During World War I, 57,700 Queensland men enlisted for active service. Of these, 15,950 were wounded, with a further 6850 casualties, giving the two Queensland battalions in the Australian Imperial Force the highest national casualty rate.
Incentive to enlist waned after the Battle of the Somme in July 1916. In response to dwindling recruitment figures, the Federal Labor Government attempted to introduce compulsory military conscription.
The proposal to introduce conscription divided government opinion throughout Australia. Queensland’s Labor Government, with the support of Ministers, remained committed to a volunteer army. The weight of public opinion resulted in Queensland and New South Wales governments voting against conscription in the 1916 referendum.
State of Queensland voting results in the Commonwealth of Australia Military Service Referendum, 20 December 1917
Queensland State Archives Item ID 1139156, Digital Image ID 2903 Justice Department I
Cartoon depicts Premier Ryan adopting differing stances on conscription, ‘Premier Ryan (to his satellites)’, published in The National Leader, December 1916
State Library of Queensland
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