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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



The Defence Act of 1909

The Defence Act of 1909 created the Territorial Force; suggestions from Lord Kitchener and new ideas gained from experience were embodied in amendments passed in 1910 and 1912 respectively. Apart from certain organisational changes the chief legislative feature of the new force was a universal obligation to be trained in:

  1. Junior cadets from 12 to 14 years of age. (Abolished 1912.)

  2. Senior cadets from 14 to 18.

  3. Territorials from 18 to 21, later extended to 25 years, when men were posted to the Reserve until they were 30.

  4. Territorials were liable to serve in New Zealand only, but could volunteer for service overseas.

For administrative purposes New Zealand was divided into four military districts, each with its headquarters staff. Each district was in turn subdivided into four areas, each staffed by Regular officers and instructors. Rigorous courses were prescribed and training was strictly territorial and arranged at convenient times. General Godley's reports for 1911, 1912, and 1913 gave evidence of the speed and thoroughness with which the new scheme was put into effect.

Until after the passing of the 1909 Act there was no organised group to oppose the National Defence League. Opposition arose, however, immediately the implications of the Act became clear. A large number of youths were prosecuted for failing to register, and those who refused on conscientious grounds were fined or imprisoned. Defence Department officers were charged with the administration of the compulsory sections of the Act and their record here and in other aspects soon roused widespread public misgivings. By mid-1911, anti-conscriptionist and anti-militarist feelings found expression in the formation of the New Zealand Peace Council and the Passive Resister's Union. By 1913 the emerging political Labour Party added its weight to the opposition. There were increasing criticisms voiced in Parliament, from Labour members on ideological grounds, and from the Liberal Opposition on the grounds of unnecessary expenditure and alleged incompetence of the responsible military authorities. The outbreak of war in 1914, however, provided ample justification of the scheme.

Next Part: First World War