Enlisting in the AIF

Image of a Recruitment Poster
Sydney 1915

Sydney in 1915 would have been awash with talk of the war.  The newspaper stands, the recruitment posters, the Union Jacks mounted everywhere, the town gossip would have appealed to any young man. Nationalistic pride was running high. On the 20th of December, the Australians had pulled out of Gallipoli.

It had hit the news, no doubt the word had spread amongst the soldiers evacuated from Gallipoli that they were headed for Europe, this time to take on the Hun. “Men we need your help”, “They have done their duty. Do yours”, “Rally to the flag”. 1

Life in Leichhardt

For Claude, the excitement of war and the exploits of the ANZAC’s were strong attractions to any kid growing up in that period. His involvement with the local swimming club would have meant that he was a fit young man to any examining officer who wished to check on his health credentials.

The family regularly attended All Souls Anglican Church in Leichhardt.  At the time,  the minster of All Souls, the  Reverend Harry Howe, was a leading exponent of the end-times theology movement.  The teaching of that time would have instilled the cause of justice and peace and God’s righteousness on the evil doers.

Image of All Souls Anglican Church, Leichhardt
All Souls Anglican Church, Leichhardt circa 1996

Serving your country was seen as being the right thing to do. It was a sacrifice to ensure that the British Empire was the salvation to a world at war and any listener in the congregation would have wanted to make sure they were on the winning side.

Learn more about Leichhardt here.

Friends that influence

To further encourage Claude’s thought about enlisting in the army himself, there would have been a chorus of friends who were challenging each other to enlist. According to the records, the map below shows the other people who also enlisted in the 17th Battalion the same time as Claude who were located in the same area.

It is very likely that some of these people were some of Claude’s friends.

  • 4503 – Claude’s Place ‘Rendova’ 72 Catherine St, Leichhardt, NSW, 2040
  • 4360 – Roy BECKINGHAM (18 RC) 493 Parramatta Rd, Leichhardt, NSW, 2040
  • 4377 – Walter Franklyn BENNETT(20 RC) 9 Prospect St, Leichhardt, NSW, 2040
  • 4442 – Jack HARDISTY (18 C of E) 213 Marion St, Leichhardt, NSW, 2040
  • 4461 – Alexander Stuart JOHNSTONE (26 Met) 15 Augustus St, Enmore, NSW, 2042
  • 4466 – Richard Thomas LONG (29 C of E) 67 Hay St, Leichhardt, NSW, 2040
  • 4472 – Robert Johnston MANSON (23 C of E) 8 Edna St, Lilyfield, NSW, 2040
  • 4499 – Edwin John O’NEILL (22 RC) 29 Stanley St, Leichhardt, NSW, 2040
  • 4536 – Charles STONE (22 C of E) 22 Myrtle St, Leichhardt, NSW, 2040
  • 4537 – Joseph Phineas STONE (29 C of E) 22 Myrtle St, Leichhardt, NSW, 2040

Recruitment in the AIF

Undoubtedly,  all these influence along with a few mates egging you on would have been the motivation to help Claude make his decision.

It is clear from the record that his father would not have any part of this nonsense. As he was only 16 years old, Claude would have gone to great lengths to hide his intentions of joining up from his family.

Image of a A Digger's recruiting appeal in Martin Place
A Digger’s recruiting appeal in Martin Place

On the 22nd  December 1915, Claude went to the Sydney Town Hall recruitment depot to apply for enlistment.  The further away from home the better. Sydney Town Hall would have had the appeal as it was the central hub of activities for recruitment. Already between October 1915 and February 1916, nine marches were held starting from various points in NSW; the most notable was the first march from Gilgandra, known as the “Cooee March”. 2

Recruitment drives in 1915 saw Sydney Town Hall festooned with Union Jacks and “Rally to the Flag” banners. Wounded soldiers were paraded through Martin Place with the banner, “They have done their duty. Do yours”. It was an invitation, said the Herald at the time, “to the young men of our city to put a rifle to their shoulder and go forth on the great adventure”.

How did they let young men under age of 21 join up? Well, that was the easy part. On the application to ‘Enlist in Australian Imperial Force’ they never asked for a date of birth, only the enlistee’s age. Claude entered his age as 21 years and 1 month.

ImageRecruits being medical examined at Victoria Barracks.
Recruits being medical examined at Victoria Barracks.

So did the enlisting officers try to stop under age young men from joining up? No not really. On the enlistment form,  if a young man was under 21, he could obtain his parents consent to join up or, alternatively he could just lie and write in his age of being over 21, as did Claude.  For those who had gone on before to enlist they would have highlighted what to write on the enlistment form.

On the 22nd of December 1915, three days before Christmas,  Edward Claude Perkins applied to join the AIF.

On the 4th of January 1916 at the Royal Agricultural Grounds in Sydney, Claude was accepted and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, 11th Reinforcements 17th Battalion.

In that group there are 196 men who also enlist, 11 of them are from Leichhardt.

Find out about the other members of the 11th Reinforcements 17th Battalion 3


  1. ‘A proud digger who hated war’ By Miranda Devine August 29, 2004 The Sun-Herald – http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/08/28/1093518162070.html
  2.  ‘The Snowball marches’http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snowball_marches
  3. The AIF Database; 17th Battalion, 11th Reinforcement – AWM Roll number: 23/34/2 – http://www.aif.adfa.edu.au:8080/showUnit?unitCode=INF17REIN11
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EC Perkins 4503, AIF