status

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.

Movement

The cohort is obviously small but it does represent the most ‘local’ of all cohorts analysed to this point. Typically, this group of enlistments were either born in the Shire of Alberton and/or were long-term residents. There were no immigrant farm workers from the United Kingdom. There was not even anyone born interstate.

The only 2 of the group who did not appear to have established links to the Shire of Alberton – in the sense that their names are not recorded on any local memorial – were Sylvester M Callister and Wilfred J Chambers. At the same time, both men had their medicals and enlisted at Yarram. Additionally, Callister’s family had previously been residents in the district and he himself must have still been living there, as he was one of several who stepped forward at a patriotic concert/recruiting meeting in Yarram in mid May 1918. Not much is known of of Chambers but he definitely enlisted at Yarram on 9/3/18 and was given a railway warrant to travel to Melbourne on 13/3/18 to complete the process.

Occupation

There were 2 of the group – Ernest B Matches and Matthew S Thomas who were farmers in their own right, in the sense that they both held land in their own right, as recorded in the 1915 rate book. Both these men were older. There was a large group of 7 younger men who were associated in some way with a family farm. Once again, the association possibly also involved them working on other farms, or in other labouring jobs, depending on the size of the family farm and the number of siblings. The bulk of the remaining men described themselves as labourers or farm labourers. James English who had been in the district for 17 years worked as an ‘engineer’ for the local council. His position was also described as ‘electrician’. Andrew McGalliard was a university student – he had been in the Melbourne University Rifles – and the son of Thomas James McGalliard who had substantial land holdings and who also served as Shire President from July 1918.

Age

The following table gives a breakdown of the ages for this cohort.

Ages of volunteers – first half of 1918

ages

18-20         12

21-25         4

26-30          2

31-35          2

36+              2

total          22

Once again, the concentration of those of the youngest possible enlistment age is striking. Throughout the War, the military authorities had been tightening the system to prevent under-age recruits from enlisting, and certainly from enlisting without their parents’ permission. In the cases of the underage recruits in this cohort , their individual service files contain the signed permissions, from both parents. Typically, there is also a copy of the birth certificate to confirm the age. However, the overall intention in this matter was not to reduce the number of those enlisting under the age of 21- these young men were generally the most enthusiastic patriots and the ‘easiest’ target for recruiters –  but to make sure that when such enlistments did occur they were valid enlistments.

The case of Wilfred J Chambers is typical. At the time he enlisted in Yarram (9/3/18) he was only 18 years and 3 months old. He stated that his father’s whereabouts was unknown and his enlistment form contained signed permission from his mother for him to enlist as someone under 21 yo. The mother lived in Heathcote.  On 20/3/18 the mother received a form notice – addressed to her in Heathcote – from the military authorities advising her that … your son has enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force for Active Service Abroad, and has produced a document which purports to be your written consent.  The notice then asked if she gave her … consent to his going on Active Service before he reaches the age of 19? Otherwise he cannot be sent to camp until he is 18 1/2 years of age. The mother signed, Yes I will consent to his going before he is 19. The process was designed to ensure that the enlistment of those only 18 yo for active service abroad in the AIF would stand a challenge.

Marital Status

Two of the men – Robert A Neilson and Matthew S Thomas – were married and there was also one widower, James English. The 2 married men were in their early 30s, and one of them – Thomas – had a child. However, the widower – English – was 39 yo and he left behind his 4 year-old daughter. She was left in the care of a Mrs Wallace of the Goodwood Sawmills. Even if Mrs Wallace was a relative, the fact that the authorities were enlisting a 39 yo widower, with a young child, is a clear indication of how keenly they pursued potential recruits.

Overall

The numbers from the Shire of Alberton are very small but there is a suggestion at least that the perceived crisis on the Western Front from the end of March 1918 did prompt a lift in recruitment. However those who stepped forward tended to be the very young and the, relatively, very old and even married.

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