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To what extent did Australians enlist in 1914 to defend the ‘Mother country’? Essay

World War 1, the war to end all wars, lasted from 1914-1918. It was triggered by the assassination of the Archduke of Austria, Franz Ferdinand which led to a global war that was centred in Europe. Officially, Australia as a whole enthusiastically and patriotically defended Great Britain at the outbreak of war in 1914. Australia was geographically and politically isolated from what was happening in Europe. However being part of the Commonwealth, when Britain went to war, Australia became involved for political and economical reasons. However, at an individual level Australians enlisted in the war for very different reasons, largely social pressures and the lack of employment during WW1.

Australia and Britain have always had a very strong relationship as Australia is part of the British Empire and therefore politically Australia as a nation wanted to help defend Britain. Even though Australia was not formally an ally of Great Britain, Australia felt a strong allegiance to Britain due to imperialistic ties. The British were the early settlers of Australia so there had always been that attachment with each other. Australia is part of the Commonwealth so the military felt the need to help the mother country. The nation’s financial resources and manpower were promised by the then-Labour leader, Andrew Fisher, who assured that ‘Australians will stand beside our own to help and defend her to our last man and our last shilling.’ This demonstrated Australia’s devotion and passion in defending Britain.

It was also strategically beneficial for Australia to maintain their connection as Australia relied on Britain for security purposes. In the early 1900’s Australia had no navy so with any military threat would require support from Britain. Without Britain’s support, Australia would have a higher chance of being invaded. In 1914, the British Empire was the largest Empire in the world. England was one of the most advancing countries with technology and socio-economics. Australia was a young, British oriented country with a small population who needed a stronger country to provide all kinds of support. Australia wanted to show it’s loyalty to Britain in order to assure that strong allegiance. An example of this is when Australia went to war with Britain in 1914 as a demonstration of their loyalty.

Britain and Australia could maintain a strong trade relationship, which enabled Australia to make agreements that boosted its economy. Australia also had a major income from exporting to Britain from products such as wool and wheat. The allegiance benefited Australians as British lowered export tariffs and saw Australian products as a first choice when it came to importing. Throughout the early 1900’s Britain was Australia’s main trading partner. We weren’t partners with countries like China or America like we are today, so if Australia were to lose their trade routes with Britain they would have no way of trading goods.

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