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Memento : Issue 36
MEMENTO ISSUE 36 7 The National Archives holds a wealth of information on Australia's participation in World War I. More than 370,000 individual service records provide immediate and personal access to the lives of those who fought and, very often, their families who waited and inquired anxiously. But what of those Australians who declined to enlist? Here, too, the National Archives has valuable records of individual lives caught up in war. A series of documents that only came into the collection in 2002 reveals the immense pressure to enlist faced by men of military age, and their individual reasons for resisting that pressure. In late 1915 and early 1916, as part of a renewed recruiting effort, the federal government sent out 'the Call to Arms' to thousands of Australian men of military age. The form confronted them with the question: 'Are you willing to ENLIST NOW?' It asked those men who answered 'no' to give reasons why they would not enlist. Local and state committees followed up with men in cases where their reasons were not considered satisfactory. Approximately 10,000 responses survive from Victoria, and they provide a fascinating insight into the difficulties, obligations and struggles of life on the Australian homefront in the middle of World War I. Obligations at home Ill health was by far the most common response men gave on the Call to Arms form. It offered one way men could decline to serve without having to offer any other [left] This recruitment poster was produced by the Department of Defence in 1915, calling on men to enlist to help those Australians already serving. Resisting the call to arms: men who did not enlist in World War I Historian Dr Bart Ziino has researched thousands of records that give an insight into an often overlooked aspect of World War I -- men who chose not to enlist for service. Photo: Courtesy of Australian War Memorial, ARTV05167