Home Learning Activity Language of War

Language of War

Background information for students

Visit the State Library Pinterest board to see a range of recruitment posters.

Visit the State Library Pinterest board to see a range of recruitment posters.

At the beginning of the war recruitment numbers were so high that men had to be turned away by recruitment officers. However the number of recruits declined as the war went on and as the casualty rates continued to increase. By 1916 there was a shortage of men volunteering to enlist.

After Prime Minister Andrew Fisher resigned on 27 October 1915 the Deputy Prime Minister William Morris Hughes was elected by the Labor caucus as Fisher’s replacement. Hughes was a strong supporter of compulsory war service (conscription). However under the Defence Act 1903 the government could not send conscripts overseas – they could only fight on Australian soil.

With the topic of compulsory war service entering the debate – and dividing the country and the Labor Party – Hughes took the issue to a referendum. The referendum incited a heated debate between those who supported and opposed conscription, even within the Labor Party. The referendum was only just defeated with 1,160,033 against conscription and 1,087,557 in favour of it.

After the failure of the referendum Hughes was expelled from the party and formed the National Labor Party with his supporters from the Labor caucus. Hughes kept his position of Prime Minister through merging the National Labor Party with the Liberal Party to form the Nationalist Party of Australia.

Voluntary enlistment numbers continued to fall which meant the government was not able to provide the men needed by Britain. Hughes called for another referendum on conscription to hopefully solve this problem. The campaign was even more heated than the first. On 20 December 1917 the referendum was defeated again, this time with a slightly larger majority. The issue of conscription was not revisited again during the war. Australia and South Africa were the only countries that did not introduce conscription.

What is a slogan?

Definition and etymology
slogan: noun

  • A slogan is a short phrase or group of words that might be used in marketing or in a religious or political context to express an idea. A slogan is usually a phrase or one or two short sentences.
  • Slogans can be written, visual or spoken. Sometimes they are chanted.
  • The word slogan is an Anglicised (turned into an English word) version of the Scottish word sluagh ghairm tanmy, meaning a war cry.
  • The most common form of slogan is that used in advertising. Slogans that are used for marketing or advertising are called taglines in the USA and strap lines in the United Kingdom.
  • In Japan they are called catch-copy because they are intended to catch people’s attention and make them remember a product or service.
  • The purpose of an advertising slogan is to communicate the benefits of a product or service and to persuade people to buy it. Slogans are called pay-offs in Italy for this reason.
  • A slogan might be used to try and change behaviour or thinking

Features of a slogan

  • Simple and concise
  • Catchy or hard to forget
  • Easy to believe
  • Makes the reader or viewer feel an emotion
  • Inspires a need or desire to act

Student Activities

Visit the State Library Pinterest board to see a range of recruitment posters.

Design a recruitment poster for a group you belong to (or would like to belong to)

You have been invited to design a poster to attract new members to an organisation or club, e.g. Scouts, Little Athletics, NRL,

The poster might appear in a local newspaper, community noticeboard or your local Library.
The choice of design is up to you.
The purpose of your poster is to increase membership of your club or organisation.
Carefully consider the language you use on your poster.


Syllabus Information

Scope and sequence summary : Students study visual/digital texts to explore aspects of WWI recruitment and create a slogan and poster to communicate ideas.

Focus text: WWI recruitment posters

Text type: Posters


A student:
  • Communicates effectively for a variety of audiences and purposes using increasingly challenging topics, ideas, issues and language forms and feature EN3-1A
  • Composes, edits and presents well-structured and coherent texts EN2-2A uses an integrated range of skills, strategies and knowledge to read, view and comprehend a wide range of texts in different media and technologies EN3-3A
  • Uses knowledge of sentence structure, grammar, punctuation and vocabulary to respond to and compose clear and cohesive texts in different media and technologies EN3-6B
  • Thinks imaginatively, creatively, interpretively and critically about information and ideas and identifies connections between texts when responding to and composing texts EN3-7C
  • Identifies and considers how different viewpoints of their world, including aspects of culture, are represented in texts EN3-8D




Understand and apply knowledge of language forms and features

  • Use and describe language forms and features of spoken texts appropriate to a range of purposes, audiences and contexts

Respond to and compose texts

  • Plan, rehearse and deliver presentations, selecting and sequencing appropriate content and multimodal elements for defined audiences and purposes, making appropriate choices for modality and emphasis (ACELY1700, ACELY1710) 
  • Use interaction skills, varying conventions of spoken interactions such as voice volume, tone, pitch and pace, according to group size, formality of interaction and needs and expertise of the audience (ACELY1816) 
  • Discuss and experiment with ways to strengthen and refine spoken texts in order to entertain, inform, persuade or inspire the audience


Engage personally with texts

  • Understand and appreciate the way texts are shaped through exploring a range of language forms and features and ideas
  • Experiment and use aspects of composing that enhance learning and enjoyment

Understand and apply knowledge of language forms and features

  • Plan, draft and publish imaginative, informative and persuasive texts, choosing and experimenting with text structures, language features, images and digital resources appropriate to purpose and audience (ACELY1704, ACELY1714) 

Respond to and compose texts

  • Compose texts that include sustained and effective use of persuasive devices, e.g. texts dealing with environmental issues


Develop and apply contextual knowledge

  • Understand how texts vary in purpose, structure and topic as well as the degree of formality (ACELA1504)

Understand and apply knowledge of language forms and features

  • Understand that the starting point of a sentence gives prominence to the message in the text and allows for prediction of how the text will unfold (ACELA1505)


Understand and apply knowledge of language forms and features

  • Identify and explain characteristic text structures and language features used in imaginative, informative and persuasive texts to meet the purpose of the text (ACELY1701) 

Develop and apply contextual knowledge

  • Identify and discuss how own texts have been structured to achieve their purpose and discuss ways of using conventions of language to shape readers' and viewers' understanding of texts
  • Discuss how the intended audience, structure and context of an extended range of texts influence responses to texts


Respond to and compose texts

  • Select appropriate language for a purpose, e.g. descriptive, persuasive, technical, evaluative, emotive and colloquial, when composing texts
  • Experiment with different types of sentences, e.g. short sentences to build tension and complex sentences to add detail

Understand and apply knowledge of vocabulary

  • Understand the use of vocabulary to express greater precision of meaning, and know that words can have different meanings in different contexts (ACELA1512)


Engage personally with texts

  • Recognise and explain creative language features in imaginative, informative and persuasive texts that contribute to engagement and meaning
  • Interpret events, situations and characters in texts
  • Think critically about aspects of texts such as ideas and events

Understand and apply knowledge of language forms and features

  • Understand how authors often innovate on text structures and play with language features to achieve particular aesthetic, humorous and persuasive purposes and effects (ACELA1518) 


Understand and apply knowledge of language forms and features

  • Identify language features used to position the reader/viewer in a wide variety of communication activities for a range of purposes, including debates, formal talks, interviews, explanations, anecdotes and recitations

Respond to and compose texts discuss and explore moral, ethical and social dilemmas encountered in texts 


General capabilities:

  • Creative and critical thinking
  • Literacy
  • Personal and social capability
  • Intercultural understanding
  • Information and communication technology capability

Areas of important learning:

  • Civics and citizenship

Background information for teachers

Arthur John Moore Burrowes letters and postcards to his family, 26 January 1918-15 September 1919
'If anything else is added the post card will be destroyed'

Keeping the secrets of battles fought, won and lost, makes for very clinical correspondence from ‘over there’. Reading between the lines about the realities of life in the armed forces must have been very difficult for the recipients of such scant morsels of information. It isn’t exactly a wordy message but I am sure it would have been happily received back home with the first line kept intact. See postcard.

Ph: +61 2 9273 1414
Fax: +61 2 9273 1255

State Library of NSW
Macquarie Street,
Sydney NSW 2000,

Media Enquiries