Australia's involvement in World War II

  • Auatralia declaring war

    Auatralia declaring war
    Great Britain declared war on Germany. Prime Minister Robert Menzies announced that, as a consequence of Britain's declaration, Australia was also at war.
    "It is my melancholy duty to inform you officially, that in consequence of a persistence by Germany in her invasion of Poland, Great Britain has declared war upon her and that, as a result, Australia is also at war. No harder task can fall to a democratic leader than to make such an announcement".
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    Air War in Europe

    When war broke out in Europe in 1939, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircrews were among the first Australians to head overseas to Britain's aid. Between 1939 and 1945, they flew in both Australian and British squadrons with the Royal Air Force (RAF) in Coastal, Bomber and Fighter Commands.
  • Introduction of conscription

    Introduction of conscription
    Compulsory military service for duty within Australia was revived in 1939, shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War. There was to be no conscription for service overseas, but instead, in a bill passed in 19th February 1943, "Australia" was defined in such a way as to include New Guinea and the adjacent islands. This obliged soldiers in the Citizen Military Force (CMF) to serve in this region, known as the South-West Pacific Area.
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    Auatralian prisoners of war

    More than 30,000 Australians became prisoners of war (POWs) between 1940 and 1945. The Germans and Italians captured Australians during the Mediterranean and Middle East campaigns, and also at sea in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. During the Pacific war, the Japanese captured 22,000 Australians: soldiers, sailors, airmen and members of the army nursing service, as well as some civilians.
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    Battle of Crete

    Hitler was concerned that if Greece became a British ally then oilfields in Romania, on which Germany relied for her fuel, might be open to air attack from Greece. With Greek troops, they formed 'Creforce' and prepared to meet the Germans, who came on 20 May 1941 in the shape of a major paratroop landing at three different places along the north coast of the island. Despite vigorous opposition to the Germans, the Allied force had eventually to be withdraw.
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    Libya and the Siege of Tobruk

    In 1941, Australians fought in land and air campaigns in Egypt and Libya in North Africa. Three AIF divisions - the 6th, 7th and 9th - fought in those countries. Royal Australian Navy (RAN) ships served in the eastern Mediterranean and in particular provided support to ground forces during the 'Siege of Tobruk' (April-December 1941). The war was relieved by the Allied 8th Army during Operation crusader.
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    Siege of Tobruk

    The Siege of Tobruk was a confrontation that lasted for 241 days between Axis and Allied forces in North Africa during the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War. The siege started on 11 April 1941, when Tobruk was attacked by an Italo–German force under Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel, and continued for 240 days up to 27 November 1941, when it was relieved by the Allied 8th Army during Operation Crusader.
  • The loss of RAN (Royal Australian Navy) ship

    The loss of RAN (Royal Australian Navy) ship
    Two RAN ships were lost during the 'Tobruk Ferry' supply runs in 1941. On 30 June 1941, HMAS Waterhen was crippled by air attacks and sunk, but with no loss of crew. However there were only 23 survivors from the crew of 160 officers and men in HMAS Parramatta when it was sunk off Tobruk on 27 November 1941. Just a week earlier, on 19 November 1941, and much closer to home, HMAS Sydney had been attacked and sunk off the West Australian coast by the German raider Kormoran.
  • The sinking of HMAS Sydney

    The sinking of HMAS Sydney
    On 19 November 1941, HMAS Sydney, a light cruiser of the Royal Australian Navy with an impressive record of war service, was lost following a battle with the German raider HSK Kormoran in the Indian Ocean off the Western Australian coast. The loss of the Sydney with its full war complement of 645 remains Australia’s worst naval disaster. The Kormoran was also sunk, but 317 of its crew of 397 were rescued. The fate of the Sydney remains one of Australia’s greatest wartime mysteries.
  • US arrival in Australia

    US arrival in Australia
    The first contingent of the US forces to arrive in Australia arrived at Hamilton Wharf in Brisbane on 22 December 1941. The convoy named Task Force South Pacific included the escort ship USS Pensacola and USS Chaumont, USS Republic and USS Meigs; they had been diverted from the Philippines. The convoy disembarked a total of 4600 personnel. The first camp (Camp Ascot) was established at Brisbane’s Eagle Farm racecourse.
  • The Ambush

    The Ambush
    The first real contact between Australian and Japanese troops was during the evening of 14-15 January 1942 at a wooden bridge west of Gemas in Malaya.
    The Australians mounted a successful ambush at the bridge before withdrawing to link up with their main force for the larger battle at Gemas. By the afternoon of the next day, the Australian forces were pushed back. The 2/30th Battalion had lost 81 men killed, wounded or missing and there were an estimated 1,000 casualties to Japan's 5th division.
  • Fall of Singapore

    Fall of Singapore
    BY 1942 SINGAPORE was one of the jewels in the crown of the British Empire. It served as a major shipping and naval base. But after a disastrous campaign on the Malay Peninsula as the war in the Pacific got into full swing, overwhelmed British and Australian troops retreated but still went up for a last stand but unfortunate the newly buit HMS Prince of Wales was sunk by Torpedo bombers causing Auatralia to turn away from Britain and strengthen its ties with the US.
  • Australia under attack

    Australia under attack
    The Japanese first attacked the Australian mainland on 19 February 1942 when they launched a devastating air raid on Darwin in the Northern Territory. Two weeks later, more aircraft attacked Broome in Western Australia killing about 70 people. By the end of September 1943, Japanese pilots had flown 97 air raids against towns and bases in northern Australia.
  • The bombing of Darwin

    The bombing of Darwin
    On 19 February 1942 mainland Australia came under attack for the first time when Japanese forces mounted two air raids on Darwin. The two attacks, which were planned and led by the commander responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbour ten weeks earlier. In the first attack, which began just before 10.00 am, heavy bombers pattern-bombed the harbour and town. The second attack nvolved high altitude bombing of the Royal Australian Air Force base at Parap. he two raids killed at least 243 people.
  • Attack on Sydney Harbour

    Attack on Sydney Harbour
    In the late afternoon of 31 May 1942 three Japanese submarines, I-22, I-24 and I-27, sitting about seven nautical miles (13 kilometres) out from Sydney Harbour, each launched a Type A midget submarine for an attack on shipping in Sydney Harbour. The night before, I-24 had launched a small floatplane that flew over the harbour, its crew spotting a prize target – an American heavy cruiser, the USS Chicago. The Japanese hoped to sink this warship and perhaps others anchored in the harbour.
  • The Battle of the Coral sea and Japan's setback

    The Battle of the Coral sea and Japan's setback
    In early May 1942, an American carrier force intercepted a Japanese carrier force in the Coral Sea and, after a fierce aerial battle - the Battle of the Coral Sea - the Japanese turned back. At the same time, hundreds of kilometres to the north, HMA Ships Hobart and Australia were part of a task force sent to intercept a Japanese invasion fleet heading for Port Moresby. This force was attacked by enemy aircraft but, as a result of the American action in the Coral Sea, the fleet retreated.
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    Battle of El Alamein

    The Battle of El Alamein, fought in the deserts of North Africa, is seen as one of the decisive victories of World War Two. The Battle of El Alamein was primarily fought between two of the outstanding commanders of World War Two, Montgomery, who succeeded the dismissed Auchinleck, and Rommel. The Allied victory at El Alamein lead to the retreat of the Afrika Korps and the German surrender in North Africa in May 1943.
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    Kokoda trail

    The Japanese continued their campaign to seize New Guinea and on 21-22 July 1942 landed two infantry regiments with supporting troops at Gona and quickly moved inland to the northern start of the Kokoda Trail. By 17 September, the Australians had been driven back as far as Imita Ridge within sight of the lights of Port Moresby. However, confronted by strong defences and nearly starving, the Japanese decided to retreat.
  • Battle of Milne Bay (25th Aug-7Sept)

    Battle of Milne Bay (25th Aug-7Sept)
    Milne Bay had been reinforced by Army and RAAF units under the command of Major General Cyril Clowes, which pre-empted a Japanese landing force attempt to capture the Bay as additional base from which to advance on Port Moresby. Airstrips had been built at Milne Bay to allow Australian and American planes to attack out to sea towards the north and to defend eastern approaches to Port Moresby. The Japanese failed to capture these airfields which marked their first defeat in the Pacific.
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    Sanadakan Death Marches

    The Sandakan Death Marches were a series of forced marches in Borneo from Sandakan to Ranau which resulted in the deaths of 2345 Allied prisoners of war held captive by the Empire of Japan during the Pacific campaign of World War II in the Sandakan POW Camp. By the end of the war, of all the prisoners who had been incarcerated at Sandakan and Ranau, only six Australians survived, all of whom had escaped. It is widely considered to be the single worst atrocity suffered by Australian servicemen.
  • Liberation of Australian POW

    Liberation of Australian POW
    In Europe, the Germans surrendered on 7 May, just a week after the death of Adolf Hitler. Australian prisoners of war in European prison camps were liberated and Australian sailors and aircrew began returning home.
  • Japan's surrender

    Japan's surrender
    On 6 and 9 August, American bombers had dropped atomic bombs on two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively. The Japanese ceased fighting a week later on 15 August 1945 and on 2 September 1945 formally surrendered to the Allies in a ceremony on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
  • The ceremony

    The ceremony
    Following his introductory statement General MacArthur directed the representatives of Japan to sign the two Instruments of Surrender, one each for the Allied and Japanese governments. At 9:04 AM, Foreign Minister Shigemitsu signed, followed two minutes later by General Umezu. General MacArthur then led the Allied delegations in signing, first Fleet Admiral Nimitz as United States Representative, then the representatives of China, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, Australia, Canada, France.