Divided sunburnt country: Australia 1916-18 (4): AIF enlistment starts to fall

The ‘Divided sunburnt country’ series

One hundred years ago this month, as Anzac troops settled in on the Western Front – 600 had been killed by the end of June, enlistments in the AIF dropped to their lowest monthly total since April 1915. The graph below is from Joan Beaumont’s Broken Nation: Australia in the Great War (Kindle location 9162) and is used by permission of the author. Excel figures.


Enlistments fell even lower in July and August 1916 before spiking in September-October. Beaumont (Broken Nation, Kindle location 9163) says the spike may be attributable to a call-up prior to the first conscription referendum ‘and possibly news of the Somme’, where fierce fighting and heavy losses occurred in July-August.

After October 1916 enlistment fell again and never returned to the levels of the early part of the war. The poor numbers reflected events at the front and at home. These events will be discussed in future articles in the ‘Divided sunburnt country’ series. The first post in the series presented a microcosm of the early stages of arguments over recruitment and conscription.

19 June 2016


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