The Red Cross Letters

Author: Verity Laughton, Publisher: Phoenix

The Red Cross Letters draws from the 8,000 packets of correspondence between the South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau, and the bereaved relatives of soldiers lost, killed, or wounded during World War 1 (1914-18).

This play focuses on 11 of these letters, amplified with further information from Base Records ? other, sometimes inadvertently comic, sometimes poignant records of these very young soldiers? lives and deaths, and the people who loved them.

The play starts with a series of individual stories in rough chronological order. The first is a death at Gallipoli and those that follow range from a light horseman (who drowned in camp in Egypt before he ever got to the Front) to a sapper on the Western Front. The soldiers are married, single, brothers, brothers-in- law, as well as sons.

This is followed by a middle section based around a few days in October 1917, at Passchendaele in West Flanders, which includes, for example, three brothers from the same family all killed and a fourth brother wounded, and an Aboriginal volunteer, aged 19, who died in a German prisoner of war camp. This middle section treats these stories as a fluid interweave of items of information that echo and magnify each other.

The last section is an individual story of the one survivor amongst the 'letters', a Salvation Army boy who did return to his family in South Australia, but very changed.

The Red Cross Letters can be played as presented here with a multi-character cast of four, plus a musician, or it could be presented using a full cast of actors with each actor covering his or her individual role. In a classroom situation it offers an opportunity for modern students to learn about a key period of Australia?s recent past.

More Information
Edition 1st
Date of Publication 18 June 2021
ISBN 9781925169430