Citizen Military Force

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On 1st January 1901 Western Australia became part of the Federation of Australia and and the Commonwealth Ministry of Defence became responsible for all of the Colonial forces in March 1901. The men were officially part of the Federal Force but in reality the Colonial Battalions and Units remained as they were until there was an organisational change when the Defence Act was legislated in 1903.

After the Second Anglo-Boer War ended in 1902, the Defence Act 1903 was legislated. It decreed that existing soldiers, from all the States of Australia, would become part of the Citizen Military Force or the Permanent Military Force and could not serve outside Australia. The Defence Act included Nurses and the Medical Corps as part of the Citizen Military Force. They were not paid by the Government in peacetime but were available to be called upon when needed.

The structure of the Citizen Military Force is detailed here. CMF Organisation in WA

The Universal Service Scheme (conscription) began in 1911. Every 12 - 18 year old boy had to join the Cadets while he was at school and continued once he started working. Junior Cadets were from age 12 to 14 years of age and they attended 90 hours each year. Senior Cadets were from 14 to 18 years of age and were required to attend for 4 whole days, 12 half days and 21 night drills each year. The young men then became part of the Citizen Military Force from age 18 to 26 years and were required to attend for the equivalent of 16 days per year, 8 days of which were at the annual camp, for a period of two years. They could not serve overseas. This scheme continued until October 1929.

During World War 1 the Citizen Military Force guarded ports and the coastline. By 1918, there were over 9 000 Citizen Military Force soldiers on active duty in Australia. After World War 1, returned AIF soldiers, medics and nurses became part of the Citizen Military Force and numbers grew to around 120 000. This didn't last long and by 1930 numbers had dropped to 30 000.

In 1921 army numbers were introduced to the Citizen Military Force. If the man was compulsorily serving due to the Universal Service Scheme, he would have the year of his birth and then his enrolment number. For example 98/2468. If he had volunteered to serve in the Citizen Military Force he would have the letters VE and then his enrolment number. For example VE/2468.

During the early years of World War 2 the Citizen Military Force was involved in defending Australia. Their duties included plane spotting and manning anti-aircraft installations, coast watching and manning the coast defence installations, protecting and patrolling around vital industries.

Garrison Battalions were organised to man the internment and POW camps and fixed defences. They were usually men aged between 48 and 55 years who had served in WW1 and were recruited from the Citizen Military Force and the Volunteer Defence Corps. They were usually medically restricted and were unable to march, drill or train.

The Australian Women's Army Service (AWAS) was formed on 13th August 1941 to release men from military office duties. They also undertook roles such as cooks, search light operators, ambulance drivers and signals operators. In 1951 it became the Women's Royal Australian Army Corps (WRAAC).

In 1943 the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Act was legislated and allowed members of the Citizen Military Force, including the Army Nursing Service and Women's Army Service, to serve overseas within the Southwestern Pacific Zone for the duration of World War 2. This area included New Guinea and the adjacent islands. Citizen Military Force Units fought alongside soldiers from the Permanent Military Force and the Australian Imperial Force against the Japanese in New Guinea and nearby islands. They were issued with service numbers that had one initial in front of the number, signifying which State they enlisted in. ie ‘W’ indicated Western Australia.

The records of women who enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service can be accessed separately on the Medical Services page.

The Volunteer Defence Corps was an important part of Australia's defences during World War 2 and in 1941, came under the umbrella of the Citizen Military Force. Their records can be accessed separately via this button.

Citizen Military Force personnel