As Remembrance Day fast approaches, one remote school in Victoria’s North East has captured its significance with a research project dedicated to the Australian Light Horse Brigade.
Grade five and six pupils at Corryong College have spent many months researching and collating biographies on the men from the Upper Murray region who enlisted as Light Horsemen in the First World War.
Teacher, Stephen Learmonth, says he had hoped the project would generate interest in the meaning of Remembrance Day, ahead of the centenary of armistice.
“The aim was to create personal links with the names we see on our Honour Roll; to make the kids realise that they’re not just names — that these were real people with real families, and they lived in the same towns as us, they went to our schools and they walked our streets,” he said.
“We knew the kids would get a lot out of the project educationally, but I don’t think we could have anticipated the amount they’ve enjoyed it … and, in particular, the extent of family links and family stories we have uncovered.”
One student uncovered diaries written during the war by her Great, Great Uncles.
She now plans to transcribe their content, so all her family can read their stories.
Another learned the plight of his Great ,Great Grandfather, who was awarded a military medal after losing sight in both eyes while running as a stretcher-bearer.
“In many instances the kids knew they had relatives who ‘did something in one of the wars’ but that was really the extent of their knowledge,” Mr Learmonth said.
“For them, it was particularly rewarding to step through our research process — looking at national archives, ancestry websites, old newspapers — and being able to piece together the story of their ancestor.”
The biographies, researched and written by the students, have since been collated into a book totalling 180 pages.
The school is now in the throes of fundraising to have the book formally published, while the students have also established a website to exhibit all of their research.
“We had some students who were able to research and write the biographies to a standard that could be published … but then we also had students who were quite low in literacy, so they needed a lot more help,” Mr Learmonth said.
“Ultimately, collectively, they’ve all contributed and will all have their work published in a book – a real book.”
They’ll also be published in The Age, with an article about their assignment to be printed in the lead-up to Remembrance Day.
“There has been a great deal of interest in what we’ve done – I guess because it is a perfect example of kids today taking an interest in and learning about our war history,” Mr Learmonth said.
“(And) from a teaching perspective, it’s ticked a lot of boxes – research, group work, editing, publishing, laws of copyright, literacy, public speaking, web design and even economics, looking at the cost of creating the book and the cost of using pictures from the Australian War Memorial.”