ANZAC Day 1916 – Queensland School Journal

Written by Assistant Curator, Social History, Lyn Petrie.

Do you remember attending an ANZAC Day ceremony at school and learning about the ANZAC tradition?

There is a long history of teaching our children about ANZAC Day from a young age. Today, many Queensland primary schools conduct an ANZAC Day ceremony or service on the school grounds, on the last school day before ANZAC Day.  A perusal of educational websites will uncover a plethora of resources that can be used to instruct children about ANZACs and ANZAC Day. It could be said that teaching of ANZAC traditions, and the importance of commemorating our soldiers’ efforts in war, is firmly embedded within the Queensland school system.

ANZAC Day booklet for classes V and VI, Queensland Museum
ANZAC Day booklet for classes V and VI, Queensland Museum

I was interested in finding out if this has always been the case and what objects we may have in the Queensland Museum collection that might shed light on this question. There is a booklet in the Queensland Museum collection that attests to the fact that instruction on the ANZAC stories from Gallipoli and the importance of the commemorating that event, was instituted in 1916.

A special edition of the School Journal, a regular teaching aid, was issued to Queensland schools in time for the first ANZAC Day in 1916. Even at that early stage, it was deemed important that school children have impressed upon them, the historic value of Anzac Day. The then Minister for Education, Herbert F Hardacre , instructed schools to:

‘Commemorate Anzac Day by suitable addresses to their pupils, dwelling upon the gallant landing of our Australian and New Zealand troops on the Gallipoli Peninsula, their splendid achievements, their sacrifices, and their loyal devotion to duty, our grief at the great loss they suffered; and our country’s debt of gratitude to them and theirs’.  – Source

Separate booklets were developed for grade I and II, grade III and IV, and grade V and VI… The content was tailored to the level of understanding of the audience. The grade V and VI booklet presents the Gallipoli campaign, as a story divided into three parts. Part 1, titled ‘Egypt and the Landing’, chronicles the journey of the troops from Albany, via Egypt to the day of landing at ANZAC cove. Part 2, titled ‘The Months of Battle’, documents the months of unrelenting struggle during the Gallipoli campaign, up to the decision to withdraw. Part 3, titled‘The Return;’, recounts the withdrawal of the troops from the battlefield, with no reported casualties.

The story told is both heroic and dramatic, highlighting the bravery, skill and sacrifice of the soldiers. A number of significant military leaders provide their opinion on the Australian troops as the story unfolds. Admiral de Robeck, the Commander of the Allied Fleet in the Dardenelles, is quoted as saying:

‘At Gaba Tepe, the landing and the dash of the Australian Brigade for the cliffs were magnificent, nothing could stop such men. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, in their first battle, set a standard as high as that of any army in history and one of which their countrymen have every reason to be proud.’

Herbert Hardacre’s desire for school children to learn about and understand the gallantry and heroism of Australian troops at Gallipoli, is still fulfilled by today’s schools. Department of Education recommended resource kits replace the booklets of 1916 but the message remains largely the same. It is of course more measured, tempered by the experience of other wars in the 20th century and to ensure that war is not inadvertently glorified.