Thomas Simpkins, failing to enrol for ballot

Thomas Henry Simpkins (alias Jack Murtagh)
Bushman, born 1879, New Zealand?
Tried: 13 May 1918, Whanganui Magistrate’s Court
Charge: Failing to enrol
Sentence: 12 days’ imprisonment

Government Statistician Malcolm Fraser estimated in 1918 that between 3500 and 5000 men of military age had never registered for the ballot. The police were given broad powers under the War Regulations to stop men and demand to see their papers proving registration. Itinerants who regularly changed their job and address presented a particular administrative challenge for the police.

One such man was bushman Thomas Simpkins, a drifter who had regular brushes with the law on charges of drunkenness and petty theft. Senior Sergeant Bourke brought him before a Whanganui magistrate in May 1918 for failing to register for military service. Simpkins told Bourke that he had registered while incarcerated in Napier gaol a few months earlier. The sergeant established that while the Napier police did supply registration papers to all prisoners on discharge, Simpkins’ name was not among them. The Government Statistician’s Branch confirmed that Simpkins had not used these papers to register for service, and the magistrate sentenced him to a brief term of imprisonment.


Sources: Police Gazette, 1918, p. 355; Wanganui Herald, 13 May 1918, p. 7

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