First World War census and conscription

About 120,000 New Zealanders enlisted during the First World War, of whom nearly 100,000 served overseas. When the war broke out in 1914 men flocked in their thousands to answer the call to arms. By the end of the first week of the war 14,000 had volunteered to enlist.

Despite confident claims that it would be 'over by Christmas', by 1916 the war appeared no closer to a conclusion. The seemingly endless toll in lives and maimed men began to impact on public sentiment. As the Census and Statistics Office was tasked with the compilation of manpower registers, newspaper editorials urged the public to accept the necessity of greater sacrifices if the war was to be won. Intensive campaigns to encourage enlistment failed to meet their targets, with only 30% of men eligible for military service volunteering.

In 1916 conscription for military service was introduced to maintain New Zealand's supply of reinforcements. Only four MPs opposed its introduction. The Military Service Act 1916 initially imposed conscription on Pākehā only, but this was extended to Māori in June 1917. More than 30,000 conscripts had enlisted by the end of the war.

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9 comments have been posted about First World War census and conscription

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Posted: 14 May 2015

Hi Jonty - there is more information here:

If you are really keen there is this long report by D. Cossgrave - pdf download

Hope this helps Jamie Mackay


Posted: 13 May 2015

hi Jonty here can I learn more about NZ conscription


Posted: 19 Jun 2014

Hi Janina - see his page on the Cenotaph database here: - this includes a link to a digitised version his full service record at Archives NZ


Posted: 18 Jun 2014

hallo, i am trying to find out more about a name on a memorial plaque in an art gallery that used to be a church in Brighton, England. the Name is 2nd Lieutenant John Stewart Dagg of Auckland Infantry NZ Forces his service # is 12/2620. can anyone tell me more about him, please? Many, many thanks, Janina


Posted: 23 Apr 2013

Hi again, Rosamund. Since my inital post we have been able to track down his full service record at Trentham - he also served in the Second World War which is probably why his service record for WW1 is so slim. To answer your specific questions:

1. He was born 25 May 1898 and enlisted at Trentham on 19 September 1916 - (so was underage)

2. He left NZ on the ship Waitemata with the NZEF 21st Reinforcements, F Company on 19 Jan 1917

3. He enlisted as Private and was Lance Corporal by the end of his service.

4. he was posted to th 13th (Nth Canterbury-Westland) Company and proceeded from UK to France (Western Front) 20 May 1917.

5. Admitted to 49th Field Ambulance, Abbeville, 25 Feb 1918 - he had Pyrexia and sent back to England

6. Returned to NZ from Plymouth on the HMT Hororata, 28 July 1919, arriving 21 September.


Posted: 04 Apr 2013

Hi Rosamund - you can find information about him on Cenotaph - at the end of his record you'll find a link to his digitised service record: - this doesn't have very much info (I suspect some of the file may have been lost?) though it confirms he embarked for England on 19 Jan 1917 - when he was 18, so definitely underage. He was being treated at Napier Hospital in 1919, though it is not clear what for.

He is listed as wounded, but not seriously, in this newspaper report from 4 May 1918: - and he returned home on the Hororata in August 1918, .

So far I haven't been able to find anything on where he served during his time in Europe.

Regards, Jamie Mackay

Rosamund Dallow

Posted: 04 Apr 2013

My Uncle, Austin (Augustine) Bernard Dallow, enlisted as Bernard - his father's name - was he underage? So I can't find him in the records, enlistment date - his regiment - which battles, etc - he was on the Western Front - demob date? - he left from his home town, Napier HB - then settled in Auckland. Any info out there?

B harris

Posted: 22 Mar 2013

There is no mention of Dr Henry Pickerill (an English man) who came to open our first NZ dental school, was seconded via Red Cross to UK for plastic surgery services to NZ soldiers. At the end of the placement he brought his soldiers home to Dunedin to finish his work. he was also a surgeon and lived here in Silverstream unlike gillies and Mcindoe who worked overseas.


Posted: 22 Jan 2013

My grandfather’s war experience illustrates this.
An enthusiastic 21 year old, he volunteered, and was part of the Samoa Expeditionary Force.
He returned to civilian life, married and was pursuing his career in insurance, when he heard the news that his elder brother William had died of wounds on the Somme.
Did his changing life circumstances or the tragedy of his brother affect his feelings towards war? We can’t know, he died in 1951, but it took for him to be selected in a conscription ballot for him to return to uniform in 1918.