Unit 1 - World War I - Enlistment and Fighting on the Western Front
The Learning Sequence
The following resources and activities are designed to facilitate student engagement and learning with content from the Australian Curriculum (History). More specifically, they target key content from the World War I (1914 – 1918) topic of the year nine material and a range of historical skills outlined in the syllabus.
By completing the following activities, or a relevant selection of them, students will explore the ‘reasons why men enlisted to fight in the war’ and ‘the places where Australians fought and the nature of warfare during World War I’. The learning activities are structured around a variety of primary and secondary sources collated from Australian newspapers, the Australian War Memorial, the National Archives of Australia and from current Australian historians working in this field.
The resources curated in this package focus on the enlistment and military service of one Australian, Private Edward Edwards from Victoria. He enlisted in 1915, travelled to Egypt and was then transferred to the Western Front in France where he fought in the Battle of Pozières (1916). There is rich source material surviving from Private Edwards’ experience of the First World War, including a personal letter to his father outlining his reasons for wanting to join the Australian army in 1915. His service records, Battalion Diary and newspaper articles also help to provide students with an intimate view of the life of a young Australian caught up in the drama that was the Great War.
Teachers may decide to focus on one or both of the following parts of this resource:
- Part 1 explores the enlistment of Private Edwards in mid-1915.
- Part 2 follows chronologically by exploring Private Edwards’ deployment and his experience of warfare in 1915 and 1916 in both Egypt and the France.
Importantly, these resources require students to work with core historical skills by analysing and synthesising from a range of primary and secondary sources to develop historical judgements and accounts. Some students may also be provided with opportunities to complete their own research and extend their understanding of Private Edwards’ military service and Australia’s involvement in the First World War more generally.
For teachers looking to further engage their students, these activities have been broadly modelled on the annual Simpson Prize organised by the History Teachers’ Association of Australia. In this competition, students are required to respond to a historical question about Australia’s involvement in the First World War and make use of a variety of source material in their response. The activities outlined in this unit would be ideal preparation for this competition.