Free apps that give students a fresh approach to Anzac history
Days in Conflict is an award-winning series of six interactive documentaries, presented as apps for tablet computers. They’re freely available worldwide from the iOS and Android app stores.
Each app tells a significant aspect of Australia’s wartime record during World War I. The series presents hours of engaging interactive and passive viewing content for students and those interested in the military and social history of early 20th-century Australia.
This multimedia approach to history packs in lots of content and many perspectives, including overview chapters, hundreds of descriptions of battle events, audio of diaries, and 3D models that help build context to the stories and experiences being told.
The series is recommended by the History Teachers’ Association of Victoria as a “fresh and unique approach to teaching Australian military history.”
The apps in the series cover the following topics.
1. Gallipoli: The First Day
This first episode in the series focuses on the Australian and New Zealand landings at Z Beach, later known as Anzac Cove, and the Ottoman response to the invasion of their home land.
For Australian and New Zealand soldiers involved in the largest amphibious landing since classical times, the events of the 25 April 1915 would establish the nature of a campaign that eventuated in failure and withdrawal nine months later. [Online | Android | iOS] [Study guide]
2. Battles of Fromelles and Pozières
These two battles were Anzac soldiers' first taste of war on the Western Front. Fromelles was in part a feint in support of the mighty Somme Offensive, which began roughly ten days later further south along the Western Front.
In both battles, Australia and New Zealand incurred high casualty rates while experiencing a new level of intensity in the fight against a well-entrenched enemy. Throughout the war on the Western Front, Allied forces fought offensive battles against the German army’s defensive positions. The roles of artillery, trench warfare and urban fighting are all explored in detail in this second app. [Online | Android | iOS] [Study guide]
3. Battle of Third Ypres
Including one of the most infamous battles of WWI, Passchendaele, this app explores the major Allied offensive of 1917 from an Australian perspective. Australian officers emerged as key strategists and architects who would help bring the war to an end in Europe the following year.
The role of tanks and weather, pillboxes and the broader events of 1917 that surrounded and informed the offensive are examined alongside the battles themselves, beginning with Pilckem Ridge and ending at Passchendaele, far from the offensive’s original ambitions. [Online | Android | iOS] [Study guide]
4. Battle of Beersheba
This day-long battle began General Allenby’s Southern Palestine Offensive and kickstarted a stalled Allied advance in Palestine and Sinai, leading directly to the cessation of war in the Middle Eastern theatre exactly a year later.
Featuring a fabled charge of the Australian Light Horse mounted troopers, the British, Australian and New Zealand forces fought to secure the eastern end of the Ottoman front line, subsequently rolling it up to Gaza on the coast days later before advancing through the harsh conditions of Palestine and the Negev Desert. [Online | Android | iOS] [Study guide]
5. Women’s War
War tends to have a gendered character that frequently excludes the important contributions and extraordinary stories of women’s experiences in wartime. This app takes a consciously international approach to show how women all over the world mobilised in different ways.
Australian and New Zealand women were no less remarkable in their efforts and experiences than their counterparts around the world. While some ventured overseas as nurses and doctors, others supported the war effort and victims of the conflict from home and awaited news of their sons and husbands. [Android | iOS]
6. The Home Front
Concluding the series, this app examines the transformation of a fledgling nation during the war years and the difficulties experienced by many returning veterans, their families and social networks. At the same time the country’s economy suffered substantially from its commitment to total war.
Indigenous Australian soldiers, returned to Australia to find their temporary fraternity with fellow soldiers wiped away as they resumed their status of second-class citizens. More than a hundred years on, the app reflects on the powerful impact of war on Australian identity. [Android | iOS]
The series is narrated by some of Australia’s most lauded actors, Lucy Bell, Richard Roxburgh and Hugo Weaving, who breathe life into the written words of diaries and poetry of the times and the main narratives of the battles and war stories.
Mapping in 3D how signature events in wartime history unfolded, the where and when, is the most unique and innovative aspect of the series. The process of creating these interactive maps began with breaking down the battle into events, derived from the historical record, battalion diaries and reports, original maps and intelligence used to plan the battles.
Working with academic historians from the Australian War Memorial, Macquarie University and the Australian Army History Unit, the location of these events was plotted, allowing for the creation of a scaled animated, interactive battlefield that is used to both tell the story of the conflict and explore the details of the battles.
From the front lines of Europe to the home front of Australia, this evergreen series of apps presents a fascinating way to delve into the complexity of history using a dynamic multimedia interface.
About the author: Sam Doust is an award-winning writer, director, producer, editor, graphic designer and motion graphics artist. He specialises in digital narrative, design and production. Through his studio Latchkey, he delivers cultural works to organisations such as the Sydney Opera House and the ABC. Sam is the writer and director of the Days in Conflict series.