Studying the poetry of war can often be challenging for students, as we live in a time when trench warfare, conscription and the phrase ‘For King and country’ is so far removed from us, but our Year 8 students did not let this get in their way, as they embarked on their study of war poetry during Term 2. After weeks of examining the cultural influences on war poetry, as well as exploring why experiences of war continue to engage audiences, students were treated to a performance and lecture from Dr Mark Cryle, a Q ANZAC 100 Fellow from the State Library of Queensland. Dr Cryle is a published historian, presenter and teacher.
Students listened to Dr Cryle as he sang a heartfelt rendition of And the band played Waltzing Matilda. Following this, students engaged with Dr Cryle as they explored the themes and emotions attached to war prior to World War I, and explored how this changed once the realities of World War I had been felt by the soldiers and their communities. Students recalled their study of various war poems – Dulce et Decorum Est and Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen, John McCree’s In Flanders’ Fields, and For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon – as they connected with the brutal images from World War I battlefields.
From his enthusiasm when presenting the different poems, Dr Cryle allowed students to further understand how the war affected the soldiers, their families and their communities. They were intrigued to know the more uncensored version of war stories that were shared, and that the consequences of war for the soldiers did not end after the war; they were left with trauma, disfigurement and overall sadness.
Students continued their discussions in class, as they further contemplated how the poets we studied were able to capture so effectively the images, emotions and experiences of war. Students even considered how many of these emotions and experiences could still be felt today, as so many are connected to wars through their family history.
The Year 9 cohort gathered in the Dawn Lang Performing Arts Centre on 7 June to watch a History presentation by Dr Mark Cryle. Dr Cryle performed a couple of his own compositions about World War I, as well as more familiar ones which, when accompanied by poems (some of his own), really gave the Year 9s an insight of what World War I was like.
Dr Cryle provided a good explanation of what the expectations of war were like compared to the reality. It was very interesting to learn about what the men and women went through during 1914 – 1918. This information was perfect for Year 9, as our current unit is focusing on World War I: the war to end all wars. Part of the current History unit includes looking into the expectations of war as compared with the reality, but also explores Australia’s involvement in the war, all of which was covered in Dr Cryle’s presentation.
What I found most interesting about the presentation, however, was learning about Anzac Day. Once WWI ended, it took many years for Anzac Day to truly commence. The celebrations died off for a few years after the initial return of the soldiers. A few years later, some people thought that the soldiers should be remembered for their achievements. The soldiers gave up their lives to fight for their country and for people whom they did not even know. They displayed strong mateship and bravery.
Dr Mark Cryle also highlighted in his presentation the virtues of a soldier and the horrific situations that they would fight through for other people. This tied in with the “reality of the war” section of the unit that we have been studying.
I personally loved this presentation and performance as I love modern history. I find it so fascinating learning about how the wars happened and what resulted due to conflict, and the way people felt about people from different countries.
This presentation was a great way to take a moment to focus on WWI, the supposed war to end all wars.
Caitlin Ireland - Year 9 student
Tammie Gilbert – English Teacher