Title War - Australian Imperial Force - Report by the Royal Commission (His Honour Sir Samuel Griffith, Chief Justice) as to Number of Members fit for active service and Number of Reinforcements and Enlistments required
Source Both Chambers
Date 04-04-1918
Parliament No. 7
Tabled in House of Reps 04-04-1918
Tabled in Senate 04-04-1918
Parliamentary Paper Year 1918
Parliamentary Paper No. 55
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Senate Misc. Paper No.
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War - Australian Imperial Force - Report by the Royal Commission (His Honour Sir Samuel Griffith, Chief Justice) as to Number of Members fit for active service and Number of Reinforcements and Enlistments required










Presented by Command; ordered to be printed, +th April, 1918.

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To His Excellency The Right Honorable Sm RoNALD CRAUFURD MuNRO FERGusoN, a Member of His Majesty's Most Honorable Privy Knight Grand Cross of the. Most Distinguished Order of Saini Michael and Saint George, Govemo1·-General and Commander-in-Chief of the Commonwealth of Australia •


In obedience to Your Excellency's Commission appointing and requiring me to examine -<:,he records of the Department of Defence and the information received. by it relating to the

strength and casualties of the Australian Imperial Force, and to report as I. the number of members of the Australian Imperial Force fit for active service, and being now in Australia, England, France, Egypt, · Mesopotamia, Palestine, Italy, or elsewhere; ·

II. the number of reinforcements that should be embarked per month, in my opinion, in order to maintain the five Australian Divisions in France and the other units at the front in Palestine and elsewhere; and III. what number of enlistments per month are required to provide such reinforce­


I have examined such documents and records as appeared to be likely to elucidate the matter, and have now the honour to submit to Your Excellency the results of my examination. I have not thought it necessary to take formal oral evidence except such explanation as I desired of the various documents and records examined, which was very fully and freeJy given by Major-General J. G. Legge, to whom I am much indebted for his assistance.

For the purposes of this inquiry and Report I have assumed that the present war conditions will continue, and that the Australian Imperial Force will be on active service during the whole of the present year. I have taken 31st December, 1917, as the most convenient starting point, and have estimated the existing numbers and future probabilities as of and from that date.


' The total number of enlistments up to 31st December, 1917, was as follows :-1914 52,561

1915 165,912

1916 124,352

1917 45,101


Of these, however, 68,937 were discharged or deserted or died before embarkation. The total numbers who embarked were :-1914 31,881

1915 96,984

1916 139,592

1917 42,396


of whom 308,776 embarked for Europe or Egypt, and 2,077 for New Guinea. The remaining 8,136 were still in training in Australia on 31st December, 1917. Of these 308,776--42,156 have died. 3,893 are prisoners or missing.

50,609 (of whom 40,384 have been discharged) have returned to Australia.


6 Al9· '±


leaving 212,118 still on the strength abroad, who, so far as known, are thus accounted for-At sea, embarked during November and December, 1917 8,383 In Egypt and Palestine, including dep<)ts and hospitals 18,432 In Mesopotamia . . 413

In France (with units) 108,236

In England, including dep<)ts and hospitals 66,191

At sea, returning to Australia . . 6,017


The discrepancy of 4,446 is substantially accounted for by members of the Force in hospitals in France (the number of whom is fluctuating, and of whom no detailed particulars are available), and members in transit from the base to the front and vice 'versa. The Oversea War Establishment of the Force is as follows :­

In France (all ranks) In Egypt (including Palestine) In Mesopotamia ..

which is tb-e number to be kept up so far as practicable.

110,517 16,908 321


The difference between this number and 212,118 is substantially represented by the troops at sea and troops in England. The number of troops in England is made up as follows :-Staff, Head-Quarters Administrative and Training cadres, includ-

ing men unfit for active service in the field, and also.men under age attached to such cadres In Training Depots and Flying Corps undergoing training In Command Depots, not including those uudermeutioned In hospitals, other than depots, excluding men awaiting return

to Australia In hospitals from depots In hospitals and depots awaiting return to Australia .. Awaiting discharge in United Kingdom, absentees, and men

under detention On leave from units in France and hospitals ..

11,853 18,488 12,509

10,388 1,611 5,041

1,905 4,396


Command Depots maybe-described as places for the reception of men who, although not requiring actual hospital treatment, are not fit to be returned to active service, and are not subjects for final discharge. The proportion of men that are eventually returned from such depots to active service fluctuates very much, and it is impossible to base any conclusion upo:a the possibility of some of them becoming available.

None of these troops, therefore, except those secondly mentioned, can be counted upon with any degree of certainty as probable additions to the combatant forces . ..

H.-REQUISITE NUMBERS OF MONTHLY REINFORCEMENTS. The number of men, required to keep up the strength is, of course, contingent upon future events, which cannot be foretold with certainty. The only light available seems to be that afforded by the past. I take the year 1917 as affording the most satisfactory basis for an

estimate, both on account of the actual operations of that year, and the probabilities of the immediate future. The actual numbers withdrawn from the force in that year were 51,639, thus accounted for-By death 23,615

By being made prisoner 2,117

Returned to Australia 25,907

or au average of 4,300 per month. The losses are not, however, equally distributed over the twelve months, and on several occasions in that and the previous year the casualties reported have exceeded 30,000 within a period of three mouths, all of whom have, for the time being, been lost to the Force.


The course of training required abroad before joining the fighting units occupies about four months. There should, therefore, be in training a constant number equal to four months' of drafts; that is to say, about 17,000. But provision should also be made for the not

heavy losses alrea_dy referred to of 20,000 or 30,000 within a short period. A

sufficient number of fully tramed men, say 30,000, should therefore be constantly held in reserve for such a probable emergency. .

REINFORCEMENTS ACTUALLY AVAILABLE. On 1st January, 1918, the reinforcements available abroad were­ In England about 18,500 Egypt 1,800,

that is, a little over 20,000. 16,000 were then in camp in Australia or on their way to Europe, but would not be fully available for five or six months. The actual numbers available in England and Egypt, which should at any given time be about 47,000, were therefore deficient to the extent of, say, 27,000, irrespective of the monthly drafts of 4,300.

. The numbers of the monthly reinforcements that can be actually sent from Australia are however, dependent upon the transport available. As a counsel of perfection, it would be desirable, if practicable, to make up the existing deficiency as soon as transport is available, at the same time continuing the necessary monthly drafts. How nearly this desired object can be attained is a matter upon which I have no means of forming an opinion.

IlL-NECESSARY NUMBER OF ENLISTMENTS PER MONTH. I have already pointed out the great discrepancy between the total numbers enlisted a:rid the numbers embarking, which amounted to 68,937 out of 387,926, or about 18 per cent. For the year 1917 alone, the proportional discrepancy was not very different. At the beginning of the year there were in camp 18,588, to whom 42,854 were added during the year by enlistment,

making a total. of 61,442. At the end of the year 7,996 remained in camp, showing a difference of 53,446. The actual embarkations, however, were only 42,054. The wastage by death, discharge, and desertion was thus 11,392, or about 20 per cent. of those who entered camp, and more than 25 per cent. of the number of those who embarked.

There appears to be no good reason for supposing that the same proportion of wastage would not be observed in the case of future enlistments. It follows that the number of enlist­ ments should exceed the number of required reinforcements by about one-fourth. That is to say, the monthly enlistments to replace the average wastage should be about 5,400, in addition to the number required to make up the present deficiency, that is, 27,000 plus one-fourth, or, say, about 34,000.

Before leaving the subject of enlistment for foreign service, I desire to advert to its intimate connexion with mobilization for active service within the Commonwealth, which has hitherto not been considered necessary except for limited and special purposes, but which may at any time become a matter of grave urgency. As, however, it is not within the scope of Your

Excellency's appointment that I should deal with this branch of the matter of the defence of the Commonwealth, I refrain from further mention of it. All which I have the honour humbly to report to Your Excellency.

(Signed) S. W. GRIFFITH.

Given under my hand at Melbourne, this 14th day of March, 1918.

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