Guide to the papers of Australian National Defence League (NSW Division)




The papers of the Australian National Defence League (NSW Division) are held in the Private Records collection in the Australian War Memorial's Research Centre as collection item 2DRL/1098. They document this important lobby group's organisation, membership and activities from its creation in 1905 to its collapse in 1938. They comprise three registers of subscriptions paid by members, five volumes of minutes of meetings held, a letter book of outward letters, five folders of loose, mostly inwards correspondence and two folders of miscellaneous papers which include updated correspondence and legal documents. Prominent Australians whose correspondence forms parts of the collection include Charles Bean, Edgeworth David, Alfred Deakin, Frank Fox, Arthur Jose, William Morris Hughes, James Gordon Legge, Mungo MacCallum, Henry MacLaurin and John Christian Watson.

SERIES 1: Membership registers, 1905-1922.Description: Register books recording subscriptions paid by Australian National Defence League (NSW Division) members from March 1908 to the early 1920s. Entries are organised by member name in order of receipt of subscription and grouped into 21 branches. Entries also give addresses and subscription rates and sometimes occupations. The register and its partner (see wallet 2) record mostly the same details and were probably created after the first branches emerged, possibly reflecting the hope that the league would become a mass movement. The register and its partner show the sizes of ANDL branches, the number of members, their gender, geographic, and to an apparent extent - social range, the failure of most regional branches by 1914, and an apparent suspension of subscriptions during the First World War; SERIES 2: Minute books, 1905-1938. Description: Minute books kept in exercise books of the business of the ANDL from 1905 to 1927. The books chart the rise of the league, who was most active in it, how and why the league made decisions and how its funds were spent. The nine-year gap between the minutes for 1913 and 1922 is not explained. The minutes of the meeting of 8 November 1905 for example, record approval for branches being formed in New South Wales, Frank Fox's proposal for what became the journal The call. Volume 2 charts the height of the League's influence, including printed and press reports of annual general meetings, printed annual reports by the executive committee, a printed list of 1910 federal election candidates. Volume 3 includes notices placed by the League in the Sydney press, draft correspondence about proposed competitions to be organised to attract cadets and militiamen. Volume 4 minutes report the league's fight against the erosion of compulsory militia and cadet service. Volume 5 charts the league's dissolution, including correspondence from William Morris Hughes in 1929 documenting his refusal to support the league. This blow, combined with the league's losing battle against the suspension of compulsory militia and cadet services, led to its collapse. The only subsequent minutes, apart from cursory ones of an isolated meeting in August 1933, records the league's decision in 1938 to dissolve, its likely succession by a new National Service League and the donation of its records to the Australian War Memorial; SERIES 3: Outward correspondence, 1905-1907. Description: This letter book holds copies of a small number of letters signed by Campbell from September 1905 to June 1907. Two letters, both dated December 1906 record the split between the ANDL and its short-lived Victorian division which balked at calling for compulsory military service. Another letter, dated June 1907, to a National Service League official wishes that prime minister Alfred Deakin, who had recently spoken in support of compulsory military service, would show 'backbone..equal to his oratory'. Some loose papers have been placed in the book. Outward correspondence includes: External Affairs Department secretary, 7 December 1906, ANDL Victoria Division honorary secretary, 7 December 1906 and National Service League, 17 June 1907; SERIES 4: Incoming correspondence, 1905-1938. Description: Correspondence, mostly comprising letters received by the Australian National Defence League, 1905-1938. Correspondents include W K S Mackenzie, Alfred Deakin, Edgeworth David, M MacCallum, Charles Mackellar and William Chisholm; SERIES 5: Miscellaneous, 1908-1920.

The collection was donated to the Australian War Memorial in 1938 by the league's honorary secretary, Colonel William Mackenzie, on the league's being wound up. Printed publications and some documents among the original donation were dispersed among the Memorial's collection. Copies of the Australasian Naval and Military Annual, for example, are now library items (C355.00994 A938aa), while correspondence about an essay competition have joined series AWM224 (as item MSS630). The extent of the original donation must now be comprehended through the Memorial inventory compiled on acquisition and kept on donation file 12/5/410 in series AWM93. The collection has informed the work of several military historians including John Barrett (author of Falling in: Australians and 'boy conscription', 1979), Thomas Tanner (author of Compulsory citizen soldiers, 1980), and Craig Wilcox (author of For hearths and homes, 1998). The collection has not yet been widely used, though. It is not listed in Joan Beaumont ed., Australian defence; sources and statistics (2001).

Contact Senior Curator, Private Records, Australian War Memorial.

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Arthur Jose; Charles Bean; James Gordon Legge

Cadets; Conscription; Defence Act; Rifle clubs

Minute books; Registers

Recruitment (Military service)

Coverage Temporal



Related Collections


2012-05-30 23:43

2011-06-08 12:32