Wednesday 4 December 2013 by Gabrielle Considine. No comments
Education at the Memorial, First World War Centenary, Collection, Collection Highlights, Sound Collection Online, Primary source, 7-8, 9-10, 11-12, First World War, ACDSEH021

This sound reel brings together five Australian soldiers from the First World War. They recall their memories of recruitment and enlistment into the first Australian Imperial Force (AIF), 1914 - 1919.

When war was declared in 1914, Australia needed to raise a military force to fight overseas and calling for volunteers, raised the AIF. Australian men enlisted enthusiastically at the start of the war, however, with the high number of casualties at Gallipoli and the subsequent doubling in size of the AIF, recruitment to increase numbers of volunteers was started in earnest. Recruitment methods included speeches, posters, marches and parades to encourage men to join up.

In a time before the internet, mobile phones and television, one of the most effective forms of communication was face to face. Men marched from town to town, spreading the word and recruiting volunteers as they went. Towns rallied together and held parades and dances, social occasions with a festive atmosphere, for those contributing to the cause. Brass bands also played in the streets at lunch times to catch recruits, during such occasions girls would hand out white feathers a symbol of cowardice, adding social pressures on men to join. Some men were barely men at all when they tried to enlist and many required parental consent.

These First World War veterans explain why they joined the AIF and the experiences they had as recruits before they left Australia.



Art & photographs


Listen to the sound files and answer the following questions:

  1. What were recruitment marches? Why were they necessary in the First World War?

  2. What was involved in these marches? How did they work and how effective were they? Why would they have also been referred to as "snow ball" marches?

  3. These marches were particularly popular in rural areas. Why do you think this was?

    The beginning of the "Coo-ees" march to Sydney, 1915.

    Why would mothers and children have been involved in these marches?

    Recruits from Rockhampton and district before entering camp, Brisbane, c.1915–16.

    What is written on their signs? Why would this method of recruitment have been effective?

  4. Recruitment marches were popular at the beginning of the war, but were re-invigorated in 1918. Why would this have been necessary?

  5. The 1918 recruitment marches were often referred to as "March to Freedom" drives. What does this suggest about their purpose?

    The "March to freedom" in Bega on the New South Wales south coast, c. July – August 1918.
    Recruiting drive, Albury, New South Wales, 1918.
    The recruits from the "Men from Snowy River" march, in Goulburn, New South Wales, January 1916.
  6. One of the marches that John Cyprus Sykes speaks about is the "Men from Snowy River" march. This march has come to be associated with Corporal Ernest Corey, who joined the march at Nimmitabel in January 1916. He is the only commonwealth soldier to have been awarded the Military Medal four times. Research Ernie Corey's story and present your findings to the class.

    Corporal Ernie Corey, c.1916.

    What did Ernie do to earn his four Military Medals? For what is a Military Medal awarded?

    This banner was made by the women of Delegate, New South Wales for use in the "Men from Snowy River" recruitment march.

    Why would women have wanted to be involved in these marches? What could have been the ultimate impact of the war on these women?

  7. If you were to design a banner to be carried in a recruitment march in 1914, what would it look like? Now design one to be used in a march for 1918. How are they different?

  8. Imagine you are a young man watching a recruitment march pass through your town. What would encourage you to join them?

  9. Recruitment marches were again used in the Second World War with a second "Men from Snowy River" march beginning in Delegate on 6 July 1940. This march was not as successful as it had been in the First World War. Suggest reasons for this.

  10. What does Henry William Parkinson say about his brother's enlistment? How did they decide who would go? What does this suggest about their sense of duty to serve?

    Red Cross volunteers marching in a recruiting march, Albury, New South Wales, 1918.

    Why would Red Cross volunteers be marching?

Robert Camm, Aussies, c.1914-15.

How are the Australian soldiers depicted in this march?

For more information on recruitment marches, go to:



  • Examine the following recruitment posters for the First World War. What images, techniques and language have been used to encourage enlistment?

    C. Wall, South Australians, come and help, enlist at once, c.1914–18.

    After listening to Leslie Webster Greenleaf's sound file (S00329) above, suggest why the word "Coo–ee" may have been chosen for this poster.

    Give us a quick hand old sport, 1914–15.
    God Bless Daddy, 1914–15
    Harry Lawrence Oakley, Think! Are you content for him to fight for you? 1915.
  • Why would recruitment posters have been essential during the First World War? Why would they have become more important and prevalent as the war years progressed?

  • Design your own recruitment poster for the First World War. What theme/techniques would you use to appeal to a young male audience?

  • Henry Parkinson and Leslie Greenleaf both mention the wounded soldiers returning from Gallipoli. How might their experiences have affected enlistment? How do you think they would feel about the propaganda posters above?

  • Use the following links to research some of the men speaking in the sound files, including Henry William Parkinson, Leslie Webster Greenleaf, John George Tarrant, Frederick Theodore Farrall and John Cyprus Sykes:



  • Did you know?

    Compulsory military service, or conscription, for eligible men was in force in Australia from 1911, however, these forces were for home defence and could not be used to serve in a war overseas. Following the initial rush of men to recruit in 1914, enrolments dropped, leaving federal and state governments to devise sophisticated campaigns to boost numbers.