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Australian Families’ Responses to War Death and Disability after the First World War Dr Marina Larsson.

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Presentation on theme: "Australian Families’ Responses to War Death and Disability after the First World War Dr Marina Larsson."— Presentation transcript:

1 Australian Families’ Responses to War Death and Disability after the First World War Dr Marina Larsson


3 Background Honorary Research Associate La Trobe Shattered Anzacs 2009 Anzac Legacies 2010

4 VCE Focus Examine: The ways in which Australians responded to particular threats and whether this led to a rethinking of old certainties. The ways in which Australians acted in response to a significant crisis faced by the country.

5 Lecture Focus ► ► War as a crisis for the family. ► ► The crisis of war did not end in 1918.

6 War as a crisis for families ► ► Families make up the social fabric. ► ► War affects more than just soldiers. ► ► It was in families that the painful costs of war were managed. ► ► Aftermath of war endures beyond 1918.

7 Who were the men of the First AIF?  Half aged 18-24  80% unmarried  80% tradesmen, labourers, ‘country calling’  Multiple deaths/disablement in one family.

8 1920s-30s About 2-3 Australian ex-servicemen died from war-related causes per day. AG Butler, The Official History of the Australian Army Medical Services, vol. 3, p. 965.Statistics 324,000 Served Overseas 60,000 Dead 152,000 ‘Incidents of Wounding’ 90,000+ Pensioned Disabled Ex-servicemen (1920 Data) Returned Men (Number?) 1.No disability; or 2.Unpensioned disabilities.

9 Impact during 1914-18 Deaths 1914 19157,819 191612,823 191720,628 191812,553 191927 Soldiers invalided home because of disability 19146 19158,452 191615,901 191726,047 191842,420 1919161,379 192010,054 192183 192231

10 The Age 24 April 1937 In Memoriam notices, the day before Anzac Day

11 War Death (1914-18) ► A noble death? ► Modern technologies of mutilation. ► Massive scale of death. ► 20% members of AIF dead. ► ¾ all deaths occurred Western Front. Bodies of Australian soldiers Ypres Sector, Belgium. 20 September 1917

12 Grief and Loss Fellow soldiers (battlefront)  Witness death.  Bury dead.  Write to families Bodies of Dead Soldiers Gallipoli, 1915. Families (homefront)  Must grieve in absence of body.  44% AIF (25,000) missing bodies.  80% AIF unmarried, 52% aged 18-24.  Parents are primary grievers. War Memorials  Surrogate graves.  Sites of mourning. Alphington War Memorial, built 1921.

13 War Disability and Families  Start returning mid-1915.  Diversity of disabilities (internal damage, missing body parts, blindness, paralysis, lung damage, shell shock)  Family: a site of repatriation.  Women: caregivers.  Entire families need to adjust.  Economic impact  Emotional impact

14 War Disability Economic Impact

15 Most disabled soldiers received only partial pensions (data from 1924) War Disability Economic Impact


17  Family life transformed.  Family caregiving Wives and mothers  Shell shock  Wives = nurses. War Disability Emotional Impact

18 Impact on Family Relationships Families under pressure  Financial worries  Violence, alcohol  Marriage breakdown  Abandonment Resilient families  Financial resources  Family support  Type of disability

19 Burdens of Family Caregiving Dear Sir, I feel it is my duty to write a few lines to you to let you know how my son [Herbert] is progressing … He is not going back any: all the same he is not normal and I doubt he will ever be... he gets up and goes to bed as he likes, and he is now trying his best to work up a little Bee farm … before the war Bee stings had no effect on him but he don’t take so kindly to them now. Too nervy I think …I hope whenever it comes you will speak on behalf of him for a pension for him: his father is 73 years and I am 65 years: and the home is always here for him. He is now over 40 years and his life is blighted. It has been a long war for us … I remain yours truly, Clara Stephens [October 1927 ]

20 The Postwar Dead  Soldiers dying from wounds in Australia 1915 onwards.  Ways of death/grief different from battlefield. ► Presence of family, presence of a body. ► Can have a funeral/grave. ► Varying emotional consequences.  But marginalised in national memory. Herald, 6 October 1932.

21 Summary  War wounds soldiers and civilians.  Families: locus for dealing with aftermath.  Families’ burdens:  Grief - resulting from death/disability  Caregiving.  Economic.  Emotional.  When does the aftermath end?

22 Alfred Plane, lost leg John Hargreaves Shell shock Frank Falconer Head injuries Conclusion The human crisis/cost of war.

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