The military history of Australia spans the nation's 230-year modern history, from the early Australian frontier wars between Aboriginals and Europeans to the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan in the early 21st century. Although this history is short when compared to that of many other nations, Australia has been involved in numerous conflicts and wars, and war and military service have been significant influences on Australian society and national identity, including the Anzac spirit. The relationship between war and Australian society has also been shaped by the enduring themes of Australian strategic culture and its unique security dilemma.
The six British colonies in Australia participated in some of Britain's wars of the 19th century. In the early 20th century, as a federated dominion and later as an independent nation, Australia fought in the First World War and Second World War, as well as in the wars in Korea, Malaya, Borneo and Vietnam during the Cold War. In the Post-Vietnam era Australian forces have been involved in numerous international peacekeeping missions, through the United Nations and other agencies, including in the Sinai, Persian Gulf, Rwanda, Somalia, East Timor and the Solomon Islands, as well as many overseas humanitarian relief operations, while more recently they have also fought as part of multi-lateral forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. In total, nearly 103,000 Australians died during these conflicts. (Full article...)
Featured articles are displayed here, which represent some of the best content on English Wikipedia.
Captain James Newland c.1918
James Ernest Newland, VC (22 August 1881 – 19 March 1949) was an Australian soldier, policeman and a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest decoration for gallantry "in the face of the enemy" that can be awarded to members of the British and Commonwealth armed forces. Newland was awarded the Victoria Cross following three separate actions in April 1917, during attacks against German forces retreating to the Hindenburg Line. While in command of a company, Newland successfully led his men in several assaults on German positions and repulsed subsequent counter-attacks.
Born in the Victorian town of Highton, Newland joined the Australian military in 1899 and saw active service during the Second Boer War. He continued to serve in the Australian Army's permanent forces on his return to Australia, and completed several years' service in the artillery. Transferring to the militia in 1907, Newland became a police officer in Tasmania before re-joining the permanent forces in 1910. Following the outbreak of the First World War, he was appointed to the Australian Imperial Force and was among the first wave of men to land at Gallipoli. In the days following the landing, Newland was wounded and evacuated to Egypt where he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. (Full article...)
The Australian military conducted an intensive search for I-174 in the days after the attack in the mistaken belief that she had been significantly damaged. This search was not successful and highlighted the unsatisfactory communications between the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). However, another Japanese submarine passing through the area may have been sunk by RAAF aircraft. Because of Japan's deteriorating strategic situation, I-174 was the last Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) submarine to operate off the Australian east coast. (Full article...)
Born in Benalla, Victoria, Waller entered the Royal Australian Naval College aged thirteen. After graduating, he served with the Royal Navy in the closing stages of World War I. Between the wars, he specialised in communications and was posted as signals officer to several British and Australian warships. He gained his first seagoing command in 1937, as captain of the destroyer HMS Brazen. In September 1939, he took command of HMAS Stuart and four other obsolete destroyers that together became known as the "Scrap Iron Flotilla". In 1940, these were augmented by other ships to form the 10th Destroyer Flotilla, supporting Allied troops in North Africa. (Full article...)
The Battle of Arras (also known as the Second Battle of Arras) was a British offensive on the Western Front during the First World War. From 9 April to 16 May 1917, British troops attacked German defences near the French city of Arras on the Western Front. The British achieved the longest advance since trench warfare had begun, surpassing the record set by the French Sixth Army on 1 July 1916. The British advance slowed in the next few days and the German defence recovered. The battle became a costly stalemate for both sides and by the end of the battle, the British Third Army and the First Army had suffered about 160,000 casualties and the German 6th Army about 125,000.
For much of the war, the opposing armies on the Western Front were at stalemate, with a continuous line of trenches from the Belgian coast to the Swiss border. The Allied objective from early 1915 was to break through the German defences into the open ground beyond and engage the numerically inferior German Army (Westheer) in a war of movement. The British attack at Arras was part of the Anglo-French Nivelle Offensive, the main part of which was the Second Battle of the Aisne 50 mi (80 km) to the south. The aim of the French offensive was to break through the German defences in forty-eight hours. At Arras the Canadians were to capture Vimy Ridge, dominating the Douai Plain to the east, advance towards Cambrai and divert German reserves from the French front. (Full article...)
Officer Commanding No. 91 Wing, Group Captain Charlton (left), Commanding Officer No. 77 Squadron, Squadron Leader Cresswell (right), and members of No. 30 Communications Unit with Lieutenant General Robertson in South Korea, December 1950
No. 30 Communications Flight was re-designated No. 30 Communications Unit in November 1950, and No. 30 Transport Unit a year later, before re-forming as No. 36 (Transport) Squadron in March 1953. It undertook medical evacuation, cargo and troop transport, and courier flights. No. 77 Squadron converted to Gloster Meteor jets between April and July 1951, and operated primarily in the ground attack role from December that year. It remained in Korea on garrison duty following the July 1953 armistice, and returned to Australia in November 1954; No. 491 Squadron disbanded the same month. No. 36 Squadron returned to Australia in March 1955, leaving four aircraft to equip the newly formed RAAF Transport Flight (Japan), which briefly came under No. 91 Wing's control. The following month, No. 391 Squadron and No. 91 Wing headquarters were disbanded. (Full article...)
Established in 1786, the Marines saw active service in New South Wales from 1788 to 1792 and was instrumental in establishing the colony's rule of law. Study of the complete New South Wales Marine complement indicates they were chosen from Plymouth and Portsmouth Divisions with only one exception. Beginning with guards arriving with the 2nd and 3rd fleets but officially with the arrival of HMS Gorgon on 22 September 1791 the New South Wales Marines were relieved by a newly formed British Army regiment of foot, the New South Wales Corps. (Full article...)
The above map shows how the network of fortresses defended the approaches to Hobart. The shaded white areas show the effective range of the fort's gun positions.
The Hobart coastal defences are a network of now defunct coastal batteries, some of which are inter-linked with tunnels, that were designed and built by British colonial authorities in the nineteenth century to protect the city of Hobart, Tasmania, from attack by enemy warships. During the nineteenth century, the port of Hobart Town was a vital re-supply stop for international shipping and trade, and therefore a major freight hub for the British Empire. As such, it was considered vital that the colony be protected. In all, between 1804 and 1942 there were 12 permanent defensive positions constructed in the Hobart region.
Prior to Australian Federation, the island of Tasmania was a colony of the British Empire, and as such was often at war with Britain's enemies and European rivals, such as France and later Russia. The British had already established the colony of Sydney at Port Jackson in New South Wales in 1788, but soon began to consider the island of Tasmania as the potential site of a useful second colony. It was an island, cut off from the mainland of Australia and isolated geographically, making it ideal for a penal colony, and was rich in timber, a resource useful to the Royal Navy. In 1803, the British authorities decided to colonise Tasmania, and to establish a permanent settlement on the island that was at the time known as Van Diemen's Land, primarily to prevent the French from doing so. During this period tensions between Great Britain and France remained high. The two nations had been fighting the French Revolutionary Wars with each other through much of the 1790s, and would soon be engaging each other again in the Napoleonic Wars. (Full article...)
The Australian Government was initially reluctant to become involved in the conflict, and Australian forces did not see combat until 1964. Australia's involvement expanded in 1965, however, following repeated requests from the British Government with an Australian infantry battalion and special forces being deployed to Borneo where they were involved in a number of actions against Indonesian Army units. Other army units deployed included artillery batteries and engineers, both of which served tours in support of the infantry in Borneo. A number of RAN warships also patrolled the waters off Borneo and Malaysia to deter Indonesian infiltration parties, and were involved in shelling Indonesian positions in Borneo and in repelling infiltrators in the Singapore Strait. The RAAF played only a relatively minor role, although it would have been used far more extensively had the war escalated. (Full article...)
Fort Lytton National Park is a national park in Lytton, City of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Its main attraction is Fort Lytton Historic Military Precinct, providing guided tours of historic Fort Lytton, a museum and re-enactments. The park was created in 1990 as Queensland's first historic national park. It initially contained only heritage-listed Fort Lytton, a colonial coastal fort that continued to operate as a military base until after the Second World War. The park was extended in 1999 to include Lytton Quarantine Station which occupied adjacent land. The Quarantine Station is also heritage-listed, but is only open to the public on special occasions.
No. 1 Long Range Flight was a temporary Royal Australian Air Force unit formed to participate in the 1953 London-to-Christchurch air race (also known as the Christchurch Centenary air race). The flight was established in February 1953 and was equipped with three Canberra bombers, specially modified between June and August. Following extensive training, two Canberras departed for the UK in mid-September. The race began on 9 October, and one of the flight's aircraft placed second, with a total flying time of 22 hours and 29 minutes. The other aircraft was forced out of the race when one of its tyres burst while landing at Cocos Island to refuel, but completed its flight to Christchurch after being repaired. After a brief period in New Zealand both aircraft returned to Australia to be modified back to a standard configuration, and the flight was disbanded in November. (Full article...)
The Salamaua platoon of the NGVR on parade in April 1940.
The New Guinea Volunteer Rifles (NGVR) was an infantrybattalion of the Australian Army. It was initially raised as a unit of the Militia from white Australian and European expatriates in New Guinea upon the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, before being activated for full-time service following the Japanese landings in early 1942. NGVR personnel then helped rescue survivors of Lark Force from Rabaul in February and March 1942. Between March and May, the NGVR monitored the Japanese bases which had been established in the Huon Gulf region, being the only Allied force in the area until the arrival of Kanga Force at Wau in May. The battalion subsequently established observation posts overlooking the main approaches and reported on Japanese movements.
Later, it inflicted significant casualties on the Japanese in a series of raids, and led them to believe that they faced a much larger opposing force. On 29 June, the NGVR and the newly arrived 2/5th Independent Company carried out a highly successful attack on the Japanese garrison in Salamaua, killing at least 113 men. When the focus shifted to the Milne Bay and Kokoda Track battles of August and September, the NGVR continued to man its posts overlooking the Japanese base areas. The Japanese were subsequently defeated in the Battle of Wau in January and February 1943, relieving the pressure on the NGVR. The battalion was disbanded in April 1943 due to attrition. (Full article...)
Flight Lieutenant Isaacson with Lancaster Q-for-Queenie, 1943
Isaacson grew up in Melbourne and started working for a newspaper when he was sixteen. He joined the RAAF in 1940. Following his stint in Bomber Command, he became well known in Australia for his tours in the Avro LancasterQ-for-Queenie to promote the sale of war loans and, in particular, for flying his plane under the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1943. He transferred to the RAAF Reserve after the war, retiring as a wing commander in 1969. From 1956 he served as a Trustee, Chairman, and finally Life Governor of the Victorian Shrine of Remembrance. In 1991 he was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for his publishing and community work. (Full article...)
Vultee Vengeance dive bomber at Williamtown, c. 1943
In early 1942, the 2/9th was brought back to Australia where it was re-organised for jungle warfare and took part in the New Guinea campaign. Throughout 1942–1944, the battalion was committed twice to the fighting against the Japanese in New Guinea. In 1942–1943, the 2/9th fought actions at Milne Bay and Buna–Gona before being withdrawn to Australia for rest prior to returning to New Guinea to take part in the advance through the Finisterre Range where the battalion took part in the Battle of Shaggy Ridge in 1943–1944. The battalion's final involvement in the war came during the Borneo campaign in mid-1945, when it took part in the landing at Balikpapan. It was disbanded shortly after the war in early 1946. (Full article...)
Damaged phosphate cantilever loading equipment following the German bombardment of Nauru on 27 December 1940
The two attacks were the most effective operations conducted by German raiders in the Pacific Ocean during World War II. They disrupted supplies of phosphate to Australia, New Zealand and Japan, which reduced agricultural production in these countries. In response, Allied naval vessels were deployed to protect Nauru and nearby Ocean Island and escort shipping in the South Pacific. Small garrisons were also established to protect the two islands. (Full article...)
Catalinas of No. 20 Squadron (foreground) and No. 42 Squadron (background)
Sullivan was deployed to northern Russia with the relief force. Following a successful attack, he was a member of the rearguard of a column withdrawing across the Sheika River. As his platoon crossed the river on a crude one-plank bridge in the early hours of 11 August 1919, it came under intense fire from Bolshevik troops, and four members fell into the river. Sullivan immediately jumped in and rescued them all, one by one, and was awarded the VC for his actions. Demobilised from the British Army after completing his service, Sullivan returned to Australia and resumed his civilian career as a banker. He was in London for the coronation of King George VI as part of the Australian Coronation Contingent in 1937, when he died of head injuries received in a fall. His medal set is displayed in the Hall of Valour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. (Full article...)
Flight Lieutenant Shannon shortly before taking part in the "Dambusters" raid with No. 617 Squadron RAF, May 1943
HMAS Tarakan (L-3017) was a Tank Landing Ship which was originally built for the Royal Navy and launched on 28 November 1944 as LST 3017. The ship was loaned to the Royal Australian Navy and commissioned on 4 July 1946. She was named Tarakan on 16 December 1948, and served in Australian and New Guinea waters as a general purpose vessel, but was mainly used for dumping condemned ammunition at sea. On 25 January 1950 seven members of Tarakans crew were killed and the ship extensively damaged by an explosion which occurred while berthed alongside naval base HMAS Kuttabul in Sydney. Tarakan did not return to active service and was sold for breaking up on 12 March 1954.