Topic: AAB-Education Centre
The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre in conjunction with the various Education authorities in Australia, has embarked upon producing a program of instruction targeted initially towards the Later Adolescence band of scholars, characteristically those who are studying in Year 9 and 10 within Australia. Each lesson will be a self contained module. Some will be more difficult than others and graded accordingly.
Lesson 9 Keep the Home Fires Burning
Level: Later adolescence – Year 9 and 10
Letters were an important part of maintaining soldier morale. In an age of almost universal Australian literacy letter writing was the main means of economical personal contact. The letters written by the light horsemen form part of Australian history as it affected the family. By use of many unpublished and published letters, the fears and loves of the men at the front comes through. In the end, it gives a positive link to the past as the letter authors become humanised rather than a statistic.
- Understand “kin” and “relation”;
- Consider the role played by Light Horsemen’s families in Australian history;
- Understand the importance of the home front during the Great War;
- Undertake a specific case study of one letter; and,
- Define specific Light Horse terms.
- What do we mean by the term “kin”?
- Who is a kin member?
- Why is the home an important part of understanding social history in Australia important?
The different types of families occur in a wide variety of settings, and their specific functions and meanings depend largely on their relationship to other social institutions.
The term "nuclear family" is commonly used to refer to a family of adult partners and their children (by birth or adoption) where the family relationship is principally focused inwardly and ties to extended kin are voluntary and based on emotional bonds, rather than strict duties and obligations. This considers the spouses and their children as of prime importance and which has a fringe of comparatively lesser important relatives.
The term "extended family" is also common and it refers to kindred (a network of relatives that extends beyond the domestic group) who do not belong to the nuclear family.
- Initiate discussions by asking students: What is a family within our community? (Shared goals and ties by cohabitating people usually are defined as families within the community.)
Refer to Family Relationship Chart.
Family Relationship Chart
2. Where do the students fit in with their families? Here the students should be able to describe their immediate family structure and populate it with the names of the various members.
When the Light Horsemen enlisted in 1914, they did not realise that they would be away from Australia for so long. During the Boer War, the most time a person spent in South Africa with a particular unit was about a year and then they returned back to Australia. In the Great War, the men who rushed to join thought they might go overseas, fight one or two battles and be home by the end of 1915. The terms of their enlistment, duration plus four months, meant that when the war bogged down, there was no release until it ended. Some Light Horsemen enlisted in August 1914 and were discharged in September 1919, some five years later. There were at least 35 Light Horsemen in this situation although many more came close to serving similar periods.
See: Light Horsemen who enlisted in 1914 and served over 5 yearsLight Horsemen who enlisted in 1914 and served over 5 years
Contact with families and friends were most important activities for the soldiers to maintain their moral. While many men were often homesick, a letter was capable of alleviating some of those feelings of loss.
Open the page:
Resource - Letters from 1914 to 1918
- Discuss the reasons why families were so important for the continued strength of the Light Horse when the Great War broke out and continued during the war.
- Access the 23 individual letters. Select each individual student to read out a letter to the class. [Note: Since most of the letters are short, reading the letters out aloud by tasking one student per letter, would consume at maximum, about 10 minutes.] After each letter is read, a reflection question may be asked at the discretion of the teacher. Reflection questions are attached to the bottom of each letter. The focus of this activity is to ensure that the students can empathise with the author and recipient of the letter.
- Students self select or are allocated a particular letter from the letters page.
- Students examine the letter and answer the reflection questions.
- Each student will then attempt to write a response to the letter. Perhaps the response should be about 100-200 words in length. Students are encouraged to think about the items the author might like to hear about their particular lives. The focus of this activity is a practical application of their empathy. It is of little consequence that they have no historical basis to respond as it is their response at a human level that is important in this exercise.
- Each student presents the responding letter to the class.
- Discuss the common information and elicit observations.
- Ask students to describe their experience of researching their family and then putting themselves in the shoes of the letter writers. Ask: What motivated these people to write the letters? By writing the letter, did they learn something about themselves as well as the letter writer?
- Did experiences between each student vary? How? Why?
Light Horse context
- How was it possible for Light Horsemen to mail their letters in the desert?
- How did the military Post Office find the right location of each individual Light Horseman while they were constantly moving cross country? See: The Army Post Office delivering the mail
- Why was it common for Light Horsemen, when on active service, to note the letters received? [On occasion, ships bearing the letters would be sunk or poorly addressed. This allowed the men and their families to keep track of the mail sent between each other. If an item went missing, it could be tracked by the Military Post Office.
- Ask students to research the full National Archives Service File of a Light Horseman who served over five years. It is now in his fifth year of service. Write a letter as either a relative or the Light Horseman describing experiences and feelings to the recipient.
- Ask students research and report on the family communication systems available now for Australian troops deployed overseas. Compare and contrast that with the systems available to the Light Horsemen in the Great War. [Bear in mind that the International Postal Agreement was only a decade old for Australia and so international letters were still a novelty.]
The following items are available and recommended to be utilised as student and teacher resources.
Aid to reading service files
Light Horse History
- Attestation Papers
- Great War
- Taken on Strength
A type of family made up only of parents and their children.
1. One's relatives collectively: family, kindred, kinfolk.
2. A person connected to another person by blood or marriage: kinsman, kinswoman, relation, and relative.
Learning outcome principles covered by module for Late Adolescent students:
21 LA.4. The events, people and movements that shaped the development of Australia (e.g. colonisation and expansion, development of governments, participation in major wars) and the contexts in which events and actions occurred (e.g. social and economic context, motivation and beliefs of individuals).
21 LA.6. Ways in which Australia is presented, nationally and internationally (e.g. stereotypes of Australian people and places).
21. LA.7. Select and apply geographical tools and processes (e.g. maps, graphs, photographs, flow charts, fieldwork, action research) to gather, interpret and present geographical information on Australia;
21. LA.8: Analyse sources, perspectives, theories and gaps in narrative accounts of Australia and Australians; and,
21. LA.9. Sequence historical events and relevant contextual information to explain and create narrative accounts of Australia and Australians.
Education Centre Topic Outline