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
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 By use of many unpublished and published letters, the fears and loves of the men at the front comes through.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.
Many of us talk about our family and kin. At the bottom of this page are the definitions of family and kin. When you have read these definitions, think about these questions in relation to your family.
- What do we mean by the term “kin”?
- Who is a kin member of your family?
- Why is the home an important part of understanding our history as Australians?
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.
- 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. When you look at the Family Relationshp Chart, where do fit in with your family? 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
- Why do you think 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 one letter. Your teacher might like you to read it out to the class.
- Follow each letter as it is read. At the bottom of each letter are a few things to reflect upon about the particular letter. You might like to begin to reflect over the letter and its contents.
- When the letters have been read, examine the letter youu have chosen and answer the reflection questions. Try to put yourself in the place of the person who wrote the letter and also the person who received the letter.
- When you have understood the letter, try to write a response to the letter. Perhaps the response should be about 100-200 words in length. Think about the things the author might like to hear about from their family or friends. If you want to get further inspiration, go to Light Horsemen who enlisted in 1914 and served over 5 years and select a Light Horseman and open the file. Most files contain much material about the things they experienced while in the Light Horse.
- After finishing the letter, you might be asked to present it to the class.
- What do you think about the information contained in the responding letters? If you were receiving that letter, how would you feel? What motivated these people to write the letters? By writing the letter, did you learn something about yourself as well as the letter writer?
- Was your experience different to the students? How? Why?
But how was the mail delivered?
- 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? [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.]
- Perhaps you might like 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.
- Why not find out about the current family communication systems available for Australian troops deployed overseas. Compare and contrast that with the systems available to the Light Horsemen in the Great War. One interesting fact is that the International Postal Agreement was only a decade old for Australia and so cheap international letters were still a novelty.
- 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.
Aid to reading service files
Light Horse History