About the Applications to Enlist in the AIF, 1915-1918
General collection information
This collection contains attestation papers for individuals who wished to join the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) between 1915 and 1918. Most records are handwritten on pre-printed forms, however some records may be typed. All records are in English.
Using this collection
Records in the collection may include the following information:
While most of the records detailed in this collection are from Australian nationals, other nationalities are also represented. Many who served had to overcome the racist motivations of the White Australia Policy (including the Immigration Restriction Act 1901) to enlist. As a result, many recruits may have changed their names to appear English in order to enlist. If you can't find your family member's record, try searching the collection for any aliases they may have used.
The records of Indigenous Australians will likely not appear in the collection until 1917, if at all. They do not include details about a person's heritage. The Defence Act 1903 denied military participation to Indigenous Australians. These laws were later relaxed to allow Indigenous Australians of mixed heritage to enlist, provided they could prove a European parent, although this was not strictly enforced, allowing many Indigenous Australians to serve, which means that Indigenous Australians who served in the military might not be readily visible since their Indigenous heritage might have been obscured or erased from the record.
Collection in context
The First Australian Imperial Force (AIF) was established in 1914 to recruit soldiers for the First World War. Due to the Defence Act 1903, members of the Australian army were legally prohibited from participating in overseas conflicts. The government had to quickly create a special, temporary force to aid the war effort. Because of the law, enlistment was only conducted on a voluntary basis. Initially, thousands were eager to volunteer in support of the United Kingdom, but enrollment tapered off by the end of 1915. As a result, the enlistment requirements were relaxed to allow for more recruits. The age range for eligibility was expanded from between 19-38 years to men aged 18-45 years. Physical requirements were also relaxed.
Approximately 416,000 men served in the AIF. Although the First AIF was demobilised at the end of the First World War, the Second AIF was formed in 1939 in response to the Second World War.
Australian Government. "Enlisting in the Australian Forces during World War I." Last Modified July 27, 2022. https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/wars-and-missions/ww1/military-organisation/enlistment.
Australian Government. "Cultural Diversity in Australia's Forces During World War I." Last Modified May 24, 2021. https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/wars-and-missions/ww1/personnel/cultural-diversity.
Australian Government. "First Australian Imperial Force in World War I." Last Modified June 30, 2021. https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/wars-and-missions/ww1/military-organisation/australian-imperial-force.
National Archives of Australia. "Army - World War I: 1914-18." Last Modified October 16, 2021. https://www.naa.gov.au/explore-collection/defence-and-war-service-records/army-world-war-i-1914-18.