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A brief history of Australian involvement in World Wars 1 and 2

  • Period: to

    Australian Involvement in the World Wars

  • World War 1 begins

    World War 1 begins
    This war involved the Allies (United Kingdom, France and Russia) and the Central powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy). Eventually other nations joined the fight including Japan, America and Australia joining the Allies while the Ottoman Empire and the Bulgarians joined the Central Powers.
  • Britain declares war on the Central Powers

    Britain declares war on the Central Powers
    This meant that all the nations part of the empire would be forced into war as well. Australia was no exeption.
  • Australia declares its support for the Allies

    Australia declares its support for the Allies
    Although by its agreements Australia was already technically at war Prime Minister Joseph Cook declared his support for the cause "when the Empire is at war, so also is Australia". This was a very popular position at the time
  • Australian recruiting begins

    Australian recruiting begins
    Recruiting offices opened and by the end of 1914, 52,561 volunteers had been accepted. These would eventually join up with the 20,000 already leaving for active service.
  • Invasion of Gallipoli

    Invasion of Gallipoli
    Australian and New Zealand soldiers, grouped as ANZAC's went ashore and fought a valiant but ultimately unsuccessful series of battles over the peninsula.
  • Evacuation at Gallipoli

    Evacuation at Gallipoli
    After months of ultimately fruitless fighitng and 26 111 Australian casualties Gallipoli was evacuated with no loss of life, in no small part due to the innovation of the self firing rifle.
  • Battle of Fromelles

    Battle of Fromelles
    Part of the much larger Battle of the Somme, over the 45 days in which they were involved ANZAC forces took almost 23000 casualties.
  • Battle of Romani

    Battle of Romani
    ANZAC's participated in the defence of the Suez Canal. This was crucial to the empire and the victory gained here guarenteed its safety for the rest of the war.
  • Battle of Magdhaba

    Battle of Magdhaba
    ANZAC's pursued fleeing German and Turkish forces. They took many prisoners and lost only 22 men.
  • Conscription fails in Australia

    Conscription fails in Australia
    Conscription was narrowly voted against with 51% of voters against it. This meant that throughout the war our armies were populated exclusively by volunteer forces.
  • Battle of Messines

    Battle of Messines
    ANZAC forces attacked in the Flanders region of southern Belgium, near Messines. Their aim was to eliminate a strong German position. This position allowed the Germans good observation points and fields of fire that could threaten the major offensive that the British planned to launch around Ypres later in the year. This attack was famous for the use of Australian civilian miners detonating 450 000kgs of explosives utterly wiping out the German trenches.
  • German Spring Offensive

    German Spring Offensive
    Due to the capitulation of Tsarist Russia the German Army had an extra 63 divisions of men for their spring offensive. They experienced vast success and Australian forces were brought in to stem the tide. These Australian forces performed their duty admirably and played no small part in the eventual defeat of this offensive.
  • WW1 ends

    WW1 ends
    Australia is once again at peace.
  • The Great Depression begins

    The Great Depression begins
    This would massively negatively impact the Australian economy and would be one of the leading reasons for Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany. It could be argued that the Great Depression was indirectly one of the prime causes of WW2.
  • Japanese invasion of China

    Japanese invasion of China
    Although technically prior to the commencement of WW2 the Japanese invasion of China would have great influence on Australia. Because of Japans expansionist policies at the beginning of WW2 Australia was under threat and reacted accordingly.
  • World War 2 begins

    World War 2 begins
    WW2 began with the invasion of Poland by German forces. Following this France and Britain declared war on Germany.
  • Australia enter WW2

    Australia enter WW2
    Just two days after Britains declaration of war Prime Minister Robert Menzies said, "Britain is at war therefore Australia is at war", and asked London to notify Germany that Australia was an associate of the United Kingdom. Australia was much more invested in this war due to the influence of the Japanese in the region.
  • Battle of Britain

    Battle of Britain
    More than 100 airmen, including 30 fighter pilots from Australia fought in the Battle of Britain. Men such as these were crucial in changing the entire course of the war as the need for pilots was dire.
  • Australian troops take Tobruk from Italians

    Australian troops take Tobruk from Italians
    Australian forces easily captured Tobruk from Italian forces despite Tobruk being considered a fortress. Australian soldiers took 25 000 Italian prisoners in the attack.
  • Defence of Tobruk begins

    Defence of Tobruk begins
    With just a few days to establish defences Australian troops were given the seemingly impossible task of defending Tobruk from Erwin Rommel 'the desert fox'. Using novel tactics and pure determination Australian soldiers held out for 240 days until they were eventually relieved by friendly forces. These men were begrudgingly known to the Germans as desert rats for their tenacity in the defence of the port city.
  • Bombing of Darwin

    Bombing of Darwin
    The first attack by a foreign nation on Australian soil. This attack galvanised Australian resistance and made the threat which had once seemed far away all too real for Australians. 251 people died during the raids.
  • Battle of the Coral Sea

    Battle of the Coral Sea
    Elements of the Royal Australian Navy fought in this crucial battle against the Japanese Imperial Navy. With the assistence of the American Navy it was proved that the Japanese were not unstoppable. This battle turned the tide in the Pacific theatre and hinted at what was to come for Japan
  • First Battle of El Alamein

    First Battle of El Alamein
    In this pivotal battle in North Africa Rommel's advance was finally stopped. Though many Australian troops had withdrawn to fight the Japanese elements of the eighth army remained and played an important role in turning the tide of the campaign.
  • Kokoda Trail Campaign

    Kokoda Trail Campaign
    In one of the most famous battles involving Australian soldiers inexperienced conscripts 'chocolate soldiers' fought a grueling fighting retreat against the superior Japanese forces. Eventually the Australians were reinforced with regular troops transferred from North Africa and the Japanese were soundly defeated. This action, in combination with the battle of the Coral Sea effectively ended the risk of invasion of Australia.
  • Battle of Brisbane

    Battle of Brisbane
    The Battle of Brisbane was essentially a large riot lasting for two nights. One Australian soldier was confirmed killed and hundreds of Australian soldiers, civilians and American military police were wounded in the fighting. There had been much tension between American and Australian troops, Americans recieved much more pay and benefits, had more appealing uniforms and were seen to be 'stealing' Australian women. A common saying of the time was "They're overpaid, oversexed, and over here"
  • Bougainville Campaign

    Bougainville Campaign
    The Bogainville Campaign was typical of assignments given to Australian forces in the Pacific theatre following the Battle of Coral Sea. McArthur's plan to 'leave the enemy to wither on the vine' spared American lives and quickened the war but no doubt cost Australian lives when they were tasked with 'mop up' operations. This was controversial at the time and many brave soldiers died deaths that some considered ultimately pointless in the context of the war.
  • First Indigenous Australian becomes an officer

    First Indigenous Australian becomes an officer
    Reginald Saunders became the first Indigenous Australian to become an officer. After years of exemplary service he was selected to undergo officer training and eventually became a lieutenant. He survived the war and later fought in the Korean War as well.
  • End of WW2

    End of WW2
    WW2 ended with the world forever changed and Australia with a new and more powerful ally in the United States.