Photos after the first conscription ballot
Shot on 16 November 1916, the day of the first World War One conscription ballot held under the Military Service Act of 1916, this film shows the female and male staff of the Government Statisticians Office, all dressed in their Sunday best, posing for the camera on the roof of Routh’s Building in Wellington. The New Zealand Truth described the ballot as “An Epoch Making Event in New Zealand’s History” and “the first gamble in human life”. It was also pointed out that the women who are seen in the film, who drew registration cards for the ballot, could possibly “draw their sweetheart’s cards as time goes on”. (Truth, 18 November 1916, p.6)
"The first gamble in human life"
In 1916 the New Zealand Government introduced conscription (compulsory enlistment for military service), to reinforce the shrinking numbers of men volunteering to serve in WW1. All men eligible for service were then required to register their names and other details, such as age and marriage status. This silent film clip, shot by the government’s own cameraman, shows the first-ever ballot at the Government Statistician’s Office, to determine which registered men would be selected for war service. The registration cards are laid out in boxes on long tables. Their numbers are transferred onto wooden balls which are placed in a rotating tumbler and randomly selected.
Conscription was politically contentious, and the film shows a party of journalists invited to view and report on the first ballot. They include Harry Holland, reporting for the labour movement paper, the Maoriland Worker. He had been imprisoned for sedition, for speaking out against conscription two years ealier in 1914.