Royal Reels: Gambling


This imprinted 1d red side-face KGV letter has a roneo’d recruitment letter for World War One full of Allied propaganda and is used at Melbourne 10 OC 18 with a slogan INVEST IN THE / 7TH WAR LOAN with a reception postmark of SURRY HILLS/ 11 OC 18/ VIC, plus evidence of re-direction instructions (Figure 1).

The letter has a content which is remarkable reading for anyone who was not alive at that time. It has a Commonwealth Of Australia, Department Of Defence imprint, and the date of September 1918 is type written:

Dear Sir,
I must earnestly request you to read carefully the pamphlet which the Director-General of Recruiting is sending you by this mail. It shows why our Empire is at war, and will prove to you beyond possibility of doubt that our quarrel is just and righteous, and was forced upon us by Germany despite the manifold efforts and sacrifices we had made for peace. We were driven to take up arms by her malignant aggression, by our knowledge that our very life depended on checking her lust for world dominion, and by the solemn obligation which forced us to succour stricken Belgium and sorely-menaced France. By every tie of duty, honour and interest, Australia’s quarrel was, and is, the quarrel of Britain and the Empire. The pamphlet shows in close detail that Australia has gained before and since the war through participation in the great Commonwealth of Nations. To-day, the Empire needs every man it can get if it is to win this War and preserve itself from the menace of a fresh war, which may easily mean its downfall and enslavement of Australia.
I solemnly urge you to read the pamphlet through, and if you are convinced by its reasoning and appeal, to submit your name for the Voluntary Recruiting Ballot, and give your country a chance of choosing you for active service.
Yours sincerely, R.B. Orchard, Minister in charge of Recruiting (Figure 2).

Richard Beaumont Orchard was born in 1873 and died 24 July1942, and he represented the Division of Nepean, N.S.W. in the Federal Parliament, having been elected on 31 May 1913 and he was firstly a member of the Liberal Party and later the Nationalist Party, from 1917. He was appointed Minister for Recruiting early in 1918 and retired from Parliament on 3 November 1919.

Although in September 1918 the war was in its last two months, Australia’s casualties in the trenches over 3 years between 1916 and 1918 had been over 181,000, of whom over 40,000 had died, 114,000 were wounded, 16,000 gassed and nearly 4,000 were taken prisoners of war. In terms of total deaths per 1000 men mobilised, the AIF figure was 145 – the highest of all the British Commonwealth armies. The Australian Corps in France had been fighting almost continuously for 3 months since March in France, and had gone into reserves to rebuild for the next offensive when the Armistice was signed on 11 November, 1918.

Recruitment with such losses must have been a concern, and in 1915-16 recruiting committees had been formed in nearly every town in Australia, and recruiting marches were in vogue. The total of men who marched was only about 1,500, but some historians considered that the marches were successful in influencing many other men to enlist. The eligibility requirements in 1914 were men 18-35 years, minimum height and chest measurement 5 feet 6 inches and 36 inches; by June 1915 the standards were altered to 18-45 years, 5 feet 2 inches and this was lowered to 5 feet in April 1917. During the first year of the war, ca. 33% of volunteers were rejected.

On 20 December 1917, plans for introduction of conscription were defeated at a referendum for the second time, the first poll being on 28 October 1916. Thus the Australian Imperial Forces fighting overseas remained an all volunteer army, with the unresolved problem of maintaining its strength with a need for 5,400 recruits every month to replace casualties and “other wastage”. The Prime Minister, W.M. “Billy” Hughes in 1918 devised a novel scheme involving ballots of men who voluntarily submitted their name (as mentioned in the second para of the above letter). A copy of the Voluntary Ballot Enlistment, A.I.F. is shown in Figure 3.

The relative cost for both World Wars for men and money are tabulated below:

Cause of DeathWorld War IWorld War I
Battle related deaths53,99319,235
Non-battle deaths7,72720,194<
Wounded in action137,01323,477
Prisoners of war3,64728,756
P.O.W. deaths1098,031
Defence expenditure£188,480,000£2,132,743,000
Population<5 million7 million
Categories: Armed Forces