National Servicemen’s Day, February 14 each year.
This 14th day in February, the 45th day of the year, is remembered for many events.
In recent times in Australia, Decimal Currency was introduced with metrics overtaking the Imperial measures from this day in 1966.
Valentine’s Day (or St. Valentines Day) has been with us since florists had a glut of roses to sell. It originated in Christian Roman times replacing a pagan festival.
For National Servicemen, the day that conscripted draftees marched into their respective barracks in 1951 is taken as the commemoration day.
Conscription in Australia, or mandatory military service also known as National Service, has a controversial history dating back to early nationhood.
In 1909, the Federal Government under PM Alfred Deakin introduced legislation to conscript boys 12 to 14 years and youths of 18 to 20 years of age for home defence purposes. Many boys did not sign up for service as many could not leave the family farm.
Full conscription for overseas service during WW1 was rejected by the public after PM Billy Hughes put it to the vote twice.
As WW11 began in 1939, all unmarried men aged 21 were to be called up for military training for 3 months. Service was in Australia only. Conscription was later introduced in mid-1942 for all men aged 18-35 and single men aged 35-45 were required to join the CMF.
Several Citizens Military Force units posted to Papua New Guinea to undertake garrison duties, slowed the Japanese advance on the Kokoda Track, an Australian Territory at the time. Casualties here were high during 1942.
Parliament subsequently extended the geographic boundaries for CMF service which included most of the South West Pacific.
Following WW11, regional events prompted the parliament of the day to follow a now familiar path. The Cold War in Europe, Communist insurgency and success in South-East Asia, and the declaration of war in Korea, prompted the Menzies government sponsored National Service Act 1951.
The legislation provided for the compulsory call-up of males turning 18 on or after 1 November 1950, for service training of 176 days. Trainees were required to remain on the Reserve of the Commonwealth Military Forces (CMF) for five years from initial call up. Men could nominate the service in which they wished to serve. Those who elected to undertake their training in the army could break up their training requirements into two periods, 98 days in the Australian Regular Army and 78 days in the Citizen Military Forces (CMF).
For those who selected the Army, 10 Battalions were formed.
Wacol in Queensland was the largest, training young men from Queensland, northern NSW and Papua New Guinea.
NSW had 4 battalions at 3 barracks, Singleton, Holdsworthy and Ingleburn.
Victoria trained men at Puckapunyal and Watsonia whereas South Australians trained at Woodside, WA had Swanbourne and Brighton was the Tasmanian barracks.
Those who elected to undertake their training with the Royal Australian Navy or the Royal Australian Air Force had to complete their 176 days in one stretch.
National Service Training Units were allocated to Flights, corresponding to platoons, at the major air bases and depots throughout Australia.
For the Navy, sea service was done on ships of the Fleet.
Navy and Air Force recruits could be sent overseas. This scheme for the 3 services, was discontinued in 1959. It was deemed not to be cost effective.
In May 1965 the Coalition Government introduced new powers that enabled it to send national servicemen overseas.
All 20-year-old males had to register with the Department of Labour and National Service, and their names were selected by the “birthday ballot”, in which men were randomly selected for national service by their date of birth. Those who were selected were required to serve for two years full-time in the Regular Army and three years part-time in the reserves.
Exemptions were given to Aborigines and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the medically unfit, and theology students. Young men were granted exemption on the grounds of conscientious objection.
A temporary deferment of national service was granted to university students, apprentices, married men, and those who could prove that national service would cause them financial hardship. It is recalled that Aboriginal men were not deemed citizens until after the 1967 referendum.
Draftees were sent to 3 recruit training battalions, at Puckapunyal (2TB) near Seymour, Victoria, Kapooka (1TB) near Wagga Wagga in NSW and Singleton (3TB) near Newcastle also in NSW. (Where TB stands for Training Battalion.)
Those men who wished to avoid National Service could join the CMF and serve only in Australia for 6 years.
Between 1951 and 1959, 52 intakes were organised and some 227,000 men were trained. Nearly 4,500 served in Borneo with some in support units in Malaysia and Papua New Guinea.
‘Nashos’ was the name given to those who served between 1951 and 1972.
In the more recent call-ups, a total of 63,740 men were drafted into the army over a 7 year period. (1965-1972)
15,000 conscripts served in Vietnam with 200 killed in action and 1200 wounded.
Australia has had compulsory training in the Citizens Military Forces between 1910 and 1945. The 1951 and 1964 National Service Acts revived the role of National Servicemen for more recent times.
National Servicemen’s Day, 14th February, celebrates those who have served due to compulsory military service. In a period from 1951 to 1972, approximately 280,000 men have been conscripted to serve the nation.
.Australian Government Department of Veterans’ Affairs
February 14, 2021
The Hon Darren Chester MP
Minister for Veterans’Affairs 2022
The History of National Service (nashoaustralia.org.au)
Conscription in Australia
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia