Crisis 1914! The Call to Arms
The outbreak of the First World War was the first crisis for the new Australian nation. Australia was one of only two or three functioning democracies that went to war in August 1914; Australia was also the most recently created nation. The first few months of the First World War demonstrated Australia’s enthusiastic commitment to the war, not yet exposing the tensions that would later divide the nation. Australians willingly went to war as Britons, but were also determined that the war effort reflected our young nation’s democratic spirit.
The decisions made by the governments led firstly by Joseph Cook, and then Andrew Fisher, were crucial to how Australia would conduct its war effort. Cook’s Cabinet rushed to commit a 20,000 strong expeditionary force, a figure easily achieved and then surpassed by the end of the year. Following the federal election in early September the new prime minister, Andrew Fisher, passed the War Precautions Act, giving the government wide-ranging powers to help in the conduct of the war. Some were alarmed at the extent of these powers, but all agreed that extraordinary measures were needed to deal with the challenges that the war presented.
By the end of 1914 Australians were optimistic and enthusiastic. Opposition to the war, such as it was, paled in the face of crowds of men eager to sign up to the new Australian Imperial Force, and community organisations mobilising to raise funds for the war effort. The successes of the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force in German New Guinea, and the sinking of the German cruiser SMS Emden by HMAS Sydney on 9 November, added to the optimism and pride felt by most Australians.
Year 9 History curriculum links for Crisis 1914!
Perspectives and interpretations
- (ACHHS172) Identify and analyse the perspectives of people from the past
World War I (1914-1918)
- (ACDSEH021) An overview of the causes of World War I and the reasons why men enlisted to fight in the war
- (ACDSEH095) The places where Australians fought and the nature of warfare during World War I, including the Gallipoli campaign
- (ACDSEH096) The impact of World War I, with a particular emphasis on Australia (such as the use of propaganda to influence the civilian population, the changing role of women, the conscription debate)