WANowandThen.com

 

WORLD WAR 1 AND 2

 

 


 

 

 

Books and DVDs available online

  A Reference Guide to the Australian Defence Force Including Its History, Military Bases, Structure, and More The Australian Light Horse Australian Heroines of World War One: Gallipoli, Lemnos and the Western Front Uncommon Soldier: Brave, Compassionate and Tough, the Making of Australia's Modern Diggers Hell's Battlefield: The Australians in New Guinea in World War II Pacific 360: Australia's Battle for Survival in World War II Anzacs in Arkhangel: The Untold Story of Australia and the Invasion of Russia 1918-1919 A Military History of Australia Australians at War (NP)    

 

The history of Australian troops in action is well told in a myriad of history books dedicated to that topic. We would need to devote an entire DVD just to the subject of Australian troops in battle if we were to properly tackle the subject but this page is more about what happened in W.A. during the wars and a brief overview of the major events during World War One and Two.

 

Related topics

 

HMAS Sydney | Australian Defence Force

 

World War One 1914-1918

 

Both World Wars had a huge impact on Australia. A proud member of the British Empire in 1914, Australians still saw England as the 'mother country'. When she went to war (14/August 1914), Australia was with her all the way. At the time most people in Australia were either British immigrants or first generation Australians whose parents had come from Britain so the prevailing sentiment is easy to understand.

 

With a small population, Australia, never-the-less, made a significant contribution to troop numbers. Western Australia alone sent 32,231  volunteers into battle during WWI. This was 33% of all men aged 18 to 41. It exceeded the expected number by 400%. The rate of Australian deaths in combat was 145 per 1000 troops deployed. New Zealand was next highest with 124 per 1000.

 

Australia's total commitment of troops to WWI was 416,819 enlistments with 60,284 killed and 152,171 wounded. Many more non-combat deaths that were not included in the official statistics occurred once the war ended. The wartime figures mean that over 50% of Australians who enlisted were either killed or wounded.

 

Despite failed attempts by the Government to bring in conscription, Australian troops all remained volunteers.

 

With so many men away fighting, the local economy stagnated and with the numbers killed and wounded it was a very long time before things at home got back to normal.

 

After the war there were a number of re-settlement schemes for returned soldiers. In general they were not successful because they were under-resourced and poorly managed. They did, however, have the impact of opening up a lot of land in the state's south west.

 

By the end of World War 1 the allies had suffered 3,049,972 casualties but in 4 long years of war the front line had shifted just 100 yards. (Total casualties for all the allied nations involved in World War 1 was 22,104,209 - about the same as the total population of Australia in 2008. The Germans and their allies recorded 15,404,477 but these figures are estimates at best.)

 

A brief time-table of WWI

 

1914

 

July 28

 Austria declares war on Serbia.

August 14

 Britain declares war on Germany.

September 11

 Australian Naval and Military forces capture German New Guinea.

November 1

 First Australian soldiers leave for the conflict in Egypt. (Arrives December 3rd).

November 9

 HMAS Sydney (1) engages and destroys the German light cruiser Emden.

1915

 

April 25

 First landings at Gallipoli.

May 7

 Passenger linger Lusitania sunk by German submarine.

July 14

 Gold exports prohobited.

December 19

 Gallipoli is abandoned.

1916

 

February 21

 Verdun

March 14

 First Australian flying Corps dispatched.

May 30-31

 Jutland

July 1

 The Somme

July 23

 Pozieres

September 15

 Tanks used in action for the first time

October 28

 First referendum on conscription rejects the idea.

1917

 

March 16

 Russian Czar abdicates.

April 6

 USA (finally) declares war on Germany after profiteering from arms sales to Britain.

April 9

 Arras

April 11

 Bullecourt

May 4

 French army mutiny.

June 7

 Messines

July 31

 Ypres

September 20

 Menin Road

September 26

 Polygon Wood

October 4

 Broodseinde Ridge

October 12

 Passchendaele

October 31

 Australian Light Horse charge at Beersheba.

December 9

 Jerusalem captured.

December 20

 Second referendum on conscription rejects the idea.

1918

 

March 3

 Russia withdraws from the war.

March 21

 German attack at Arras.

July 4

 Australian troops take Hamel.

August 8

 Amiens

September 18

 Assault on the Hindenburg line.

October 30

 Turkey withdraws from the war.

November 3

 Austria withdraws from the war.

November 11

 Armistice signed and hostilities cease.

 


 

World War Two 1939-1945

 

By the time World War Two broke out Australians saw themselves in a different light. Home was no longer England, it was Australia and the people saw themselves very much as an independent nation. Even so when Britain declared war on Germany, Australia was again standing by her side (something Britain should have remembered when she entered the Common Market and abandoned Australia!)

 

Western Australia had the highest enlistment rate of any state in the country with 280 men per 1000 joining up.

 

The Volunteer Defence Corps (VDC) was formed in 1940 and by July of that year there were 132 units with a total of 4167 men scattered across the state. Also in 1940 an R.A.A.F. regional Headquarters was set up at Fremantle.

 

Australia was at no great risk of attack until the Japanese entered the war after the attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7th 1941.

 

In April of 1942 the 3rd Corps was formed with the specific  job of defending W.A. in case of an attack by the Japanese. The Corps consisted of an armoured division based at Mingenew and two supporting infantry divisions (2nd and 4th) with a total of between 50-60,000 men. During the same year an American submarine base was developed at Fremantle with others later starting up at Albany and Exmouth. By July of 1942 a total of 19 American submarines were operating out of Fremantle alone.

 

A Catalina air reconnaissance squadron was based at Matilda Bay and although Perth was a long way beyond the range of any enemy bomber, blackouts were instituted with typical official stupidity. (The Perth Heritage Aviation Museum houses a wonderful specimen of a Catalina and many other warplanes.) 

 

The fear of attacks by Japanese planes was realised when Darwin was attacked but towns in northern W.A. were also at risk. Most women and children were evacuated to the south and in the end most main tows suffered air raids. Places bombed included Wyndham, Derby, Port Hedland, Carnot Bay,  Broome, Kalumburu, Onslow and Exmouth.

 

A training camp was established at Northam and after 7 months instruction troops were sent off to their assigned destinations overseas.

 

Eastern States politicians decided that in the event of a Japanese invasion only an area from Brisbane to Adelaide would be defended (this was known as the Brisbane line.) Prime Minister John Curtin (a West Australian) lobbied hard for Perth to be included in the defense strategy and eventually his proposal was accepted.

 

When American troops arrived in Australia there was a great deal of resentment created over the different level of pay and the favoured treatment offered to the Americans - especially by local businesses! The infamous 'Battle of Brisbane' had its own sequel in Fremantle when a wild brawl erupted between American and Australian soldiers.

 

During World War Two, 993,000 Australians served in the armed forces with 27,073 being killed and 22,747 wounded. 22,376 were taken prisoner by the Japanese and of these 8,031 died in captivity. This compares to 8,184 taken prosier by Germany with only 265 deaths while in captivity. (83,000 West Australian men and 5,000 women enlisted for service during the war.)

 

Australian troops served in the following places during World War Two: United Kingdom, North Africa, Greece, Crete, Syria, Palestine, Eritrea, Trans-Jordan, Malaya, Ceylon, Burma, China, Java, Timor, Ambon, Papua New Guinea, Dutch New Guinea, New Britain, New Ireland, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Nauru-Ocean Island, USSR.


After World War Two there was a wave of immigration from all over Europe with people seeking a better life under the sunny Australian skies.

 

A brief time-table of WWII

 

1939

 

September 1

 Poland is attacked by Germany
September 3  Australia declares war on Germany
November 30  Finnish campaign begins
1940  
April 9  Invasion of Norway         

May 10

 German assault on France          
May 31  Dunkirk
October 28  Italian attack on Greece     
December 9  Wavell's opening offensive in North Africa

1941

 
January 19  Ethiopian campaign           

January 29

 The Finnish attacks          
February 14  Rommel's first offensive in North Africa
April 6  Invasion of Yugoslavia / German attack on Greece      
May 15  Operation Brevity            
May 20  Attack on Crete              

June 15

 Operation Battleaxe          

June 22

 Barbarossa begins            

September 1

 Lenningrad

September 30

 Moscow 1st battle            

November 11

 HMAS Sydney (2) sinks the German raider Kormoran but is also lost with all hands.
November 18  Crusader battles             
December 5  Moscow 2nd battle            

December 7

 Japan attacks Pearl harbour.

December 8

 Invasion of Malaya           

December 25

 Fall of Hong Kong

1942

 

January 21

 Rommel's drive to Gazala     

January 31

 End in Stalingrad            

February 15

 Singapore falls and 15,000 Australians are taken prisoner by the Japanese. 5,000 die in captivity.

February 19

 Darwin is bombed with a reported 243 killed and 350 wounded.

March 8

 Fall of the Dutch East Indies.

May 6

 Fall of the Philippines.

May 15

 Fall of Burma

June 21

 Fall of Tobruk                

June 26

 German advance to El Alemein 

July 5

 Kursk

July 22

 Defence of New Guinea begins

August 7

 Guadalcanal
September 1  Alam Halfa                   
October 24  El Alemein 2nd battle        
November 8  Operation Torch              

December 12

 8th army advance in North Africa.

1943

 
February 8  Chindit operations begin
February 14  Kasserine 
February 24  Arakan

March 6

 Breaking the Mareth line     
May 12  End in Africa                
June 10  Allied invasion of Sicily           
July 2  Solomon Islands
July 9  Marianas

September 3

 First allied landings in Italy      
October 12  Gustav line                  
November 20  Marshall Islands

1944

 
January 19  End in Lenningrad            
January 22  Ensue   

March 7

 Imphal
June 6  D Day                      

September 17

 Arnhem
October 20  Leyte gulf / Gothic line                  

December 16

 Battle of the Bulge        

1945

 
January 9  Clearing the Philippines

February 19

 Iwo Jima
April 1  Okinawa
April 16  Fall of Berlin               

May 2

 End in Italy                
May 3  Rangoon falls
May 7  End in Europe              

November 1

 End in the Pacific

 

 

 

 

One almost forgotten naval action took place in November 1942 when the Dutch Shell tanker Ondina left for the middle east (via India) with her escort the minesweeper Bengal.

 

On route the lightly armed ships were confronted by two heavily armed Japanese merchant cruisers (Aikoku Maru and Hiakoka Maru). For some reason the Japanese ships got far too close and the Hiakoka was sunk and the Aikoku damaged. The tanker was badly hit and the crew took to the lifeboats but after being machine gunned by the remaining Japanese ship the survivors got back on board the tanker, got the fires under control and eventually brought the ship back to Fremantle.

 

This rather unusual victory has been largely ignored by most history books.

 

Another mostly untold story involves a Japanese recon party first landing on Browse Island (14 06 38.69 S 123 32 42.60 E) and then landing on the mainland of Western Australia. The story is told on Peter Dunn's website 'Australia at war'  as follows :

On the evening of the 14 January 1944 a special Japanese Army Reconnaissance party left Koepang, in Timor on board a 25 ton fishing vessel called "Hiyoshi Maru". The party included:-

Lieutenant Susuhiko Mizuno
Sergeant Morita
Sergeant Furuhashi
Lance Corporal Kazuo Ito (radio operator)
6 sailors
15 Timorese (used as decoys)

Their orders from the 19th Army Headquarters on Ambon Island were to land on the north west shores of Western Australia. They were from the special "Matsu Kikan" (Pine-tree) secret agency which was commanded by Captain Masayoshi Yamamoto. They were all graduates of the Nakano Intelligence School. Their mission was undertaken at the request of the Japanese Navy to verify intelligence received from Navy sources that the United States Navy was building a Naval base at Admiralty Gulf. 

Lieutenant Susuhiko Mizuno's role was to:-

- look at the possibility of landing in Australia
- Investigate the location for a landing place
- look for the existence of an military establishments

They encountered a large storm and heavy seas and had to turn back to Koepang on the morning of the 15 January 1944. They departed again on the evening of 16 January 1944. 

The "Hiyoshi Maru" was given air cover for part of the voyage by a single Type 99 light bomber from the 7th Air Division based at Kendari. It was piloted by Staff Sergeant H. Aonuma with Hachiro Akai as Co-pilot. On 16 January 1944, the aircraft was heading directly for Cartier Islet when it saw an Allied submarine heading in the direction of the "Hiyoshi Maru". The submarine saw the Japanese aircraft approaching and immediately began to dive. The Japanese aircraft only managed to fire two bursts of its machine guns at the submarine as it submerged. The tracer bullets could be seen hitting the submarine. The Japs then dropped their six 50 kg bombs on the submarine. They then circled around the area three or four times to determine if they had hit it with one of their bombs. They suspected the submarine may have sustained some damage. 

The aircraft continued south flying low to avoid the Allied radar sites situated along this remote coastline. They sighted the "Hiyoshi Maru" and continued south to try to locate Cartier Islet. When they could not find it they headed to the west. They then  eventually located Cartier Islet.

At 9 am on 17 January 1944 the "Hiyoshi Maru" reached East Island which is actually a coral reef which is only visible at low tide. They reached Browse Island at about 10 am on 18 January 1944. They landed on the island where they found the ruins of a watch house. 

They stayed on Browse Island for about 3 hours. This was to time their arrival on the nearby Australian mainland. The left the island at 1 pm on 18 January and the next morning through a morning mist they entered an inlet on the West Australian coast. They spotted some white smoke rising from a mountain on the mainland east of their location. They anchored by the shore at about 10 am on 19 January 1944. The landscape in that area consisted of many red colored rocks. They camouflaged the ship with tree branches and ate dried biscuits for lunch.

Three landing parties led by Lieutenant Susuhiko Mizuno, Sergeant Morita and Sergeant Furuhashi, went ashore and explored different areas of the Australian coast in that area for about two hours. They even took some 8 mm movie footage of what they saw. As it turned out they had landed only 25 kms from where the RAAF were several weeks later to start building their secret airfield at Truscott.

It was a very hot humid day. They all returned to the ship and reported to Lieutenant Susuhiko Mizuno on what they had seen. Besides some old campfires all they saw was lots of red rocks and lots of small trees. They slept on the ship that night and on 20 January 1944 they went ashore again and patrolled the area until about 2 pm. After finding nothing they decided to return to Timor.

 

 

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