Military Service Act 1916

The Military Service Act, passed on 1 August 1916, required all men aged between 20 and 45 to register for the conscription ballot. Ballots held almost every month between November 1916 and October 1918 resulted in 138,034 men being called up for military service. Some of these men were called up for failing to enrol for the ballot or because no member of their family had yet enlisted.

Once recorded on the government’s books, men eligible to be balloted were known as ‘reservists’. They were divided into several groups, with First Division men – single men without dependants – called up before married men or men with children (Second Division).

As the poster makes clear, the government created elaborate machinery for policing the system, which prevented men from easily opting out. Those who refused military service were subject to imprisonment, and many were deprived of their civil rights for 10 years at the end of the war. 

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