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:
For a more detailed account of the methodology and sources refer to the earlier posts.
As for at least the last 3 cohorts – from the start of 1917 – this cohort is small (12). And like the cohort for the first half of 1918, it is decidedly ‘local’ in nature: only one of the men was born outside Victoria and all of them, when they enlisted, were living and working in the local area. Possibly, this characteristic reflected the fact that the pool of outside or itinerant farm workers left in the local area by this point of the War was very small.
With the exception of 2 young men (Ernest Griffiths and Roy Turnbull) engaged in clerical work and one (George Clark) working at the local timber mill, all the others were involved in farming in the local area. They either worked as farm labourers or they helped on the family farm. And, as pointed out previously, often these roles overlapped, in the sense that some family farms were so marginal that sons would work as labourers on other farms – or in other activities – in the district. As before, the most common description of occupation was that of ‘farm labourer’.
As before, the concentration of those of the youngest possible enlistment age is striking. Eight of the men are under 21 yo. By this point, recruits in the local area were coming predominantly from the group of young men who were reaching the age when they could finally enlist. As indicated already, this situation was constantly highlighted by speakers at recruiting drives, farewells and welcomes who strongly attacked the older ‘eligibles’ who refused to enlist and left it to the ‘boys’ to step forward and ‘do their duty’. The youngest recruit was 18 yo Peter McAinch. The family had a dairy farm at Waronga. He had even tried to enlist at a recruiting drive in Yarram in May 1917 but he must have been rejected when the authorities learnt his age. He was born on 16/9/1900 so he was not even 17 yo at the time.
Presumably, these young men had absorbed the (patriotic) narrative of the War, including the fame of the AIF, over the years of their mid-teens. They would have seen older brothers and friends enlist and they were keen to follow. For these young men, enlistment in the AIF had become a ‘right of passage’.
There is only one married man in the group. William Berry was a farm labourer from Jack River. His enlistment was not typical in that he was 35 yo, married and had at least 3 children. He enlisted in early September 1918 and was discharged at the end of December. Interestingly, after the War he became a soldier settler and was allotted land at Waronga.