Cashen, Phil: Enlistments in the second half of 1916: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history

Phil Cashen

103. Enlistments in the second half of 1916: background characteristics Part 2 – religion, units and service history‘, Shire at War, 5 February 2017

We have often linked to the sterling work of Phil Cashen of the Shire at War blog, down Gippsland way. This post of his exhaustively considers some of the men who enlisted from Alberton Shire. It is the latest in a series of five posts covering enlistments from the end of 1914, with more posts to come. The earlier ones link from this post.

Phil sums up the men of the second half of 1916:

The most distinctive feature of this latest cohort of men to enlist from the Shire of Alberton is its size relative to the preceding cohorts. Clearly, the second half of 1916 saw a dramatic decline in enlistments. Also very apparent is the continuing decline in overall levels of fitness and health.

The Alberton microcosm can be matched against the national picture, summed up graphically by Joan Beaumont in Broken Nation, using Ernest Scott’s figures from the Official History (see below). Nationally, as in the Shire of Alberton, a few months after the first conscription plebiscite, the picture was not pretty. One hundred years ago this month, enlistments had fallen right away but they still had further to go. Deaths ‘For Freedom and Honour’ – the wording on the King’s or Dead Man’s Penny – may have been becoming less and less attractive.

 Enlistments-1-1024x376(Graph: courtesy Joan Beaumont)

David Stephens

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