"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.
Regarding the epidemic of marriages
A report issued in March 1916 observed that wounded and convalescing Anzac troops were falling in love with their nurses, and marrying them. Officials were concerned that these marriages, made in haste during exceptional circumstances, might not be wise. The situation became further complicated as servicemen applied for grants to bring their new brides back to Australia.
Schoolgirl life and love during the war
There was a sharp divide between rich and poor in New Zealand at the time of the First World War. Marjorie Lees, the daughter of an upper-class Wellington family, was attending boarding school in 1914. Young women of her social status faced a restricted life, with very few options apart from marriage once they left school. But like young people from all walks of life, she was soon to experience the heartbreak of war.