Australian Screen

Australia’s audiovisual heritage online

1915 (1982)

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It's war! education content clip 1, 2

Original classification rating: M. This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

The recruiting drive is on and throughout the bush there are more than enough young men willing to drop everything for the adventure of war. Billy (Scott Burgess) and Walter (Scott McGregor) have been waiting for this moment with barely suppressed excitement.

Curator’s notes

These wild young men from the bush are just waiting for the adventure of war. They see this as a way out of the dull routine of farm work and settling down to marriage and a family.

The town displays the British flag first although the Australian flag is cheered when it too appears, while the schoolteacher’s words about the war being the plaything of the munitions manufacturers and the bankers, will fall on deaf ears.
Meanwhile the parson mouths the old imperial platitudes. In just a few years, only a handful of these sparkling young men will return from the horror of the trenches, to find themselves thrown on the scrap heap of the Great Depression. The irony of this is not lost on a modern audience, who like the audience at a Greek tragedy, knows exactly what lies ahead.

The period detail of the series is marvellous and no expense has been spared to capture the atmosphere of an Australian country town of the era. Later this will be contrasted with middle class Sydney and the bloody battlefield of Gallipoli.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

The clip, from the television miniseries 1915, shows scenes that dramatise the responses of a rural community to the news that the First World War has been declared. Billy rides to a homestead to break the news to his friend Wally. The school teacher voices his anti-war position to Wally’s father. In the town people are celebrating in the street as martial music is played. The Union Jack is brought out onto the pub veranda to the sound of cheers.

Educational value points

  • The clip portrays various responses in rural Australia to the outbreak of the First World War. The war was seen by many as a 'great adventure’ and a chance to see the world because it was initially thought that the War would only last a few months. Men of all ages and varying degrees of physical fitness enlisted and by December 1914 the number enlisted was over 50,000.
  • The clip shows the Union Jack displayed as part of the celebration. This response revealed the depths of Australia’s ties to Britain as thousands volunteered to defend the 'mother country’. At this time one man in five had been born in Britain and many enlisted hoping for a trip 'home’ before active service. Australia’s loyalty to the Empire was evident in the name of the volunteer force formed in September 1914 – the Australian Imperial Force (AIF).
  • The clip depicts the enthusiasm of the young men to volunteer. During the First World War, the AIF consisted of all volunteers with over 400,000 troops raised from the adult male population of approximately 2.7 million. By 1918 the AIF had suffered a casualty rate of more than 64 per cent, leaving few Australian families untouched by the loss or injury of a loved one.
  • The school teacher’s opposition to Australia’s involvement in the First World War reflects the views held by some that the War was a 'trade war’ favouring the interests of businessmen and bankers, being fought by the workers. Radical groups such as the Industrial Workers of the World promoted these views and agitated against conscription in the later years of the War.
  • During the First World War the political, social and religious divisions that had existed at the War’s outbreak reached a climax in the conscription referendums of 1916 and 1917, both of which were narrowly defeated. The whole question of what was a true, patriotic Australian came to be debated during this time, and anti-conscriptionists were denounced by Prime Minister Billy Hughes (1862–1952) as traitors during the conscription debates in 1916.
  • During the later years of the First World War many Australians of Irish Catholic descent, supporters of the Irish republican cause, which was opposed to the idea of serving England, opposed Australia’s involvement in the War.
  • Australia, as a Dominion of the Crown, was deemed by many to be at war once Britain had declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914. This was not the case, but Britain’s colonies and dominions volunteered to provide monetary and military assistance. Almost 20 per cent of those who served in the Australian forces in the First World War had been born in the United Kingdom but had enlisted in Australia.
  • The clip comes from the critically acclaimed seven-part television miniseries 1915, which won two Logie Awards in 1983 and was praised for its realistic war sequences, its strong cast and its excellent music score by Bruce Smeaton.
  • The miniseries was written by Peter Yeldham (1927–), based on the novel by Roger McDonald. Yeldham has written a number of landmark films including Age of Consent (1969) and The Comedy Man (1963) and his TV credits include All the Rivers Run (1983) and The Timeless Land (1980).

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Terms & Conditions

australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described here and elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions. ALL rights are reserved.

You must read and agree to the following terms and conditions before downloading this clip:

When you access ABC materials on australianscreen you agree that:

  1. You may download this clip to assist your information, criticism and review purposes in conjunction with viewing this website only;
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  3. Downloading for purposes other than non-commercial educational uses is Prohibited;
  4. Downloading this clip in association with any commercial purpose is Prohibited;

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