History Podcasts

Holding the Home Front - The Women's Land Army in the First World War, Caroline Scott

Holding the Home Front - The Women's Land Army in the First World War, Caroline Scott

Holding the Home Front - The Women's Land Army in the First World War, Caroline Scott

Holding the Home Front - The Women's Land Army in the First World War, Caroline Scott

The First World War came at a time when Britain was probably more dependent on imported food than at any time before or since, and when hardly any women worked on the land. These were both fairly recent changes, but they both left Britain's food supplies vulnerable, first as an increasingly large number of young men went off to war, and then as the U-boat war began to threaten food imports. This book traces the various efforts to get women back onto the land, before the formation of the Women's Land Army early in 1917 put things on a more professional footing.

We start with a look at the role of women in Agriculture in 1914, and how that varied across the country. This would have an impact on how women workers were treated later on, with those areas in which women had almost disappeared from the land putting up the most resistance to their return. We then look at the pre-war trend for some women to 'return to the land', at least in areas such as market gardening, or as 'scientific' farmers, having paid for an education at one of a new generation of agricultural colleges. It would be these educated women who led the original calls to get more women onto the land. Not all of their efforts are portrayed as entirely successful, and it is clear that some of the early leaders of the volunteer movements could be rather patronising.

One gets a clear picture of how the initially rather amateurish British approach to war had to change as the fighting dragged on. The emphasis was on voluntary schemes, both for the women and the farmers who would employ them, and only the increasing need to call up more and more young men ended this approach. It is also interesting to see how much of the initiative came from women and women's groups, who wanted to play a part in the war effort. The same happened for women in the army, where the WAAC wasn't formed until 1917, and even in the army itself, where conscription didn't begin until 1916. In each case a key motivation was the increasingly difficult situation. In agriculture the ever decreasing number of men available to work on the land, combined with the U-boat war, led to a serious food shortage, and a fear that there wouldn't be enough people to even maintain food production levels.

Many of the same problems that you find in histories of the Second World War Women's Land Army also appear here - hostility on the part of farmers, a belief that women couldn't do men's work or a fear that the work would destroy the femininity of the women involved - occurred first during the First World War, but perhaps on a more exaggerated scale. We also get sections on accommodation, terms of service and so forth.

Many of the same problems faced by women working in industry during the First World War also appear here, including a fear that women would drive wages down, and might fill jobs previously held by men after the war. In this case some ambitious plans to keep women on the land after the war ended up fading away.

Perhaps the greatest complement to the success of the First World War Women's Land Army was the formation of the second Land Army on 1 June 1939, before the actual outbreak of the Second World War.

Chapters
1 - Such Dirty Work
2 - The New Women and the Old Acres
3 - Keeping Calm
4 - Lilac Sunbonnets and the No-Corset Brigade
5 - From the White Hands of Strapping Girls
6 - Our Front is Where the Wheat Grows Fair
7 - Hold the Home Front
8 - Legacy

Author: Caroline Scott
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 224
Publisher: Pen & Sword History
Year: 2017



Holding the Home Front –The Women's Land Army in The First World War.

The following article is written by Caroline Scott, author of Holding the Home Front – The Women's Land Army in The First World War.

Recruiting rally for the Women’s Land Army, Preston, June 1918. (Reproduced with the kind permission of Lancashire County Council and Preston City Council.)

In January 1917 the newly appointed President of the Board of Agriculture, Rowland Prothero, addressed a meeting of farmers in Hereford. Prothero gave his audience a taster of the plan, currently being developed by the government, to raise an ‘army’ of 200,000 female agricultural workers. He told the meeting:

Like servicemen, the women would be uniformed, must be prepared to be sent wherever in the country they were needed, and would be required to commit ‘for the duration’. January 2017 thus marks the centenary of the launch of the Woman’s Land Army (WLA).

In 1914 Britain was the only major European power that was dependent on foreign imports for the bulk of its food. Consequently, of the countries now at war, Britain was the one whose larder was least well prepared. She trusted the freedom of the seas, the supremacy of her navy and that the open markets would always be able to provide. But with shipping being turned over to military transport, supply and support for the navy, the availability and price of foodstuffs would soon be impacted.

Within days of the start of the war there had been calls for women to come to the fields, and, over the next three years, various private and public initiatives would be launched to achieve that end. However, success was limited, both by the attitudes of women to agricultural work, and by farmers’ evaluation of women’s worth. In Lloyd George’s words, efforts to persuade farmers to take on women were met with ‘a good deal of sluggish and bantering prejudice and opposition.’ Lessons had been learnt, though, and the Women’s Land Army would be shaped as much by the achievements and failures of these earlier enterprises as by the precise needs of 1917.

When Lloyd George replaced Asquith as Prime Minister, in December 1916, he immediately made a show of addressing the ‘food problem’. The issue was already ‘undoubtedly serious’, he told the House of Commons, ‘and will be grave unless not merely the Government, but the nation, is prepared to grapple with it courageously without loss of time.’ The situation would get worse before it got better, though, as on 1 February 1917, Germany lifted its restrictions on submarine warfare. Food had now become ‘a munition of war’, as Lloyd George put it. The government’s response was to call on farmers to extend the ploughed acreage, but increasing domestic food production required more labour. With conscription combing through the ranks of the remaining male farm workforce, women were needed on the land – and farmers must be persuaded to accept this labour source.

The recruitment campaign for the Women’s Land Army was launched in March 1917. Notices placed in newspapers appealed: ‘10,000 Women Wanted at Once to Grow and Harvest the Victory Crops.’ Posters were printed, cinema films were commissioned and rallies and demonstrations were organised. These frequently featured women performing what were normally regarded as ‘male’ agricultural tasks, like ploughing and manure spreading. Such energetic displays pulled crowds (and newspaper column inches) and allowed the message to be delivered directly and forcefully to local audiences. These were not only occasions to recruit, but also to convince farmers of the potential of women’s work.

Recruiting rally for the Women’s Land Army, Preston, June 1918. (Reproduced with the kind permission of Lancashire County Council and Preston City Council.)

Recruits were either trained by their employer-to-be, or on designated training farms. Beatrice Bennett’s diary, kept during the winter of 1917, details how she was taught to milk on ‘a rubber cow full of water’, learned to care for livestock, to harvest, sort and store various root crops, and acquired some proficiency in manoeuvring a muck cart. Every task that Beatrice did in her training was muddy. ‘You cannot stick a pin on my nice velvet breeches for white mud an inch thick,’ she wrote. But this was all taken in good spirits. ‘We laughed until tears came and all we could say was, “What would Mother say if she could see us now?”’

In addition to those breeches, recruits were provided with a uniform of boots, gaiters and overalls. The WLA’s handbook stipulated: ‘You are doing a man’s work and so you are dressed rather like a man but remember just because you wear a smock and breeches you should take care to behave like an English girl who expects chivalry and respect from everyone she meets.’ That dressing ‘like a man’ would cause some consternation, though. Putting women into male jobs was one thing, seeing them in trousers was quite another. Wearing breeches might be practical, but was it respectable? Helen Poulter, a 1918 recruit, recalled: ‘We knew we were being looked at, you know, and talked about.’

In August 1918 a survey of 12,657 WLA members recorded their principal occupations: 5,734 were milkers, 3,971 field workers, 635 carters, 293 tractor drivers, 260 ploughmen, 84 thatchers, 21 shepherds, with the remaining 1,659 being in mixed roles. Rosa Freedman began her service in the WLA going from farm-to-farm as part of a threshing gang, but soon, like most members, found herself doing a bit of everything. Rosa recalled fruit picking, flax pulling, haymaking, cleaning out pigsties, cow pens and stables, muck-spreading and mincing mangelwurzels for cow feed. She reflected: ‘The work was hard, but after the discipline and confinement of domestic service I found the work liberating and rewarding… it was a job we set out to do and I hope I did my best.’

And they were expected to do their best. As they faced long hours of heavy work, financial hardship and few comforts, the WLA constantly reminded its members that their contribution was vital to the war effort. Rowland Prothero told a Land Army rally:

Reinforcing this understanding was perceived as key to maintain discipline and focus. But WLA propaganda was as much about carrot as stick women were also repeatedly told that this experience was good for them. Working on the land, far from robbing them of their femininity, was making them better women, improving their characters, their figures, their complexions, their after-the-war employment and marriage prospects. An appeal for recruits coaxed: ‘Land labour may give you a few backaches, but it will also give you health, a complexion such as a fortune spent with beauty specialists would never beget, and happiness such as only comes from the knowledge that you are doing your full share to speed the day of Victory.’

More recruits would be needed to speed that day. The German army launched its spring offensive in March 1918 and soon the allies were retreating and in urgent need of reinforcements. Appealing for another 30,000 volunteers, the April 1918 issue of The Landswoman, the magazine of the WLA, urged: ‘Let us all be full of flaming enthusiasm! Let us set fire to such a blaze of endeavour throughout England that not the smallest demand for labour on the land shall be left unsatisfied, and that every want shall be filled and well filled by women.’

There were recruiting rallies all over the country in May 1918, and the martial language, and sense of imperative, were cranked up. Banners were carried displaying the legends: ‘Hold the Home Front’, ‘The Lasses are Massing for the Spring Offensive’ and ‘Men on the Battlefield Women in the Cornfield’ (with the message on the reverse: ‘Join the Land Army for Health and Happiness’).

Having come through a ‘great national emergency’, British wartime agricultural policy was held up as a success story domestic food production was higher at the end of the war than at the start, the average calorific value of the British diet barely changed and bread never had to be rationed here. By comparison, in continental Europe, agricultural output had declined by around one third. Rowland Prothero called this ‘one of the great achievements of the War’ – and Lloyd George would go further, stating in his memoirs that ‘The food question ultimately decided the issue of this war.’ This book is an attempt to understand how the return of women to the fields and farmyards contributed to that achievement – and, in turn, it looks at how that experience affected them.

Look out for " Holding the Home Front – The Women's Land Army in The First World War" online at Pen and Sword Books.

Further Reading

Holding the Home Front
(Hardback - 214 pages)
ISBN: 9781783831128

by Caroline Scott
Only £19.99

In recent years the Second World War's land girl has caught the public imagination. Weve seen her in films, television series and novels. We might be misremembering her, we might have distorted her image into one that suits a twenty-first century audience, but we haven't forgotten. Other things have been forgotten, though. One could be forgiven for supposing that the story of the Women's Land Army starts in 1939. But its a much older and more complicated history.

British agricultural policy during the First World War was…
Read more at Pen & Sword Books.


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New book: ‘Holding the Home Front: The Women’s Land Army in the First World War’

Click on the image to buy the book on Amazon. If you click, your purchase will raise money for the website.

“In recent years the Second World War’s Land Girl has caught the public imagination. We’ve seen her in films and television series and novels. We might be misremembering her, we might have distorted her image into one that suits a twenty-first century audience, but we haven’t forgotten. Other things have been forgotten, though. One could be forgiven for supposing that the story of the Women’s Land Army starts in 1939. But it’s a much older and more complicated history…

British agricultural policy during the First World War was held up as a success story coming through a ‘great national emergency’, domestic food production was higher at the end of the war than at the start, the average calorific value of the British diet barely changed and bread never had to be rationed here. As the press reported starvation and food riots overseas, the 1918 harvest was held up as ‘one of the great achievements of the War.’

In 1917, at the darkest hour, when Britain’s food security looked most precarious, it was said that, ‘If it were not for the women agriculture would be absolutely at a standstill on many farms.’ Is that true? Were women really keeping the wheels turning? Using previously unpublished accounts and photographs, this book is an attempt to understand how the return of women to the fields and farmyards impacted agriculture – and, in turn, an examination of how that experience affected them.

This is the story of the First World War’s forgotten Land Army.”



About Caroline Scott

Caroline Scott is originally from Lancashire. She has a PhD in History, a fascination with the First World War and a house full of khaki-coloured bric-a-brac. In addition to Those Measureless Fields, she is currently working on two non-fiction projects for Pen and Sword – a history of the Women’s Land Army during the First World War and a book about the Manchester ‘Bantam’ Battalion. Caroline lives in France and possesses more trench art than is probably tasteful.


Holding the Home Front: The Women's Land Army in The First World War

In recent years the Second World War's land girl has caught the public imagination. We've seen her in films, television series and novels. We might be misremembering her, we might have distorted her image into one that suits a twenty-first century audience, but we haven't forgotten.

Other things have been forgotten, though. One could be forgiven for supposing that the story of the Women's Land Army starts in 1939. But its a much older and more complicated history.

British agricultural policy during the First World War was held up as a success story coming through a great national emergency, domestic food production was higher at the end of the war than at the start, the average calorific value of the British diet barely changed and bread never had to be rationed here. As the press reported starvation and food riots overseas, the 1918 harvest was held up as one of the great achievements of the War. In 1917, at the darkest hour, when Britain's food security looked most precarious, it was said that, If it were not for the women agriculture would be absolutely at a standstill on many farms.

Is that true? Were women really keeping the wheels turning? Using previously unpublished accounts and photographs, this book is an attempt to understand how the return of women to the fields and farmyards impacted agriculture - and, in turn, an examination of how that experience affected them. This is the story of the First World War's forgotten land army.

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Contents

At the start of the war, Australia's military forces were focused upon the part-time Militia. The small number of regular personnel were mostly artillerymen or engineers, and were generally assigned to the task of coastal defence. [1] Due to the provisions of the Defence Act 1903, which precluded sending conscripts overseas, upon the outbreak of war it was realised that a totally separate, all volunteer force would need to be raised. [2] The Australian government pledged to supply 20,000 men organised as one infantry division and one light horse brigade plus supporting units, for service "wherever the British desired", in keeping with pre-war Imperial defence planning. [2] [Note 2] The Australian Imperial Force (AIF) subsequently began forming shortly after the outbreak of war and was the brain child of Brigadier General William Throsby Bridges (later Major General) and his chief of staff, Major Brudenell White. [3] Officially coming into being on 15 August 1914, [4] the word 'imperial' was chosen to reflect the duty of Australians to both nation and empire. [5] The AIF was initially intended for service in Europe. [6] Meanwhile, a separate 2,000-man force—known as the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF)—was formed for the task of capturing German New Guinea. [7] In addition, small military forces were maintained in Australia to defend the country from attack. [8]

Upon formation, the AIF consisted of only one infantry division, the 1st Division, and the 1st Light Horse Brigade. The 1st Division was made up of the 1st Infantry Brigade under Colonel Henry MacLaurin, an Australian-born officer with previous part-time military service the 2nd, under Colonel James Whiteside McCay, an Irish-born Australian politician and former Minister for Defence and the 3rd, under Colonel Ewen Sinclair-Maclagan, a British regular officer seconded to the Australian Army before the war. The 1st Light Horse Brigade was commanded by Colonel Harry Chauvel, an Australian regular, while the divisional artillery was commanded by Colonel Talbot Hobbs. [3] [9] The initial response for recruits was so good that in September 1914 the decision was made to raise the 4th Infantry Brigade and 2nd and 3rd Light Horse Brigades. [10] The 4th Infantry Brigade was commanded by Colonel John Monash, a prominent Melbourne civil engineer and businessman. [11] The AIF continued to grow through the war, eventually numbering five infantry divisions, two mounted divisions and a mixture of other units. [12] [13] [14] As the AIF operated within the British war effort, its units were generally organised along the same lines as comparable British Army formations. However, there were often small differences between the structures of British and Australian units, especially in regards to the AIF infantry divisions' support units. [15]

Hastily deployed, the first contingent of the AIF was essentially untrained and suffered from widespread equipment shortages. [16] In early 1915 the AIF was largely an inexperienced force, with only a small percentage of its members having previous combat experience. However, many officers and non-commissioned personnel (NCOs) had previously served in the pre-war permanent or part-time forces, and a significant proportion of the enlisted personnel had received some basic military instruction as part of Australia's compulsory training scheme. [17] Predominantly a fighting force based on infantry battalions and light horse regiments—the high proportion of close combat troops to support personnel (e.g. medical, administrative, logistic, etc.) was exceeded only by the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF)—this fact at least partially accounted for the high percentage of casualties it later sustained. [18] [19] Nevertheless, the AIF eventually included a large number of logistics and administrative units which were capable of meeting most of the force's needs, and in some circumstances provided support to nearby allied units. [20] However, the AIF mainly relied on the British Army for medium and heavy artillery support and other weapons systems necessary for combined arms warfare that were developed later in the war, including aircraft and tanks. [21]

Command Edit

When originally formed in 1914 the AIF was commanded by Bridges, who also commanded the 1st Division. [22] After Bridges' death at Gallipoli in May 1915, the Australian government appointed Major General James Gordon Legge, a Boer War veteran, to replace Bridges in command of both. [23] However, British Lieutenant General Sir John Maxwell, the commander of British Troops in Egypt, objected to Legge bypassing him and communicating directly with Australia. The Australian government failed to support Legge, who thereafter deferred to Lieutenant General William Birdwood, the commander of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. [24] When Legge was sent to Egypt to command the 2nd Division, Birdwood made representations to the Australian government that Legge could not act as commander of the AIF, and that the Australian government should transfer Bridges' authority to him. This was done on a temporary basis on 18 September 1915. [25] Promoted to major general, Chauvel took over command of the 1st Division in November when Major General Harold Walker was wounded, becoming the first Australian-born officer to command a division. [26] When Birdwood became commander of the Dardanelles Army, command of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and the AIF passed to another British officer, Lieutenant General Alexander Godley, the commander of the NZEF, but Birdwood resumed command of the AIF when he assumed command of II ANZAC Corps upon its formation in Egypt in early 1916. [27] I ANZAC Corps and II ANZAC Corps swapped designations on 28 March 1916. [28] During early 1916 the Australian and, to a lesser extent, New Zealand governments sought the establishment of an Australian and New Zealand Army led by Birdwood which would have included all of the AIF's infantry divisions and the New Zealand Division. However, General Douglas Haig, the commander of the British Empire forces in France, rejected this proposal on the grounds that the size of these forces was too small to justify grouping them in a field army. [29]

Birdwood was officially confirmed as commander of the AIF on 14 September 1916, backdated to 18 September 1915, while also commanding I ANZAC Corps on the Western Front. [25] He retained overall responsibility for the AIF units in the Middle East, but in practice this fell to Godley, and after II ANZAC Corps left Egypt as well, to Chauvel who also commanded the ANZAC Mounted Division. Later promoted to lieutenant general, he subsequently commanded the Desert Mounted Corps of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force the first Australian to command a corps. [30] Birdwood was later given command of the Australian Corps on its formation in November 1917. Another Australian, Monash, by then a lieutenant general, took over command of the corps on 31 May 1918. [31] Despite being promoted to command the British Fifth Army, Birdwood retained command of the AIF. [32] [33] By this time four of the five divisional commanders were Australian officers. [34] The exception was Major General Ewen Sinclair-Maclagan, the commander of the 4th Division, who was a British Army officer seconded to the Australian Army before the war, and who had joined the AIF in Australia in August 1914. [35] The vast majority of brigade commands were also held by Australian officers. [36] A number of British staff officers were attached to the headquarters of the Australian Corps, and its predecessors, due to a shortage of suitably trained Australian officers. [37] [38]

Structure Edit

Infantry divisions Edit

The organisation of the AIF closely followed the British Army divisional structure, and remained relatively unchanged throughout the war. During the war, the following infantry divisions were raised as part of the AIF: [16]

Each division comprised three infantry brigades, and each brigade contained four battalions (later reduced to three in 1918). [41] Australian battalions initially included eight rifle companies however, this was reduced to four expanded companies in January 1915 to conform with the organisation of British infantry battalions. A battalion contained about 1,000 men. [17] Although the divisional structure evolved over the course of the war, each formation also included a range of combat support and service units, including artillery, machine-gun, mortar, engineer, pioneer, signals, logistic, medical, veterinary and administrative units. By 1918 each brigade also included a light trench mortar battery, while each division included a pioneer battalion, a machine-gun battalion, two field artillery brigades, a divisional trench mortar brigade, four companies of engineers, a divisional signals company, a divisional train consisting of four service corps companies, a salvage company, three field ambulances, a sanitary section and a mobile veterinary section. [42] These changes were reflective of wider organisational adaption, tactical innovation, and the adoption of new weapons and technology that occurred throughout the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). [43]

At the start of the Gallipoli Campaign, the AIF had four infantry brigades with the first three making up the 1st Division. The 4th Brigade was joined with the sole New Zealand infantry brigade to form the New Zealand and Australian Division. The 2nd Division had been formed in Egypt in 1915 and was sent to Gallipoli in August to reinforce the 1st Division, doing so without its artillery and having only partially completed its training. After Gallipoli, the infantry underwent a major expansion. The 3rd Division was formed in Australia and completed its training in the UK before moving to France. The New Zealand and Australian Division was broken up with the New Zealand elements forming the New Zealand Division, while the original Australian infantry brigades (1st to 4th) were split in half to create 16 new battalions to form another four brigades. These new brigades (12th to 15th) were used to form the 4th and 5th Divisions. This ensured the battalions of the two new divisions had a core of experienced soldiers. [44] [45] The 6th Division commenced forming in England in February 1917, but was never deployed to France and was broken up in September of that year to provide reinforcements to the other five divisions. [13]

The Australian infantry did not have regiments in the British sense, only battalions identified by ordinal number (1st to 60th). Each battalion originated from a geographical region, with men recruited from that area. New South Wales and Victoria, the most populous states, filled their own battalions (and even whole brigades) while the "Outer States"—Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania—often combined to assemble a battalion. These regional associations remained throughout the war and each battalion developed its own strong regimental identity. [46] The pioneer battalions (1st to 5th, formed from March 1916) were also mostly recruited regionally however, the machine-gun battalions (1st to 5th, formed from March 1918 from the brigade and divisional machine-gun companies) were made up of personnel from all states. [47] [Note 3]

During the manpower crisis following the Third Battle of Ypres, in which the five divisions sustained 38,000 casualties, there were plans to follow the British reorganisation and reduce all brigades from four battalions to three. In the British regimental system this was traumatic enough however, the regimental identity survived the disbanding of a single battalion. In the Australian system, disbanding a battalion meant the extinction of the unit. In September 1918, the decision to disband seven battalions—the 19th, 21st, 25th, 37th, 42nd, 54th and 60th—led to a series of "mutinies over disbandment" where the ranks refused to report to their new battalions. In the AIF, mutiny was one of two charges that carried the death penalty, the other being desertion to the enemy. Instead of being charged with mutiny, the instigators were charged as being absent without leave (AWOL) and the doomed battalions were eventually permitted to remain together for the forthcoming battle, following which the survivors voluntarily disbanded. [49] These mutinies were motivated mainly by the soldiers' loyalty to their battalions. [50]

The artillery underwent a significant expansion during the war. When the 1st Division embarked in November 1914 it did so with its 18-pounder field guns, but Australia had not been able to provide the division with the howitzer batteries or the heavy guns that would otherwise have been included on its establishment, due to a lack of equipment. These shortages were unable to be rectified prior to the landing at Gallipoli where the howitzers would have provided the plunging and high-angled fire that was required due to the rough terrain at Anzac Cove. [51] [52] When the 2nd Division was formed in July 1915 it did so without its complement of artillery. Meanwhile, in December 1915 when the government offered to form another division it did so on the basis that its artillery would be provided by Britain. [51] In time though these shortfalls were overcome, with the Australian field artillery expanding from just three field brigades in 1914 to twenty at the end of 1917. The majority of the heavy artillery units supporting the Australian divisions were British, although two Australian heavy batteries were raised from the regular Australian Garrison Artillery. These were the 54th Siege Battery, which was equipped with 8-inch howitzers, and the 55th with 9.2-inch howitzers. [53]

Mounted divisions Edit

The following mounted divisions were raised as part of the AIF: [12]

During the Gallipoli Campaign four light horse brigades had been dismounted and fought alongside the infantry divisions. [54] However, in March 1916 the ANZAC Mounted Division was formed in Egypt (so named because it contained one mounted brigade from New Zealand – the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade). Likewise, the Australian Mounted Division—formed in February 1917—was originally named the Imperial Mounted Division because it contained the British 5th and 6th Mounted Brigades. [55] Each division consisted of three mounted light horse brigades. [56] A light horse brigade consisted of three regiments. Each regiment included three squadrons of four troops and a machine-gun section. The initial strength of a regiment was around 500 men, although its establishment changed throughout the war. [57] In 1916, the machine-gun sections of each regiment were concentrated as squadrons at brigade-level. [58] Like the infantry, the light horse regiments were raised on a territorial basis by state and were identified numerically (1st to 15th). [59]

Corps Edit

The following corps-level formations were raised: [60]

  • Australian and New Zealand Army Corps
  • I ANZAC Corps
  • II ANZAC Corps
  • Australian Corps
  • Desert Mounted Corps (formerly the Desert Column)

The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) was formed from the AIF and NZEF in preparation for the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915 and was commanded by Birdwood. Initially the corps consisted of the 1st Australian Division, the New Zealand and Australian Division, and two mounted brigades—the Australian 1st Light Horse Brigade and the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade—although when first deployed to Gallipoli in April, it did so without its mounted formations, as the terrain was considered unsuitable. However, in May, both brigades were dismounted and deployed along with the 2nd and 3rd Light Horse Brigades as reinforcements. Later, as the campaign continued the corps was reinforced further by the 2nd Australian Division, which began arriving from August 1915. In February 1916, it was reorganised into I and II ANZAC Corps in Egypt following the evacuation from Gallipoli and the subsequent expansion of the AIF. [61]

I ANZAC Corps included the Australian 1st and 2nd Divisions and the New Zealand Division. The New Zealand Division was later transferred to the II ANZAC Corps in July 1916 and was replaced by the Australian 3rd Division in I ANZAC. Initially employed in Egypt as part of the defence of the Suez Canal, it was transferred to the Western Front in March 1916. II ANZAC Corps included the Australian 4th and 5th Divisions, forming in Egypt it transferred to France in July 1916. [62] In November 1917 the five Australian divisions of I and II ANZAC Corps merged to become the Australian Corps, while the British and New Zealand elements in each corps became the British XXII Corps. The Australian Corps was the largest corps fielded by the British Empire in France, providing just over 10 percent of the manning of the BEF. [63] At its peak it numbered 109,881 men. [31] Corps troops raised included the 13th Light Horse Regiment and three army artillery brigades. [12] Each corps also included a cyclist battalion. [64]

Meanwhile, the majority of the Australian Light Horse had remained in the Middle East and subsequently served in Egypt, Sinai, Palestine and Syria with the Desert Column of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. In August 1917 the column was expanded to become the Desert Mounted Corps, which consisted of the ANZAC Mounted Division, Australian Mounted Division and the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade (which included a number of Australian, British and New Zealand camel companies). [55] In contrast to the static trench warfare that developed in Europe, the troops in the Middle East mostly experienced a more fluid form of warfare involving manoeuvre and combined arms tactics. [65]

Australian Flying Corps Edit

The 1st AIF included the Australian Flying Corps (AFC). Soon after the outbreak of war in 1914, two aircraft were sent to assist in capturing German colonies in what is now north-east New Guinea. However, these colonies surrendered quickly, before the planes were even unpacked. The first operational flights did not occur until 27 May 1915, when the Mesopotamian Half Flight was called upon to assist the Indian Army in protecting British oil interests in what is now Iraq. [66] The corps later saw action in Egypt, Palestine and on the Western Front throughout the remainder of World War I. By the end of the war, four squadrons—Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4—had seen operational service, while another four training squadrons—Nos. 5, 6, 7 and 8—had also been established. A total of 460 officers and 2,234 other ranks served in the AFC. [67] The AFC remained part of the Australian Army until 1919, when it was disbanded later forming the basis of the Royal Australian Air Force. [68]

Specialist units Edit

A number of specialist units were also raised, [39] including three Australian tunnelling companies. Arriving on the Western Front in May 1916 they undertook mining and counter-mining operations alongside British, Canadian and New Zealand companies, initially operating around Armentieres and at Fromelles. The following year they operated in the Ypres section. In November 1916, the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company took over from the Canadians around Hill 60, subsequently playing a key role in the Battle of Messines in June 1917. During the German offensive in March 1918 the three companies served as infantry, and later supported the Allied advance being used to defuse booby traps and mines. [69] The Australian Electrical Mining and Mechanical Boring Company supplied electric power to units in the British Second Army area. [70]

Motor transport units were also formed. Not required at Gallipoli, they were sent on to the Western Front, becoming the first units of the AIF to serve there. The motor transport rejoined I ANZAC Corps when it reached the Western Front in 1916. [71] Australia also formed six railway operating companies, which served on the Western Front. [72] Specialist ordnance units included ammunition and mobile workshops units formed late in the war, while service units included supply columns, ammunition sub-parks, field bakeries and butcheries, and depot units. [73] [74] Hospitals and other specialist medical and dental units were also formed in Australia and overseas, as were a number of convalescent depots. [75] One small armoured unit was raised, the 1st Armoured Car Section. Formed in Australia, it fought in the Western Desert, and then, re-equipped with T Model Fords, served in Palestine as the 1st Light Car Patrol. [76] [Note 4] Camel companies were raised in Egypt to patrol the Western Desert. They formed part of the Imperial Camel Corps and fought in the Sinai and Palestine. [79] In 1918 they were converted to light horse as the 14th and 15th Light Horse Regiments. [80]

Administration Edit

Although operationally placed at the disposal of the British, the AIF was administered as a separate national force, with the Australian government reserving the responsibility for the promotion, pay, clothing, equipment and feeding of its personnel. [81] The AIF was administered separately from the home-based army in Australia, and a parallel system was set up to deal with non-operational matters including record-keeping, finance, ordnance, personnel, quartermaster and other issues. [39] The AIF also had separate conditions of service, rules regarding promotion and seniority, and graduation list for officers. [81] This responsibility initially fell to Bridges, in addition to his duties as its commander however, an Administrative Headquarters was later set up in Cairo in Egypt. Following the redeployment of the Australian infantry divisions to the Western Front it was relocated to London. Additional responsibilities included liaison with the British War Office as well as the Australian Department of Defence in Melbourne, whilst also being tasked with the command of all Australian troops in Britain. A training headquarters was also established at Salisbury. [82] The AIF Headquarters and its subordinate units were almost entirely independent from the British Army, which allowed the force to be self-sustaining in many fields. [83] The AIF generally followed British administrative policy and procedures, including for the awarding of imperial honours and awards. [81]

The weaponry and equipment of the Australian Army had mostly been standardised on that used by the British Army prior to the outbreak of World War I. [85] During the war the equipment used changed as tactics evolved, and generally followed British developments. The standard issued rifle was the .303-inch Short Magazine Lee–Enfield Mark III (SMLE). Infantrymen used 1908-pattern webbing, while light horsemen used leather bandoliers and load carriage equipment. [86] [87] A large pack was issued as part of marching order. [88] In 1915 infantrymen were issued with the SMLE and long sword bayonet, [89] while periscope rifles were also used. [90] From 1916 they also used manufactured hand grenades and rodded rifle grenades, both of which had been in short supply at Gallipoli (necessitating the use of improvised "jam-tin" grenades). A grenade discharge cup was issued for fitting to the muzzle of a rifle for the projection of the Mills bomb from 1917. Machine-guns initially included a small number of Maxim or Vickers medium machine-guns, but subsequently also included the Lewis light machine-gun, the latter two of which were issued in greater numbers as the war continued so as to increase the firepower available to the infantry in response to the tactical problems of trench warfare. [89] Light horse units underwent a similar process, although were issued Hotchkiss guns to replace their Lewis guns in early 1917. [91]

From 1916 the Stokes light trench mortar was issued to infantry to replace a range of trench catapults and smaller trench mortars, whilst it was also used in a battery at brigade-level to provide organic indirect fire support. In addition, individual soldiers often used a range of personal weapons including knives, clubs, knuckle-dusters, revolvers and pistols. Snipers on the Western Front used Pattern 1914 Enfield sniper rifles with telescopic sights. [92] Light horsemen also carried bayonets (as they were initially considered mounted infantry), although the Australian Mounted Division adopted cavalry swords in late 1917. [93] [94] Artillery included 18-pounders which equipped the field batteries, 4.5-inch howitzers used by the howitzer batteries, and 8-inch and 9.2-inch howitzers which equipped the heavy (siege) batteries. The 9.45-inch heavy mortar equipped a heavy trench mortar battery, while medium trench mortar batteries were equipped with the 2-inch medium mortar, and later the 6-inch mortar. [95] Light Horse units were supported by British and Indian artillery. [96] The main mount used by the light horse was the Waler, while draught horses were used by the artillery and for wheeled transport. Camels were also used, both as mounts and transport, and donkeys and mules were used as pack animals. [97]

Recruitment Edit

Enlisted under the Defence Act 1903, the AIF was an all volunteer force for the duration of the war. Australia was one of only two belligerents on either side not to introduce conscription during the war (along with South Africa). [46] [Note 5] Although a system of compulsory training had been introduced in 1911 for home service, under Australian law it did not extend to overseas service. In Australia, two plebiscites on using conscription to expand the AIF were defeated in October 1916 and December 1917, thereby preserving the volunteer status but stretching the AIF's reserves towards the end of the war. [99] A total of 416,809 men enlisted in the Army during the war, representing 38.7 percent of the white male population aged between 18 and 44. Of these, 331,781 men were sent overseas to serve as part of the AIF. [100] [Note 6] Approximately 18 percent of those who served in the AIF had been born in the United Kingdom, marginally more than their proportion of the Australian population, [103] although almost all enlistments occurred in Australia, with only 57 people being recruited from overseas. [18] [104] Indigenous Australians were officially barred from the AIF until October 1917, when the restrictions were altered to allow so-called "half-castes" to join. Estimates of the number of Indigenous Australians who served in the AIF differ considerably, but are believed to be over 500. [105] [106] [Note 7] More than 2,000 women served with the AIF, mainly in the Australian Army Nursing Service. [110]

The recruitment process was managed by the various military districts. [111] At the outset it had been planned to recruit half the AIF's initial commitment of 20,000 personnel from Australia's part-time forces, and volunteers were initially recruited from within designated regimental areas, thus creating a linkage between the units of the AIF and the units of the home service Militia. [112] In the early stages of mobilisation the men of the AIF were selected under some of the toughest criterion of any army in World War I and it is believed that roughly 30 percent of men that applied were rejected on medical grounds. [113] To enlist, men had to be aged between 18 and 35 years of age (although it is believed that men as old as 70 and as young as 14 managed to enlist), and they had to be at least 5 feet 6 inches (168 cm), with a chest measurement of at least 34 inches (86 cm). [3] Many of these strict requirements were lifted later in the war, however, as the need for replacements grew. Indeed, casualties among the initial volunteers were so high, that of the 32,000 original soldiers of the AIF only 7,000 would survive to the end of the war. [9]

By the end of 1914 around 53,000 volunteers had been accepted, allowing a second contingent to depart in December. Meanwhile, reinforcements were sent at a rate of 3,200 men per month. [114] The landing at Anzac Cove subsequently resulted in a significant increase in enlistments, with 36,575 men being recruited in July 1915. Although this level was never again reached, enlistments remained high in late 1915 and early 1916. [115] From then a gradual decline occurred, [116] and whereas news from Gallipoli had increased recruitment, the fighting at Fromelles and Pozieres did not have a similar effect, with monthly totals dropping from 10,656 in May 1916 to around 6,000 between June and August. Significant losses in mid-1916, coupled with the failure of the volunteer system to provide sufficient replacements, resulted in the first referendum on conscription, which was defeated by a narrow margin. Although there was an increase in enlistments in September (9,325) and October (11,520), in December they fell to the lowest total of the year (2,617). Enlistments in 1917 never exceeded 4,989 (in March). [117] [118] Heavy losses at Passchendaele resulted in a second referendum on conscription, which was defeated by an even greater margin. Recruitment continued to decline, reaching a low in December (2,247). [119] Monthly intakes fell further in early 1918, but peaked in May (4,888) and remained relatively steady albeit reduced from previous periods, before slightly increasing in October (3,619) prior to the armistice in November. [118]

Ultimately, the voluntary system of recruitment proved unable to sustain the force structure of the AIF, failing to provide sufficient replacements for the heavy casualties it sustained and requiring a number of units to be disbanded towards the end of the war. [120] [121] In mid-1918 it was decided to allow the men who had enlisted in 1914 to return to Australia for home leave, further exacerbating the manpower shortage experienced by the Australian Corps. [122] [123] Regardless, by the last year of the war the AIF was a long-serving force—even if it was a citizen army and not a professional one like the pre-war British Army—containing 141,557 men with more than two-years service, including, despite the heavy casualties suffered at Gallipoli in 1915 and on the Western Front in 1916 and 1917, 14,653 men who had enlisted in 1914. Battle hardened and experienced as a result, this fact partially explains the important role the AIF subsequently played in the final defeat of the German Army in 1918. [98]

Pay Edit

Soldiers of the AIF were among the highest paid of the war. [124] The pay for a private was set at five shillings a day, while an additional shilling was deferred to be paid on discharge. [46] As a result, the AIF earned the sobriquet "six bob a day tourists". [125] Married men were required to allot two shillings a day for their dependents however, a separation allowance was added in 1915. [46] Reflecting the progressive nature of Australian industrial and social policy of the era, this rate of pay was intended to be equal to that of the average worker (after including rations and accommodation) and higher than that of soldiers in the Militia. [46] [125] [126] In contrast, New Zealand soldiers received five shillings, while British infantrymen were initially only paid one shilling, although this was later increased to three. [126] Junior officers in the AIF were also paid at a rate higher than those in the British Army, although senior officers were paid considerably less than their counterparts. [46]

Training Edit

In the early stages of the AIF's formation, prior to Gallipoli, training was rudimentary and performed mainly at unit-level. There were no formal schools and volunteers proceeded straight from recruiting stations to their assigned units, which were still in the process of being established. Upon arrival, in makeshift camps the recruits received basic training in drill and musketry from officers and non-commissioned officers, who were not trained instructors and had been appointed mainly because they had previous service in the part-time forces. [127] Camps were established in every state including at Enoggera (Queensland), Liverpool (New South Wales), Broadmeadows (Victoria), Brighton (Tasmania), Morphettville (South Australia) and Blackboy Hill (Western Australia). [128] In some units this training took place over a period of six to eight weeks, although others—such as the 5th Battalion—spent as little as one day on live firing before departing for overseas. Following the embarkation of the initial force to the Middle East, further training was undertaken in the desert. This was more organised than the training provided in Australia, but was still quite rushed. Individual training was consolidated but progressed quickly into collective training at battalion and brigade-level. Training exercises, marches, drill and musketry practices followed but the standard of the exercises was limited and they lacked realism, meaning that commanders did not benefit from handling their troops under battlefield conditions. [129]

Some soldiers had received training through the compulsory training scheme that had been established in 1911, while others had served as volunteers in the part-time forces before the war or as members of the British Army, but their numbers were limited and in many cases the quality of the training they had received was also limited. The original intention had been that half the initial intake would consist of soldiers that were currently serving in the Militia, but ultimately this did not come to fruition and while about 8,000 of the original intake had some prior military experience, either through compulsory training or as volunteers, over 6,000 had none at all. [130] In terms of officers, the situation was better. For example, within the 1st Division, of its initial 631 officers, 607 had had previous military experience. This was largely through service in the pre-war militia, though, where there had been little to no formal officer training. In addition, there was a small cadre of junior officers who had been trained for the permanent force at the Royal Military College, Duntroon, [131] but their numbers were very small and at the outbreak of the war the first class had to be graduated early in order for them to join the AIF, being placed mainly in staff positions. [132] Other than small numbers of Duntroon graduates, from January 1915 the only means to be commissioned into the AIF was from the ranks of enlisted personnel. [46] As a result, by 1918 the majority of company and battalion commanders had risen from the ranks. [133] While the AIF's initial senior officers had been members of the pre-war military, few had any substantial experience in managing brigade-sized or larger units in the field as training exercises on this scale had been rarely conducted before the outbreak of hostilities. This inexperience contributed to tactical mistakes and avoidable casualties during the Gallipoli campaign. [134]

After the AIF was transferred to the European battlefield, the training system was greatly improved. Efforts were made at standardisation, with a formal training organisation and curriculum—consisting of 14 weeks basic training for infantrymen—being established. In Egypt, as the AIF was expanded in early 1916, each brigade established a training battalion. These formations were later sent to the United Kingdom and were absorbed into a large system of depots that was established on Salisbury Plain by each branch of the AIF including infantry, engineers, artillery, signals, medical and logistics. After completing their initial instruction at depots in Australia and the United Kingdom, soldiers were posted to in-theatre base depots where they received advanced training before being posted as reinforcements to operational units. [135] [136] Like the British Army, the AIF sought to rapidly pass on "lessons learned" as the war progressed, and these were widely transmitted through regularly updated training documents. [137] The experience gained through combat also improved the skills of the surviving officers and men, and by 1918 the AIF was a very well trained and well led force. [138] After coming to terms with the conditions on the Western Front the Australians had played a part in the development of new combined arms tactics for offensive operations that occurred within the BEF, while in defence they employed patrolling, trench raids, and Peaceful Penetration tactics to dominate no man's land. [139]

Following the deployment of the AIF a reinforcement system was used to replace wastage. Reinforcements received training in Australia first at camps around the country before sailing as drafts—consisting of about two officers and between 100 and 150 other ranks—and joining their assigned units at the front. Initially, these drafts were assigned to specific units prior to departure and were recruited from the same area as the unit they were assigned to, but later in the war drafts were sent as "general reinforcements", which could be assigned to any unit as required. [104] These drafts were despatched even before Gallipoli and continued until late 1917 to early 1918. Some units had as many as 26 or 27 reinforcement drafts. [14] [140] To provide officer reinforcements, a series of AIF officer schools, such as that at Broadmeadows, [141] were established in Australia before officer training was eventually concentrated at a school near Duntroon. These schools produced a large number of officers, but they were eventually closed in 1917 due to concerns that their graduates were too inexperienced. After this most replacement officers were drawn from the ranks of the AIF's deployed units, and candidates attended either British officer training units, or in-theatre schools established in France. [142] [143] After February 1916, the issue of NCO training was also taken more seriously, and several schools were established, with training initially being two weeks in duration before being increased to two months. [144]

Discipline Edit

During the war the AIF gained a reputation, at least amongst British officers, for indifference to military authority and indiscipline when away from the battlefield on leave. [146] This included a reputation for refusing to salute officers, sloppy dress, lack of respect for military rank and drunkenness on leave. [147] Historian Peter Stanley has written that "the AIF was, paradoxically, both a cohesive and remarkably effective force, but also one whose members could not be relied upon to accept military discipline or to even remain in action". [145]

Indiscipline, misbehaviour, and public drunkenness were reportedly widespread in Egypt in 1914–15, while a number of AIF personnel were also involved in several civil disturbances or riots in the red-light district of Cairo during this period. [148] [149] Australians also appear to have been over-represented among British Empire personnel convicted by court martial of various disciplinary offences on the Western Front from 1916, especially absence without leave however, this may at least be partially explained by the refusal of the Australian government to follow the British Army practice of applying the death penalty to desertion, unlike New Zealand or Canada, as well as to the high proportion of front-line personnel. [146] [Note 8] Instead, Australian soldiers received prison sentences, including hard labour and life imprisonment, for desertion as well as for other serious offences, including manslaughter, assault and theft. More minor offences included drunkenness and defiance of authority. [151] There were also examples of Australian soldiers being involved in looting, [152] while the practice of "scrounging" or "souveniring" was also widespread. [153] The stresses from prolonged combat contributed to a high incidence of indiscipline within AIF units, and especially those in France during the heavy fighting between April and October 1918. [154] The rates of personnel going absent without leave or deserting increased during 1918, and it became rare for soldiers to salute their officers in many units. [145] Following the war, the indiscipline within the AIF was often portrayed as harmless larrikinism. [155]

Australia's working class culture also influenced that of the AIF. Approximately three-quarters of AIF volunteers were members of the working class, with a high proportion also being trade unionists, and soldiers frequently applied their attitudes to industrial relations to the Army. [156] Throughout the war there were incidents where soldiers refused to undertake tasks that they considered demeaning or protested against actual or perceived mistreatment by their officers. These actions were similar to the strikes many soldiers had taken part in during their pre-enlistment employment, with the men not seeing themselves as mutineers. [157] The protests which occurred in 1918 over the planned disbandment of several battalions also used similar tactics to those employed in industrial disputes. [158] Historian Nathan Wise has judged that the frequent use of industrial action in the AIF led to improved conditions for the soldiers, and contributed to it having a less strict military culture than was common in the British Army. [159]

The pre-war Australian Army uniform formed the basis of that worn by the AIF, which adopted the broad-brimmed slouch hat and rising sun badge. [86] Peak caps were initially also worn by the infantry, [88] while light horsemen often wore a distinctive emu plume in their slouch hats. [160] A standard khaki puggaree was worn by all arms. [161] From 1916 steel helmets and gas masks were issued for use by infantry on the Western Front. [92] A loose-fitting four-pocket service dress jacket was worn, along with baggy knee breeches, puttees, and tan ankle-boots. [86] A heavy woollen greatcoat was worn during cold weather. [162] The uniform was a drab "pea soup" or khaki colour, while all buttons and badges were oxidised to prevent shine. [163] All personnel wore a shoulder title bearing the word "Australia". [87] Rank insignia followed the British Army pattern and were worn on the upper arms (or shoulders for officers). Identical hat and collar badges were worn by all units, which were initially only distinguished by small metal numerals and letters on the shoulder straps (or collars for officers). However, in 1915 a system of unit colour patches was adopted, worn on the upper arm of a soldier's jacket. Wound stripes of gold braid were also authorised to be worn to denote each wound received. Other distinguishing badges included a brass letter "A" which was worn on the colour patch by men and nurses who had served at Gallipoli, blue chevrons representing each year of overseas service, and a red chevron to represent enlistment during the first year of the war. [86] Uniforms worn by the AFC were similar to those of the rest of the AIF, although some officers wore the double-breasted "maternity jacket" which had been worn at the pre-war Central Flying School. AFC "wings" were worn on the left breast, while an AFC colour patch and standard rising sun badges were also worn. [164]

Gallipoli Edit

The first contingent of the AIF departed by ship in a single convoy from Fremantle, Western Australia and Albany on 1 November 1914. Although they were originally bound for England to undergo further training prior to employment on the Western Front, the Australians were subsequently sent to British-controlled Egypt to pre-empt any Turkish attack against the strategically important Suez Canal, and with a view to opening another front against the Central Powers. [165] Aiming to knock Turkey out of the war the British then decided to stage an amphibious lodgement at Gallipoli and following a period of training and reorganisation the Australians were included amongst the British, Indian and French forces committed to the campaign. The combined Australian and New Zealand Army Corps—commanded by British general William Birdwood—subsequently landed at Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli peninsula on 25 April 1915. Although promising to transform the war if successful, the Gallipoli Campaign was ill-conceived and shortly after the landing a bloody stalemate developed. This ultimately lasted eight months before Allied commanders decided to evacuate the troops without having achieved the campaign's objectives. [166] Australian casualties totalled 26,111, including 8,141 killed. [167]

Egypt and Palestine Edit

After the withdrawal from Gallipoli the Australians returned to Egypt and the AIF underwent a major expansion. In 1916, the infantry began to move to France while the mounted infantry units remained in the Middle East to fight the Turks. Australian troops of the ANZAC Mounted Division and the Australian Mounted Division saw action in all the major battles of the Sinai and Palestine Campaign, playing a pivotal role in fighting the Turkish troops that were threatening British control of Egypt. [168] The Australians first saw combat during the Senussi Uprising in the Libyan Desert and the Nile Valley, during which the combined British forces successfully put down the primitive pro-Turkish Islamic sect with heavy casualties. [169] The ANZAC Mounted Division subsequently saw considerable action in the Battle of Romani between 3 and 5 August 1916 against the Turks who were eventually pushed back. [170] Following this victory the British forces went on the offensive in the Sinai, although the pace of the advance was governed by the speed by which the railway and water pipeline could be constructed from the Suez Canal. Rafa was captured on 9 January 1917, while the last of the small Turkish garrisons in the Sinai were eliminated in February. [171]

The advance entered Palestine and an initial, unsuccessful attempt was made to capture Gaza on 26 March 1917, while a second and equally unsuccessful attempt was launched on 19 April. A third assault occurred between 31 October and 7 November and this time both the ANZAC Mounted Division and the Australian Mounted Division took part. The battle was a complete success for the British, over-running the Gaza–Beersheba line and capturing 12,000 Turkish soldiers. The critical moment was the capture of Beersheba on the first day, after the Australian 4th Light Horse Brigade charged more than 4 miles (6.4 km). The Turkish trenches were overrun, with the Australians capturing the wells at Beersheba and securing the valuable water they contained along with over 700 prisoners for the loss of 31 killed and 36 wounded. [172] Later, Australian troops assisted in pushing the Turkish forces out of Palestine and took part in actions at Mughar Ridge, Jerusalem and the Megiddo. The Turkish government surrendered on 30 October 1918. [173] Units of the Light Horse were subsequently used to help put down a nationalist revolt in Egypt in 1919 and did so with efficiency and brutality, although they suffered a number of fatalities in the process. [174] Total Australian battle casualties in the campaign were 4,851, including 1,374 dead. [175]

Western Front Edit

Five infantry divisions of the AIF saw action in France and Belgium, leaving Egypt in March 1916. [176] I ANZAC Corps subsequently took up positions in a quiet sector south of Armentières on 7 April 1916 and for the next two and a half years the AIF participated in most of the major battles on the Western Front, earning a formidable reputation. Although spared from the disastrous first day of the Battle of the Somme, within weeks four Australian divisions had been committed. [177] The 5th Division, positioned on the left flank, was the first in action during the Battle of Fromelles on 19 July 1916, suffering 5,533 casualties in a single day. The 1st Division entered the line on 23 July, assaulting Pozières, and by the time that they were relieved by the 2nd Division on 27 July, they had suffered 5,286 casualties. [178] Mouquet Farm was attacked in August, with casualties totalling 6,300 men. [179] By the time the AIF was withdrawn from the Somme to reorganise, they had suffered 23,000 casualties in just 45 days. [178]

In March 1917, the 2nd and 5th Divisions pursued the Germans back to the Hindenburg Line, capturing the town of Bapaume. On 11 April, the 4th Division assaulted the Hindenburg Line in the disastrous First Battle of Bullecourt, losing over 3,000 casualties and 1,170 captured. [180] On 15 April, the 1st and 2nd Divisions were counter-attacked near Lagnicourt and were forced to abandon the town, before recapturing it. [181] The 2nd Division then took part in the Second Battle of Bullecourt, beginning on 3 May, and succeeded in taking sections of the Hindenburg Line and holding them until relieved by the 1st Division. [180] Finally, on 7 May the 5th Division relieved the 1st, remaining in the line until the battle ended in mid-May. Combined, these efforts cost 7,482 Australian casualties. [182]

On 7 June 1917, II ANZAC Corps—along with two British corps—launched an operation in Flanders to eliminate a salient south of Ypres. [183] The attack commenced with the detonation of a million pounds (454,545 kg) of explosives that had been placed underneath the Messines ridge, destroying the German trenches. [184] The advance was virtually unopposed, and despite strong German counterattacks the next day, it succeeded. Australian casualties during the Battle of Messines included nearly 6,800 men. [185] I ANZAC Corps then took part in the Third Battle of Ypres in Belgium as part of the campaign to capture the Gheluvelt Plateau, between September and November 1917. [185] Individual actions took place at Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcappelle and Passchendaele and over the course of eight weeks of fighting the Australians suffered 38,000 casualties. [186]

On 21 March 1918, the German Army launched its Spring Offensive in a last-ditched effort to win the war, unleashing 63 divisions over a 70-mile (110 km) front. [187] As the Allies fell back the 3rd and 4th Divisions were rushed south to Amiens on the Somme. [188] The offensive lasted for the next five months and all five AIF divisions in France were engaged in the attempt to stem the tide. By late May the Germans had pushed to within 50 miles (80 km) of Paris. [189] During this time the Australians fought at Dernancourt, Morlancourt, Villers-Bretonneux, Hangard Wood, Hazebrouck, and Hamel. [190] At Hamel the commander of the Australian Corps, Monash, successfully used combined arms—including aircraft, artillery and armour—in an attack for the first time. [191]

The German offensive ground to a halt in mid-July and a brief lull followed, during which the Australians undertook a series of raids, known as Peaceful Penetrations. [192] The Allies soon launched their own offensive—the Hundred Days Offensive—ultimately ending the war. Beginning on 8 August 1918 the offensive included four Australian divisions striking at Amiens. [193] Using the combined arms techniques developed earlier at Hamel, significant gains were made on what became known as the "Black Day" of the German Army. [194] The offensive continued for four months, and during the Second Battle of the Somme the Australian Corps fought actions at Lihons, Etinehem, Proyart, Chuignes, and Mont St Quentin, before their final engagement of the war on 5 October 1918 at Montbrehain. [195] While these actions were successful, the Australian divisions suffered considerable casualties and by September 1918 the average strength of their infantry battalions was between 300 and 400, which was less than 50 percent of the authorised strength. [196] The AIF was withdrawn for rest and reorganisation following the engagement at Montbrehain at this time the Australian Corps appeared to be close to breaking as a result of its heavy casualties since August. [197] The Corps was still out of the line when the armistice was declared on 11 November 1918. [198] However, some artillery units continued to support British and American units into November, and the AFC maintained flying operations until the end of the war. [199] Total Australian casualties on the Western Front numbered 181,000, including 46,000 of whom died. Another 114,000 men were wounded, 16,000 gassed, and approximately 3,850 were taken prisoners of war. [175]

Other theatres Edit

Small numbers of AIF personnel also served in other theatres. Australian troops from the 1st Australian Wireless Signal Squadron provided communications for British forces during the Mesopotamian Campaign. They participated in a number of battles, including the Battle of Baghdad in March 1917 [200] and the Battle of Ramadi in September that year. [201] Following the Russian Revolution in 1917, the Caucasus Front collapsed, leaving Central Asia open to the Turkish Army. A special force, known as Dunsterforce after its commander, Major General Lionel Dunsterville, was formed from hand-picked British officers and NCOs to organise any remaining Russian forces or civilians who were ready to fight the Turkish forces. Some 20 Australian officers served with Dunsterforce in the Caucasus Campaign and one party under Captain Stanley Savige was instrumental in protecting thousands of Assyrian refugees. [202] Australian nurses staffed four British hospitals in Salonika, and another 10 in India. [203]

By the end of the war the AIF had gained a reputation as a well-trained and highly effective military force, enduring more than two years of costly fighting on the Western Front before playing a significant role in the final Allied victory in 1918, albeit as a smaller part of the wider British Empire war effort. [204] [205] Like the other Dominion divisions from Canada and New Zealand, the Australians were viewed as being among the best of the British forces in France, [206] and were often used to spearhead operations. [139] 64 Australians were awarded the Victoria Cross. [4] This reputation came at a heavy cost, with the AIF sustaining approximately 210,000 casualties, of which 61,519 were killed or died of wounds. [100] This represented a total casualty rate of 64.8 percent, which was among the highest of any belligerent for the war. [101] About another 4,000 men were captured. [100] The majority of casualties occurred among the infantry (which sustained a casualty rate of 79 percent) however, the artillery (58 percent) and light horse (32 percent) also incurred significant losses. [19] [207]

After the war, all AIF units went into camp and began the process of demobilisation. The AIF's involvement in the occupation of former German or Turkish territory was limited as Prime Minister William Hughes requested their early repatriation. [208] The exceptions were No. 4 Squadron, AFC and the 3rd Australian Casualty Clearing Station, which participated in the occupation of the Rhineland. [209] The 7th Light Horse Regiment was also sent to occupy the Gallipoli peninsula for six weeks, along with a New Zealand regiment. [210] At the time of the armistice, there were 95,951 soldiers in France and a further 58,365 in England, 17,255 in the Middle East plus nurses in Salonika and India, all to be transported home. [175] Around 120 Australians decided to delay their departure and instead joined the British Army, serving in Northern Russia during the Russian Civil War, although officially the Australian government refused to contribute forces to the campaign. [211] [212]

By May 1919, the last troops were out of France, and 70,000 were encamped on Salisbury Plain. [213] The men returned home on a "first come, first go" basis, with the process overseen by Monash in Britain and Chauvel in Cairo. [174] Many of the soldiers undertook government-funded training in civilian occupations while awaiting repatriation to Australia. [210] Only 10,000 Australian soldiers remained in England by September. Monash, the senior Australian commander, was repatriated on 26 December 1919. The last transport organised to repatriate troops was H.T. Naldera, which departed London on 13 April 1920. The AIF officially ceased to exist on 1 April 1921, and on 1 July 1921 the military hospitals in Australia passed into civilian hands. [213] As a volunteer force, all units were demobilised at the end of the war. [214] Australia's part-time military force, the Citizens Force, was subsequently reorganised to replicate the AIF's divisional structure and the numerical designations of many of its units to perpetuate their identities and battle honours. [112]

During and after the war, the AIF was often portrayed in glowing terms. As part of the "Anzac legend", the soldiers were depicted as good humoured and egalitarian men who had little time for the formalities of military life or strict discipline, yet fought fiercely and skilfully in battle. [215] Australian soldiers was also seen as resourceful and self-reliant. [216] The wartime official correspondent and post-war official historian C.E.W. Bean was central to the development of this stereotype. Bean believed that the character and achievements of the AIF reflected the unique nature of rural Australians, and frequently exaggerated the democratic nature of the force and the proportion of soldiers from rural areas in his journalism and the Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918. [217] [218] The perceived qualities of the AIF were seen as being unique, as the product of the harsh Australian environment, the ethos of the bush and egalitarianism. [216] Such notions built on the concept of men from the bush being excellent natural soldiers which was prevalent in Australian culture before the war. [219] The achievements of the AIF, especially during the Gallipoli campaign, were also frequently portrayed by Bean and others as having marked the birth of Australia as a nation. Moreover, the AIF's performance was often seen as proof that the character of Australians had passed the test of war. [220]

The exploits of the AIF at Gallipoli, and then on the Western Front, subsequently became central to the national mythology. [216] In the years that followed much was made of ethos of the AIF, including its volunteer status and the quality of "mateship". Yet many of the factors which had resulted in the AIF's success as a military formation were not exclusively Australian, with most modern armies recognising the importance of small-unit identity and group cohesion in maintaining morale. Many of the qualities that arguably defined the Australian soldier were also claimed by New Zealanders and Canadians as having been exhibited by their soldiers, whilst undoubtedly soldiers of the German, British and American armies also exhibited such traits, even if they were known by different terms. [221] Objectively, the foundations of the AIF's performance were more likely to have been military professionalism based on "discipline, training, leadership, and sound doctrine". [120] While the volunteer status of the AIF has been seen by some to explain its military performance, it was by no means unique in this regard. [98] The status of their enlistment made little difference against the artillery, machine-gun fire, and wire obstacles of modern industrial warfare at any rate. Equally, individual skill and morale proved to be less important than sound tactics, with effective fire and movement ultimately making the difference in 1918. [222] The Australians were not alone among the Allied armies in embracing such tactical innovations, while many of the new technologies and integrated weapon systems they relied upon were provided by the British Army. [204]

Commemorating and celebrating the AIF became an entrenched tradition following World War I, with Anzac Day forming the centrepiece of remembrance of the war. [223] The soldiers who served in the AIF, known colloquially as "Diggers", in time became ". one of the paramount Australian archetypes." [224] When the Second Australian Imperial Force was raised in 1939 following the outbreak of World War II it was seen as inheriting the name and traditions of its predecessor. [5] Perceptions of the AIF have evolved over time. During the 1950s and 1960s social critics began to associate the "Anzac legend" with complacency and conformism, and popular discontent concerning the Vietnam War and conscription from the mid-1960s led many people to reject it. [225] Historians also increasingly questioned Bean's views concerning the AIF, leading to more realistic and nuanced assessments of the force. However, some historians continue to stress the AIF's achievements, and state that it was representative of Australia. [225] The "Anzac legend" grew in popularity during the 1980s and 1990s when it was adopted as part of a new Australian nationalism, with the AIF often being portrayed as a uniquely Australian force that fought in other people's wars and was sacrificed by the British military in campaigns which were of little importance to Australia. This depiction is controversial, however, and has been rejected by some historians. [226] The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History judges that while it is unclear how popular perceptions of Australia's military history will evolve, "it is clear that the Anzac legend will remain an important national myth for some time to come". [227]


Britain Alone Stamps

Reason and inspiration

After the defeat of France in 1940 up until the German invasion of Russia in June 1941, Britain and the Commonwealth stood alone against the might of the Axis powers.

In spring 1940, the German Army invaded the Low Countries and by early June the Allied armies had been split in two, leaving British – and many French – troops to evacuate through Dunkirk.

Though admirably defended by its armed services at home and abroad, Britain also came to be protected by another force – its people. Those not eligible for military service readily joined civil defence units such as the Home Guard and Air Raid Precautions, while more than 80,000 women volunteered for the Women’s Land Army.

Seventy years on, the Britain Alone stamp issue pays tribute to the hundreds of thousands of men and women who ‘did their bit’ for the war effort during Britain’s darkest hour.

In addition to the stamps there is also a Dunkirk Miniature Sheet commemorating the evacuation of 338,226 servicemen from the beaches of Normandy by the Royal Navy and a ‘mini-Armada’ of civilian vessels.


Contents

The American entry into World War I came on April 6, 1917, after a year long effort by President Woodrow Wilson to get the United States into the war. Apart from an Anglophile element urging early support for the British, American public opinion sentiment for neutrality was particularly strong among Irish Americans, German Americans and Scandinavian Americans, [1] as well as among church leaders and among women in general. On the other hand, even before World War I had broken out, American opinion had been more negative toward Germany than towards any other country in Europe. [2] Over time, especially after reports of atrocities in Belgium in 1914 and following the sinking of the passenger liner RMS Lusitania in 1915, the American people increasingly came to see Germany as the aggressor.

As U.S. President, it was Wilson who made the key policy decisions over foreign affairs: while the country was at peace, the domestic economy ran on a laissez-faire basis, with American banks making huge loans to Britain and France — funds that were in large part used to buy munitions, raw materials, and food from across the Atlantic. Until 1917, Wilson made minimal preparations for a land war and kept the United States Army on a small peacetime footing, despite increasing demands for enhanced preparedness. He did, however, expand the United States Navy.

In 1917, with the Russian Revolution and widespread disillusionment over the war, and with Britain and France low on credit, Germany appeared to have the upper hand in Europe, [3] while the Ottoman Empire clung to its possessions in the Middle East. In the same year, Germany decided to resume unrestricted submarine warfare against any vessel approaching British waters this attempt to starve Britain into surrender was balanced against the knowledge that it would almost certainly bring the United States into the war. Germany also made a secret offer to help Mexico regain territories lost in the Mexican–American War in an encoded telegram known as the Zimmermann Telegram, which was intercepted by British Intelligence. Publication of that communique outraged Americans just as German U-boats started sinking American merchant ships in the North Atlantic. Wilson then asked Congress for "a war to end all wars" that would "make the world safe for democracy", and Congress voted to declare war on Germany on April 6, 1917. [4] On December 7, 1917, the U.S. declared war on Austria-Hungary. [5] [6] U.S. troops began arriving on the Western Front in large numbers in 1918.

After the war began in 1914, the United States proclaimed a policy of neutrality despite President Woodrow Wilson's antipathies against Germany.

When the German U-boat U-20 sank the British liner Lusitania on 7 May 1915 with 128 US citizens aboard, Wilson demanded an end to German attacks on passenger ships, and warned that the USA would not tolerate unrestricted submarine warfare in violation of "American rights" and of "international and obligations." [7] Wilson's Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, resigned, believing that the President's protests against the German use of U-boat attacks conflicted with America's official commitment to neutrality. On the other hand, Wilson came under pressure from war hawks led by former president Theodore Roosevelt, who denounced German acts as "piracy", [8] and from British delegations under Cecil Spring Rice and Sir Edward Grey.

U.S. Public opinion reacted with outrage to the suspected German sabotage of Black Tom in Jersey City, New Jersey on 30 July 1916, and to the Kingsland explosion on 11 January 1917 in present-day Lyndhurst, New Jersey. [9]

Crucially, by the spring of 1917, President Wilson's official commitment to neutrality had finally unraveled. Wilson realized he needed to enter the war in order to shape the peace and implement his vision for a League of Nations at the Paris Peace Conference. [10]

American public opinion was divided, with most Americans until early 1917 largely of the opinion that the United States should stay out of the war. Opinion changed gradually, partly in response to German actions in Belgium and the Lusitania, partly as German Americans lost influence, and partly in response to Wilson's position that America had to play a role to make the world safe for democracy. [11]

In the general public, there was little if any support for entering the war on the side of Germany. The great majority of German Americans, as well as Scandinavian Americans, wanted the United States to remain neutral however, at the outbreak of war, thousands of US citizens had tried to enlist in the German army. [12] [13] The Irish Catholic community, based in the large cities and often in control of the Democratic Party apparatus, was strongly hostile to helping Britain in any way, especially after the Easter uprising of 1916 in Ireland. [14] Most of the Protestant church leaders in the United States, regardless of their theology, favored pacifistic solutions whereby the United States would broker a peace. [15] Most of the leaders of the women's movement, typified by Jane Addams, likewise sought pacifistic solutions. [16] The most prominent opponent of war was industrialist Henry Ford, who personally financed and led a peace ship to Europe to try to negotiate among the belligerents no negotiations resulted. [17]

Britain had significant support among intellectuals and families with close ties to Britain. [18] The most prominent leader was Samuel Insull of Chicago, a leading industrialist who had emigrated from England. Insull funded many propaganda efforts, and financed young Americans who wished to fight by joining the Canadian military. [19] [20]

By 1915, Americans were paying much more attention to the war. The sinking of the Lusitania aroused furious denunciations of German brutality. [21] By 1915, in Eastern cities a new "Preparedness" movement emerged. It argued that the United States needed to build up immediately strong naval and land forces for defensive purposes an unspoken assumption was that America would fight sooner or later. The driving forces behind Preparedness were all Republicans, notably General Leonard Wood, ex-president Theodore Roosevelt, and former secretaries of war Elihu Root and Henry Stimson they enlisted many of the nation's most prominent bankers, industrialists, lawyers and scions of prominent families. Indeed, there emerged an "Atlanticist" foreign policy establishment, a group of influential Americans drawn primarily from upper-class lawyers, bankers, academics, and politicians of the Northeast, committed to a strand of Anglophile internationalism. [22]

The Preparedness movement had what political scientists call a "realism" philosophy of world affairs—they believed that economic strength and military muscle were more decisive than idealistic crusades focused on causes like democracy and national self-determination. Emphasizing over and over the weak state of national defenses, they showed that the United States' 100,000-man Army, even augmented by the 112,000-strong National Guard, was outnumbered 20 to one by the German army similarly in 1915, the armed forces of Great Britain and the British Empire, France, Russia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Ottoman Empire, Italy, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Belgium, Japan and Greece were all larger and more experienced than the United States military. [23]

They called for UMT or "universal military service" under which the 600,000 men who turned 18 every year would be required to spend six months in military training, and then be assigned to reserve units. The small regular army would primarily be a training agency. Public opinion, however, was not willing to go that far. [24]

Both the regular army and the Preparedness leaders had a low opinion of the National Guard, which it saw as politicized, provincial, poorly armed, ill trained, too inclined to idealistic crusading (as against Spain in 1898), and too lacking in understanding of world affairs. The National Guard on the other hand was securely rooted in state and local politics, with representation from a very broad cross section of the US political economy. The Guard was one of the nation's few institutions that (in some northern states) accepted black men on an equal footing with white men.

Democrats respond Edit

The Democratic party saw the Preparedness movement as a threat. Roosevelt, Root and Wood were prospective Republican presidential candidates. More subtly, the Democrats were rooted in localism that appreciated the National Guard, and the voters were hostile to the rich and powerful in the first place. Working with the Democrats who controlled Congress, Wilson was able to sidetrack the Preparedness forces. Army and Navy leaders were forced to testify before Congress to the effect that the nation's military was in excellent shape.

In reality, neither the US Army nor US Navy was in shape for war in terms of manpower, size, military hardware or experience. The Navy had fine ships but Wilson had been using them to threaten Mexico, and the fleet's readiness had suffered. The crews of the Texas and the New York, the two newest and largest battleships, had never fired a gun, and the morale of the sailors was low. The Army and Navy air forces were tiny in size. Despite the flood of new weapons systems unveiled in the war in Europe, the Army was paying scant attention. For example, it was making no studies of trench warfare, poison gas or tanks, and was unfamiliar with the rapid evolution of aerial warfare. The Democrats in Congress tried to cut the military budget in 1915. The Preparedness movement effectively exploited the surge of outrage over the "Lusitania" in May 1915, forcing the Democrats to promise some improvements to the military and naval forces. Wilson, less fearful of the Navy, embraced a long-term building program designed to make the fleet the equal of the British Royal Navy by the mid-1920s, although this would not come to pass until World War II. [25] "Realism" was at work here the admirals were Mahanians and they therefore wanted a surface fleet of heavy battleships second to none—that is, equal to Great Britain. The facts of submarine warfare (which necessitated destroyers, not battleships) and the possibilities of imminent war with Germany (or with Britain, for that matter), were simply ignored.

Wilson's decision touched off a firestorm. [26] Secretary of War Lindley Garrison adopted many of the proposals of the Preparedness leaders, especially their emphasis on a large federal reserves and abandonment of the National Guard. Garrison's proposals not only outraged the provincial politicians of both parties, they also offended a strongly held belief shared by the liberal wing of the Progressive movement, that was, that warfare always had a hidden economic motivation. Specifically, they warned the chief warmongers were New York bankers (such as J. P. Morgan) with millions at risk, profiteering munition makers (such as Bethlehem Steel, which made armor, and DuPont, which made powder) and unspecified industrialists searching for global markets to control. Antiwar critics blasted them. These selfish special interests were too powerful, especially, Senator La Follette noted, in the conservative wing of the Republican Party. The only road to peace was disarmament in the eyes of many.

National debate Edit

Garrison's plan unleashed the fiercest battle in peacetime history over the relationship of military planning to national goals. In peacetime, War Department arsenals and Navy yards manufactured nearly all munitions that lacked civilian uses, including warships, artillery, naval guns, and shells. Items available on the civilian market, such food, horses, saddles, wagons, and uniforms were always purchased from civilian contractors.

Peace leaders like Jane Addams of Hull House and David Starr Jordan of Stanford University redoubled their efforts, and now turned their voices against the President because he was "sowing the seeds of militarism, raising up a military and naval caste." Many ministers, professors, farm spokesmen and labor union leaders joined in, with powerful support from a band of four dozen southern Democrats in Congress who took control of the House Military Affairs Committee. Wilson, in deep trouble, took his cause to the people in a major speaking tour in early 1916, a warm-up for his reelection campaign that fall.

Wilson seemed to have won over the middle classes, but had little impact on the largely ethnic working classes and the deeply isolationist farmers. Congress still refused to budge, so Wilson replaced Garrison as Secretary of War with Newton Baker, the Democratic mayor of Cleveland and an outspoken opponent of preparedness. [27] The upshot was a compromise passed in May 1916, as the war raged on and Berlin was debating whether America was so weak it could be ignored. The Army was to double in size to 11,300 officers and 208,000 men, with no reserves, and a National Guard that would be enlarged in five years to 440,000 men. Summer camps on the Plattsburg model were authorized for new officers, and the government was given $20 million to build a nitrate plant of its own. Preparedness supporters were downcast, the antiwar people were jubilant. The United States would now be too weak to go to war. Colonel Robert L. Bullard privately complained that "Both sides [Britain and Germany] treat us with scorn and contempt our fool, smug conceit of superiority has been exploded in our faces and deservedly.". [28] The House gutted the naval plans as well, defeating a "big navy" plan by 189 to 183, and canceling the battleships. The battle of Jutland (May 31/June 1, 1916) saw the main German High Seas Fleet engage in a monumental yet inconclusive clash with the far stronger Grand Fleet of the Royal Navy. Arguing this battle proved the validity of Mahanian doctrine, the navalists took control in the Senate, broke the House coalition, and authorized a rapid three-year buildup of all classes of warships. [ citation needed ] A new weapons system, naval aviation, received $3.5 million, and the government was authorized to build its own armor-plate factory. The very weakness of American military power encouraged Germany to start its unrestricted submarine attacks in 1917. It knew this meant war with America, but it could discount the immediate risk because the US Army was negligible and the new warships would not be at sea until 1919 by which time the war would be over, Berlin thought, with Germany victorious. The notion that armaments led to war was turned on its head: refusal to arm in 1916 led to war in 1917.

In January 1917, Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare in hopes of forcing Britain to begin peace talks. The German Foreign minister, Arthur Zimmermann invited revolution-torn Mexico to join the war as Germany's ally against the United States if the United States declared war on Germany in the Zimmermann Telegram. In return, the Germans would send Mexico money and help it recover the territories of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona that Mexico lost during the Mexican–American War 70 years earlier. [29] British intelligence intercepted the telegram and passed the information on to Washington. Wilson released the Zimmerman note to the public and Americans saw it as a casus belli—a justification for war.

At first, Wilson tried to maintain neutrality while fighting off the submarines by arming American merchant ships with guns powerful enough to sink German submarines on the surface (but useless when the U-boats were under water). After submarines sank seven US merchant ships, Wilson finally went to Congress calling for a declaration of war on Germany, which Congress voted on April 6, 1917. [30]

As a result of the Russian February Revolution in 1917, the Tsar abdicated and was replaced by a Russian Provisional Government. This helped overcome Wilson's reluctance to having the US fight alongside a country ruled by an absolutist monarch. Pleased by the Provisional Government's pro-war stance, the US accorded the new government diplomatic recognition on March 9, 1917. [31]

Congress declared war on the Austro-Hungarian Empire on December 7, 1917, [32] but never made declarations of war against the other Central Powers, Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire or the various small co-belligerents allied with the Central Powers. [33] Thus, the United States remained uninvolved in the military campaigns in central and eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Caucasus, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Pacific.

The home front required a systematic mobilization of the entire population and the entire economy to produce the soldiers, food supplies, munitions, and money needed to win the war. It took a year to reach a satisfactory state. Although the war had already raged for two years, Washington had avoided planning, or even recognition of the problems that the British and other Allies had to solve on their home fronts. As a result, the level of confusion was high at first. Finally efficiency was achieved in 1918. [34]

The war came in the midst of the Progressive Era, when efficiency and expertise were highly valued. Therefore, the federal government set up a multitude of temporary agencies with 50,000 to 1,000,000 new employees to bring together the expertise necessary to redirect the economy into the production of munitions and food necessary for the war, as well as for propaganda purposes. [35]

Food Edit

The most admired agency for efficiency was the United States Food Administration under Herbert Hoover. It launched a massive campaign to teach Americans to economize on their food budgets and grow victory gardens in their backyards fort family consumption. It managed the nation's food distribution and prices and built Hoover's reputation as an independent force of presidential quality. [36]

Finance Edit

In 1917 the government was unprepared for the enormous economic and financial strains of the war. Washington hurriedly took direct control of the economy. The total cost of the war came to $33 billion, which was 42 times as large as all Treasury receipts in 1916. A constitutional amendment legitimized income tax in 1913 its original very low levels were dramatically increased, especially at the demand of the Southern progressive elements. North Carolina Congressman Claude Kitchin, chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee argued that since Eastern businessman had been leaders in calling for war, they should pay for it. [37] In an era when most workers earned under $1000 a year, the basic exemption was $2,000 for a family. Above that level taxes began at the 2 percent rate in 1917, jumping to 12 percent in 1918. On top of that there were surcharges of one percent for incomes above $5,000 to 65 percent for incomes above $1,000,000. As a result, the richest 22 percent of American taxpayers paid 96 percent of individual income taxes. Businesses faced a series of new taxes, especially on "excess profits" ranging from 20 percent to 80 percent on profits above pre-war levels. There were also excise taxes that everyone paid who purchased an automobile, jewelry, camera, or a motorboat. [38] [39] The greatest source of revenue came from war bonds, which were effectively merchandised to the masses through an elaborate innovative campaign to reach average Americans. Movie stars and other celebrities, supported by millions of posters, and an army of Four-Minute Men speakers explained the importance of buying bonds. In the third Liberty Loan campaign of 1918, more than half of all families subscribed. In total, $21 billion in bonds were sold with interest from 3.5 to 4.7 percent. The new Federal Reserve system encouraged banks to loan families money to buy bonds. All the bonds were redeemed, with interest, after the war. Before the United States entered the war, New York banks had loaned heavily to the British. After the U.S. entered in April 1917, the Treasury made $10 billion in long-term loans to Britain, France and the other allies, with the expectation the loans would be repaid after the war. Indeed, the United States insisted on repayment, which by the 1950s eventually was achieved by every country except Russia. [40] [41]

Labor Edit

The American Federation of Labor (AFL) and affiliated trade unions were strong supporters of the war effort. [42] Fear of disruptions to war production by labor radicals provided the AFL political leverage to gain recognition and mediation of labor disputes, often in favor of improvements for workers. They resisted strikes in favor of arbitration and wartime policy, and wages soared as near-full employment was reached at the height of the war. The AFL unions strongly encouraged young men to enlist in the military, and fiercely opposed efforts to reduce recruiting and slow war production by pacifists, the anti-war Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and radical socialists. To keep factories running smoothly, Wilson established the National War Labor Board in 1918, which forced management to negotiate with existing unions. [43] Wilson also appointed AFL president Samuel Gompers to the powerful Council of National Defense, where he set up the War Committee on Labor.

After initially resisting taking a stance, the IWW became actively anti-war, engaging in strikes and speeches and suffering both legal and illegal suppression by federal and local governments as well as pro-war vigilantes. The IWW was branded as anarchic, socialist, unpatriotic, alien and funded by German gold, and violent attacks on members and offices would continue into the 1920s. [44]

Women's roles Edit

World War I saw women taking traditionally men's jobs in large numbers for the first time in American history. Many women worked on the assembly lines of factories, assembling munitions. Some department stores employed African American women as elevator operators and cafeteria waitresses for the first time. [45]

Most women remained housewives. The Food Administration helped housewives prepare more nutritious meals with less waste and with optimum use of the foods available. Most important, the morale of the women remained high, as millions of middle class women joined the Red Cross as volunteers to help soldiers and their families. [46] [47] With rare exceptions, women did not try to block the draft. [48]

The Department of Labor created a Women in Industry group, headed by prominent labor researcher and social scientist Mary van Kleeck. [49] This group helped develop standards for women who were working in industries connected to the war alongside the War Labor Policies Board, of which van Kleeck was also a member. After the war, the Women in Industry Service group developed into the U.S. Women's Bureau, headed by Mary Anderson. [50] [49]

Propaganda Edit

Crucial to US participation was the sweeping domestic propaganda campaign. In order to achieve this, President Wilson created the Committee on Public Information through Executive Order 2594 on April 13, 1917, which was the first state bureau in the United States that's main focus was on propaganda. The man charged by President Wilson with organizing and leading the CPI was George Creel, a once relentless journalist and political campaign organizer who would search without mercy for any bit of information that would paint a bad picture on his opponents. Creel went about his task with boundless energy. He was able to create an intricate, unprecedented propaganda system that plucked and instilled an influence on almost all phases of normal American life. [51] In the press—as well as through photographs, movies, public meetings, and rallies—the CPI was able to douse the public with Propaganda that brought on American patriotism whilst creating an anti-German image into the young populace, further quieting the voice of the neutrality supporters. It also took control of market regarding the dissemination of war-related information on the American home front, which in turn promoted a system of voluntary censorship in the country's newspapers and magazines while simultaneously policing these same media outlets for seditious content or anti-American support. [ citation needed ] The campaign consisted of tens of thousands of government-selected community leaders giving brief carefully scripted pro-war speeches at thousands of public gatherings. [52] [53]

Alongside government agencies were officially approved private vigilante groups like the American Protective League. They closely monitored (and sometimes harassed) people opposed to American entry into the war or displaying too much German heritage. [54]

Other forms of propaganda included newsreels, large-print posters (designed by several well-known illustrators of the day, including Louis D. Fancher and Henry Reuterdahl), magazine and newspaper articles, and billboards. At the end of the war in 1918, after the Armistice was signed, the CPI was disbanded after inventing some of the tactics used by propagandists today. [55]

Children Edit

The nation placed a great importance on the role of children, teaching them patriotism and national service and asking them to encourage war support and educate the public about the importance of the war. The Boy Scouts of America helped distribute war pamphlets, helped sell war bonds, and helped to drive nationalism and support for the war. [56]


One of the German propagandists’ most famous World War I slogans was "Gott Strafe England!" or “God punish England," which was printed everywhere in Germany from newspaper advertisements to postage stamps. In response, Allied troops quickly adopted the word strafe into the English language after the outbreak of the War, and variously used it to refer to a heavy bombardment or attack, machine gun fire, or a severe reprimand.

Zigzag has been used in English since the 18th century to describe an angular, meandering line or course but during the First World War came to be used as a euphemism for drunkenness, presumably referring to the zigzagging walk of a soldier who had had one too many.


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