Before 1914, all major political parties in Australia supported military training for young men. Labor leaders such as Billy Hughes, born in London, and John Christian Watson, of Scottish descent but born on board ship in Valparaiso Harbour, Chile, were ardent supporters of the Australian National Defence League. In his recent Soldier Boy: The True Story of Jim Martin the Youngest Anzac, Anthony Hill explains how young Jim was imbued at school with pride in being part of the British Empire and was keen to join the military training scheme for boys of twelve and above. Jim enlisted at 14, giving a false age, and had not reached his fifteenth birthday when he died of typhoid fever in a hospital ship off Gallipoli in October, 1915.
When war broke out, the Labor leader, Scotland-born Andrew Fisher, supporting the England-born Liberal Prime Minister, Joseph Cook, declared that Australia would stand beside the mother country to help and defend her "to the last man and the last shilling". About 40 per cent of all Australian males aged between 18 and 45 voluntarily enlisted to serve in the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF), that is about 417 000 men, of whom about 60 000 died in all campaigns and another 160 000 were wounded or maimed. At least a quarter of the Australian volunteers were born in Great Britain and Ireland, Robert Rhodes James's estimate being 35 per cent. About 98 per cent of the rest were of British or Irish origin. The immigration rate from the United Kingdom was exceptionally high between 1910 and 1914. 'Simpson' - 'the man with the donkey' was John Simpson Kirkpatrick, a recent Geordie emigrant.
'Rule Britannia', 'Soldiers of the Queen' and 'Sons of the Sea' were sung at recruiting offices in Adelaide and Sydney, Wellington and Christchurch, as loudly as in Birmingham or Glasgow. In 1914 and 1915 there was little difference between the volunteer rate in Australia of Protestants and Roman Catholics of Irish descent, but the number of Irish...
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