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New South Wales Recruitment Campaigns

Part 1: August 1914-September 1916

NRS12060[9-4702]14-7341_005Throughout World War I the NSW State Government worked in conjunction with the Commonwealth Government and military authorities in recruiting for the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) in the 2nd Military District which encompassed much of the state. Key recruitment activities, functions, and initiatives of the State Government of NSW included (from 1914-1916):[1]

  • Providing police officers to act as recruiting agents
  • Forming a State Recruiting Committee with recruitment associations operating in country centres
  • Conducting a census of males deemed to be eligible for enlistment in the AIF, followed by the mail-out of almost 60,000 copies of a letter of appeal from Premier Holman
  • Forming a State War Council of NSW with war service committees operating  in council and shire areas of NSW
  • Distributing war posters and literature
  • Carrying out ‘platform campaigns’ in metropolitan and rural areas
  • Arranging the use of showgrounds and racecourses as military camps
  • Placing electric signage at central locations such as railway stations and other major public buildings
  • Arranging the Inner Domain grounds of Government House to be lit and used for drill purposes
  • Granting leave to public officials to conduct and/or attend rifle club drills

The period from the commencement of the war up until the first plebiscite for conscription in October 1916, saw a series of recruitment campaigns led by both the state and federal governments, as well as countless local contributions from the people of New South Wales, to keep up momentum in the supply of troops for the military.

The First Volunteers

In the first weeks of the war, recruitment for the first Australian forces of 20,000 men[2] was not a difficult task for the Federal Defence Department, due to the initial enthusiasm of the public to support the war effort.[3]  After an announcement from the Minister of Defence, Edward Davis Millen, that “volunteers were wanted for an oversea [sic] military force”,[4] the Defence Department recruitment agencies in military barracks nationally were employed to enlist the early volunteers. The target during the initial campaign for NSW of 7,076[5]  was achieved with relative ease. Nationally, a far greater total was achieved than had been targeted by the Commonwealth Government,[6] and as a result they could afford to turn away many men without military experience, who were otherwise in ideal physical condition to become soldiers.[7]

NSW Recruitment Activities

Following this opening period of recruitment, there were several major campaigns and stages implemented in 1914-16, which are documented in our records. Click on the links below to find out more:


Police as Recruitment Agents

NRS 12060 [9/4702] 15/4475_Booklet_001

Recruiting Associations

NRS12060[9-4705]15-7546_003 CROPPED

Census of Unmarried Males (COMING SOON)

15309_a015_000014 CROPPED

State War Council of NSW (COMING SOON)

NRS12060[9-4770]A18-2308_002 CROPPED

Recruitment Marches

NRS4474 [1/194] D4480

 Fifty-Thousand More Men (COMING SOON)

Holman Speech 2/8/1915


[1] Parliamentary Papers, 1915-16, Volume 2, p. 999
[2] Scott, Ernest, ‘Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918: Volume XI Australia During the War’, 1936, p. 203
[3] Ibid, p. 207
[4] Ibid, p. 202
[5] Ibid, p. 205
[6] Ibid, p. 286
[7] Ibid, p. 211