Student's Guide

England, June 1919, members of the Australian War Records Section prepare documents to be shipped home to Australia

At Zero Hour you will do the work of a professional historian.

You will read a series of historical documents relating to the experiences of an Australian soldier from the First World War named Captain Charles Linklater.

Through the documents you will get to see the war up close and personal through the eyes of people who experienced it at 'the sharp end'. You will eavesdrop on conversations that happened nearly a century ago to come up with your own interpretations about the past.

When historians read historical documents they always ask questions.

As you look at Captain Linklater's documents you should ask the following questions.

Type What type of source is it? What type of text is the source?
Is it a primary or secondary source?
Origin Where does the source come from? Where was the source created?
When was the source created?
What was going on in this place at this time?
Motive Why did the author create this source? Did the author create the source to...
  • inform people?
  • persuade people?
  • criticise or argue?
  • entertain?
Audience Who did the author create this source for? Who did the author intend this source to be read by?
  • Family
  • Friends
  • The public
  • The government
  • Historians
Sometimes the best sources are those that were never intended for the eyes of historians.
Content What is the source saying? What are the main points that the author makes in the source?
What are their values and attitudes?
Reliability How reliable is the source? Can you believe what the author is saying?
  • Was it written soon after the event it describes, or years later?
  • Does the author have a bias or agenda (consider their motive and audience here)
  • Does the author know much about what they are writing about?
  • Where is the author getting their information? (Soldiers are notorious rumour mongers!)
Usefulness How useful is this source to a historian? What can you use this source to say about your area of study?
What doesn’t the source tell you? (It might have a very limited perspective, or be biased, or be based on rumours or the person’s distant memories).
What further questions does it raise? (Most sources will often raise new questions- this is excellent, as questions are at the foundation of all historical understanding)

Further reading and research

Depending on the tasks that your teacher sets, you might benefit from doing further research.

C E W Bean, Anzac to Amiens, Angus & Robertson, 1942. [Electronic copy available at]
Bill Gammage, The Broken Years: Australian Soldiers in the Great War, Penguin, 1975.
Peter Dennis, et al, The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History, Oxford, 1995.
Ian Passingham, Pillars of Fire: The Battle of Messines Ridge June 1917, Sutton,1997.
Peter Pedersen, The ANAZCs: From Gallipoli to the Western Front, Viking, 2008.

Australians on the Western Front, 1914-1918:
The Australian War Memorial:
Visit Gallipoli:
The AIF Project:
First World War.Com: