The Torch and the Sword: A History of the Army Cadet Movement in Australia
UNSW Press, 2007 - 311 pages
The aim of this thesis is to provide a general history of the army cadet movement in Australia from 1866 to 2004 by tracing the interactions between four fundamental forces that have stood as its foundation for almost 140 years. In various guises military, educational, social, and financial factors are the pillars on which the cadet movement has always rested. Over time the balance and relative dominance of each has determined the shape and state of the cadet organisation and will continue to do so in the future. When these four forces have been aligned the movement has thrived but when they have pulled in disparate directions it has faltered. Throughout the thesis, contextualising these four key concepts, are two more general themes concerning the influence of conservative politics and a recurring state school/private school divide. The history of army cadets, and therefore this thesis, is an investigation into the interplay of these dynamics. With such a purpose and methodology the thesis begins by tracing the development of the movement from its nineteenth century origins by identifying issues and circumstances that led some colonies to maintain thousands of cadets while others struggled to field any. It goes on to examine the formation, five years after Federation, of a Commonwealth cadet scheme birthed only to be swamped by the era of compulsory military training in Australia from 1911-29 which saw, at its peak, almost 100,000 schoolboys in khaki. The thesis analyses the re-organised voluntary cadet system in place from 1930-38 which, matching the circumstances of the adult army, faltered in numbers and support as it was restructured into dual 'Regimental' and 'School' branches. It goes on to assess the impact of the Second World War and the renewed impetus it provided to the cadet organisation before investigating the prosperity of the movement throughout the 1950s and 1960s in spite of the complexities raised by National Service and Australian involvement in conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, Malaya and Borneo. Particular attention is paid to the early 1970s and the machinations surrounding the unexpected decision to disband the cadet organisation announced by the Labor government on 26 August 1975. The cadet story does not conclude at this point, however, with Vice Regal controversy and a subsequent Liberal-National election victory resurrecting the movement. The re-styled cadet scheme of 1976-83 is investigated followed by twelve years of division and distress under consecutive Labor federal governments between 1984-95. The thesis concludes by examining the reversal of fortunes for the movement from 1996-2004 which saw the cadet system develop, by the end of the period, into a well led, resourced and motivated organisation of almost 17,000 members. The research informing this thesis is based on documents held in National Archives of Australia offices in all state capitals, as well as those held in the Australian War Memorial. In addition, all state public record offices have yielded significant material, as have a wide range of private and school-based archives. More recent primary source information has been gathered from sources within the Department of Defence Archives, Queanbeyan, NSW, while select active and closed files from Headquarters Australian Army Cadets and the Directorate of Defence Force Cadets were graciously provided to the author. The study has also been informed by a wide selection of official, privately published and unpublished secondary sources spanning more than a century.
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