THE TORCH AND THE SWORD: by Michael Daniel (reviewer)News Weekly
A History of the Army Cadet Movement in Australia, by Craig A. Stockings
, February 2, 2008
An honourable traditionTHE TORCH AND THE SWORD: A History of the Army Cadet Movement in Australia
by Craig A.J. Stockings
(Sydney: UNSW Press)
Hardback: 328 pages
Rec. price: $49.95Like many Australians, entry into Form Three at school for the reviewer meant being issued with a uniform and commencing army cadet training. The following years were spent learning drill, field craft, first aid and signals in a movement that helps youngsters develop self-discipline, team spirit, initiative, self-confidence and leadership.
The army cadet movement has had a tremendous impact upon the lives of many men and, in recent years, women. However, paradoxically, comparatively few books have been written about it. While some units have published their own histories, The Torch and the Sword
is the first work to examine the movement comprehensively. Dr Craig Stockings' book is extremely well researched, with considerable use of a diverse array of archival material.Symbols
The work takes its name from the symbols on the Australian Army Cadets' badge, namely, the sword symbolising courage, overlaid by the torch symbolising learning.
Dr Stockings divides his study according to the distinct periods of the cadet movement, analysing each in terms of how the movement addressed, and was influenced by, four underlying considerations, namely, military involvement in, and expectations for, the cadet movement; educational expectations and involvement; changing community attitudes and values; and financial considerations.
He argues that the movement worked well, for example, in the period 1996-2006, when an appropriate balance was struck, but underwent difficulties when these elements were competing.
For much of its history, the cadet movement had a focus on providing military training in the hope that many cadets would later undertake some form of military service, either voluntarily or, in the case of the years 1911-1929, compulsorily.
Cadets were issued weapons and were taught tactics, such as platoon defence and attack drill. While the community could see the need for such training in the second decade of the 20th-century and the period after World War II, it became increasingly uneasy about such training in the wake of the Vietnam War.
Financial considerations have similarly had a significant impact upon the movement. For example, during the 1930s depression, the cadet movement lost members as the army was not in a position to fund uniforms. Similarly, from the second half of the 1960s until the disbandment of the cadets by the Whitlam Government in 1975, the army gradually reduced its number of instructors, again largely due to logistical and financial considerations.
The cadet movement originated in England in the 1850s. In Australia, it was closely linked with the introduction of military drill into school curricula, for example at Melbourne's Scotch College in 1851. However, Dr Stockings argues that the oldest cadet unit was at St Mark's, Sydney, in 1866.
The movement was established in most colonies before the 1906 Commonwealth Military Cadet Corps. In 1911 this was superseded by the introduction of compulsory cadet service, either in a school or regional-based unit, for all youths, as the first stage in compulsory military training. Cadet numbers peaked at 100,000.
Between the wars, community dissatisfaction about the compulsory nature of the cadets saw the Scullin Labor Government, elected in 1929, make membership voluntary.
What is often regarded as the high point of cadets was the three decades between World War II and 1975. Largely a school-based movement, its numbers peaked at 38,000. However, while the emphasis on military training came to be softened, as previously noted, there were significant community concerns about teenagers undertaking military-like training.
For example, notwithstanding the presence of flourishing cadet units in a number of Catholic schools, the Catholic National Commission for Justice and Peace in 1974 argued that military training was for the army and not for the church or schools. By this time, a shift in emphasis to personal development and adventurous training had already taken place.
Ironically, the disbandment of the cadet movement by the Whitlam Labor Government in 1975 was followed by its re-establishment by the Fraser Coalition Government.
In the following years community concerns about the movement were allayed by specific prohibitions on tactics and war-like training. The election of the Hawke Labor Government in 1983 again saw withdrawal of government support, this time from school-based units, with resources being used to support regional cadet units.
Full support was not to be restored to school units until 1998, following a further change in government and the findings of the adoption of the 1996 Brewer report's recommendations.
There are currently some 17,000 army cadets in a variety of units, including school-based, regional-based, community-based and some indigenous units.The Torch and the Sword
is an extremely well-researched and well-written book and would be of interest to readers, particularly those who, like the reviewer, were themselves cadets.