Boer War

In recruitment for the Third New South Wales Mounted Rifles, which was representative of other Australian units, preference was given to trained men who were good shots and good riders. They were to be 20 to 40 years old, 5 feet 6 inches or upwards in height, and have a minimum chest measurement of 34 inches. Applicants were required to be single men and to pass a military medical examination.

First World War

During the course of the First World War standards for age, minimum height and minimum chest measurement for enlistment in the AIF were altered.

The requirements in August 1914 were 18–35 years, height of 5ft 6in and chest measurement of 34 inches. In June 1915 the age range and minimum height requirements were changed to 18–45 years and 5ft 2in, with the minimum height being lowered again to 5ft in April 1917. During the first year of the war approximately 33 percent of all volunteers were rejected. However, with relaxation of physical standards of age and height, as well as dental and ophthalmic fitness, previously ineligible men were now eligible for enlistment.

On enlistment recruits were examined for BC or D tattooed on their skin. These were British army tattoos. BC stood for bad character and D for deserter.

Second World War

The age limits set for enlistment in the Second Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in 1939 were 20 to 35 for recruits, higher for officers and some NCOs. The maximum was raised to 40 in 1940, and the minimum lowered to 19 in 1941, and 18 in 1943; written parental consent was required for anyone under the age of 21. Even when the limit was lowered to 18, men of that age were not permitted to go to New Guinea or the Northern Territory. The same restriction also applied in the Citizen Military Forces (CMF), although the 18 year lower limit existed earlier. From 1942, the CMF also shared with the AIF a requirement that all recruits under the age of 20 on enlistment undergo six months training before being posted to a unit. The CMF upper age limit was 60.

Height requirements for the AIF in 1939 was a minimum of 5 feet 6 inches (167.6 cm); a year later 5 feet (152 cm) was enough.


Air Force cadet Leo Gibney, clerk in the Lands Department, applies to join the Air Training until of enlistment age
Air Force cadet Leo Gibney, clerk in the Lands Department, applies to join the Air Training until of enlistment age.
AWM 010260


  • P.L. Murray, Official records of the Australian military contingents to the war in South Africa (Melbourne: A.J. Mullett, Govt. Printer, 1911): p123
  • Mark Johnston, "The civilians who joined up 1939-1945", Journal of the Australian War Memorial 29 (1996)

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