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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.



First World War

By April 1914 the defence forces comprised 25,684 Territorials, 25,332 senior cadets, and 6,306 rifle club members, making in all 57,322 men out of a total population of 1,100,000. When war began in August 1914 the new defence system had been in existence for three years. The administrative arrangements were functioning smoothly, a fact which enabled the quick mobilisation and dispatch overseas of a strong expeditionary force. Although there was no lack of volunteers for overseas service the Government decided, in 1915, to form a national register of all males between the ages of 17 and 60. Volunteer enlistments appeared ample to supply all war requirements, but inequities in the system became apparent as larger reinforcements were required. The upshot was the Military Service Act of 1916, which established the Expeditionary Force Reserve consisting of every male European between the ages of 20 and 46 years. From this Reserve all future reinforcements were to be selected by ballot. Maoris were not specified, but power was given to extend the provisions to include the native race. Some tribes, notably the Arawas, Ngati Porou, and Ngapuhi, considered that compulsion should be extended to Maoris. The powerful Waikato, however, used their influence to prevent most of the young men from volunteering. The Government therefore decided that the Military Service Act should apply to natives, and three ballots were held in 1918, but the number of recruits thus produced was small. Voluntary enlistment was not abolished and, between 1916 and 1918, 26,000 men volunteered while 32,000 joined compulsorily. From the outbreak of war to the armistice, 124,211 men served with the Expeditionary Force out of an eligible male population of under 250,000.

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