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Memento : Issue 35
4 NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF AUSTRALIA was one of many youths who sought to enlist despite being under the minimum age of 18. While some had parental approval, he did not. When he first enlisted, in July 1916, he was three months short of 17, but claimed to be 18. His deception was soon detected and he was discharged, only to re-enlist 11 days later. This time, he gave a false name -- Sydney Harold Smith -- an appropriately false next-of-kin and home address, and an equally fictitious note of parental consent. At 19, William Mansfield was old enough to enlist but, being under 21, was required to produce written parental consent. He avoided this obstacle by claiming his age as 21 years and 9 months when enlisting in early 1916. He gave his name as William Joseph Jones. After William was killed in action, his father explained that 'he adopted that name fearing his mother would not give her consent.' Unlike Stanley O'Neill, he seems to have informed his parents after he enlisted, who reluctantly accepted what he'd done. Wives abandoned In January 1915, the Melbourne Argus newspaper carried an item headed 'An absent-minded beggar'. It told of a woman confronting the paymaster at Victoria Barracks with a recent issue of the illustrated weekly The Australasian. She claimed her husband appeared in one of its photos of soldiers at Broadmeadows camp, peeling potatoes. He had been missing from home for some weeks, and had left her and their daughter 'quite unprovided for.' Although quite possibly fictitious, the story addressed a real concern. On enlistment, a married man was required to agree to the allotment of at least two-fifths of his pay to his wife -- three-fifths if he had children. However, a significant number of married men were failing to inform their wives of their patriotic intentions and signing up as single men. Some took this 'absent-mindedness' still further, apparently forgetting their real names when enlisting, making it difficult for their wives to have them identified, located and called to account. James Stribling, a Victorian by birth, enlisted in September 1914 as a single man, despite having married in New South Wales only five months earlier. The New South Wales and Victorian Police circulated his name and physical description on their Deserters of [above] The forged letter of consent Stanley O'Neill provided when, at the age of 16, he enlisted under the alias Sydney Howard Smith (top), and his mother's handwritten request for his war medals after his death in action (bottom). [opposite page] Leslie Meryment left a confession written on the back of a postcard featuring him in uniform. NAA: B2455, SMITH S H