The Militia, Conscription and Politics of ‘One Army’, 1939-1945

Tuesday 29 September

5pm AEST (GMT + 10hrs)

Webinar on Zoom

This presentation analyses how conscription and serving in the militia in the Second Word War was a political issue that has relatively limited historical attention.  It will provide a very brief overview of how the debates were influenced by the highly decisive conscription plebiscites of the First World War and a predilection for volunteerism.  The presentation will then examine how the Pacific War challenged the concept of having ‘two armies,’ one conscripted for home defence and a voluntary force for ‘overseas’ service.  It will argue too many accounts underplay the political significance, and importance, of having two armies. The presentation will also argue that, at the same time, the concept of having two armies was often used a rhetorical ploy that has marred a more comprehensive understanding of the respective forces; and while conceptually distinct, the difference between the AIF and the militia by 1944 was largely immaterial in terms of terms of composition of combat effectiveness.  The presentation will also briefly touch on the role of Australian senior military officers and MacArthur in these political debates, suggesting that the role of the latter was more significant despite ongoing concerns at political interference among the former.


    James Morrison

James is a serving Army officer based in Canberra who completed history honours at ADFA in 2003 and a Masters of Arts (International Relations) from Deakin University in 2006. He has also completed a Master of Arts (Defence Studies) from Kings College London. James is a PhD student at UNSW (ADFA) and his thesis is on the Australian Army militia during the Second World War.