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First World War census and conscription


The government’s ‘National Registration’ scheme, launched in October 1915, required every man aged between 17 and 60 to register with the government. The object was to assess how many men were available for service with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, at a time when volunteer numbers were dropping off.

Of the 208,513 men who submitted their details, 109,683 stated their willingness to serve with the NZEF if required. A further 43,524 were willing to serve in a civil capacity only, while 34,386 declared themselves unwilling to serve in any capacity.

The government promised that the scheme was not the precursor to a conscription system, but changed its mind in 1916 when conscription was introduced. The National Registration ‘personal schedules’ formed the basis of the register of men used for the conscription ballot


Alexander Turnbull Library

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First World War census and conscription, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated