Since the 1850s, when the Australian colonies became self-governing ahead of Federation in 1901, Australians have served in at least 21 wars and warlike operations (Note: ‘Warlike operations’ is the modern term for those operations qualifying for the Australian Active Service Medal. Date ranges noted are for Australian warlike service within these conflicts).
North Taranaki War 1860–61
Victoria dispatched HMCSS Victoria to New Zealand, with some of its sailors attached to the Imperial Naval Brigade.
Sudan War 1885
New South Wales dispatched a contingent of 758 men, who reached the Sudan just as the war was winding up.
Boer War 1899–1902
The Australian colonies and, after Federation, the Commonwealth sent about 16,500 troops to South Africa.
Boxer Rebellion 1900–01
New South Wales and Victoria dispatched about 560 naval and military personnel to China.
First World War 1914–18
About 416,809 enlisted, with about 340,000 (army and navy) serving overseas, mostly in Europe or the Middle East.
Second World War 1939–45
Nearly one million served (about 560,000 overseas) in the Middle East, Europe, Atlantic, Asia-Pacific, and Australia.
Malayan Emergency 1948–60
About 7,000 served, a few with British forces early on, then with a RAAF deployment from 1950 and Army from 1955.
Korean War 1950–53
More than 17,000 served, with Australia the second country (after the US) to commit to the defence of South Korea.
Thai-Malay Border (or Malay Peninsula) 1960–66
Several hundred troops patrolled the border area against insurgents during 1960–64, with RAAF flights until 1966.
Vietnam War 1962–73 and 1975
About 50,000 served ‘in country’ and about 10,000 in logistic support during 1962–73. A small group was involved in the emergency airlifts of 1975.
Confrontation (or Konfrontasi) 1963–66
About 3,500 served against Indonesian forces in southern Malaysia and its Borneo states (Sabah and Sarawak), and Brunei.
Thailand (Ubon) 1965–68
A few hundred airmen and troops served in and around Ubon, north-east Thailand, in a Vietnam War-related defence role.
More than 300 served with the UN Transition Assistance Group.
Gulf War (Kuwait) 1990–91
Nearly 1,800 (mostly naval) personnel served during the liberation of Kuwait, after the Iraqi invasion of 1990.
About 600 served as UN peacekeepers in signals, mine clearance, policing and support roles, and others in non-warlike periods.
Former Yugoslavia (Balkans) 1992–97
A small number, mostly on exchange with British forces, served in UN and NATO forces; others later in non-warlike periods.
A small number served in UN units, and a further 1,500 served with the US-led Unified Task Force during 1993.
More than 630 peacekeepers served during the two rotations classed as warlike; others in non-warlike periods.
East Timor 1999–2003
More than 5,000 served in the Australian-led International Force East Timor and later operations; others in non-warlike periods.
Currently, there are approximately 400 ADF personnel in Afghanistan with an additional 800 in the broader Middle-East Area of Operations. The Prime Minister has stated that approximately 20,000 the total number of people who have served in Afghanistan.
More than 20,000 personnel served in Iraq as part of Australia’s contribution to the United States-led force.
Gallipoli facts and figures is a compilation of statistics which includes:
- the number of enlistments in 1914, and per month for 1915 and 1916
- information on the recruiting marches carried out between October 1915 and January 1916
- the number of Anzacs who served at Gallipoli and the number of Australian casualties per month from April 1915 to January 1916 and
- the number of fatalities for each nation involved.
‘Prisoner-of-war death rates: some comparisons’ contrasts the number of Australian prisoners of war (POWs) in the First World War and the Second World War, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. It also compares the death rates among the prisoners of the Japanese from different allied nations.
The Australian War Memorial’s Australian military statistics webpage has links to a number of statistical surveys of Australia’s involvement in war and peacekeeping.
The Australian War Memorial’s information sheet, Australian war casualties, is a tabular summary of casualties in all theatres of war, derived from the Roll of Honour at the Memorial.
The 2010 Parliamentary Library online publication List of Victoria Cross recipients by electorate allows readers to identify Australian Victoria Cross (VC) winners with ties to particular federal electorates and contains biographical information about each of them.
Australia’s First and Second World War Official Histories have been digitised and are available on the website of the Australian War Memorial, as are a selection of Australian Army war diaries for both world wars, the Korean War and South-East Asian conflicts.
Department of Veterans’ Affairs: Commemorations pages and links to their other commemorative websites; the Australians at War film archive—’designed to film and record the stories of over two thousand war veterans as a permanent asset for posterity’; and the Australians at War website—dedicated to those Australians who have served their nation during the past one hundred years.
The Australians at War pages on the Australian War Memorial’s website have links to an overview of Australian military history, information on military organisation and structure, and an online encyclopaedia.
The three services have webpages devoted to their histories: the Royal Australian Navy page includes historical information, feature articles and the history of former ships; the Australian Army has a page which includes links to army history information and unit associations and a traditions page; and the Royal Australian Air Force has a page with links to the history of the RAAF.
Firstworldwar.com is a website that provides an overview of the First World War.
Australia’s War 1939–1945 provides an overview of key areas where Australians served during the Second World War.
The website of the National Archives of Australia has links to defence service records.
The Australian War Memorial maintains the Roll of Honour which commemorates members of Australia’s armed forces who have lost their lives in wars and warlike operations. A common misconception is that the Roll of Honour is only for those killed in action. Names are, and always have been, inscribed on the roll irrespective of the cause of death, be it battle, illness, accident, captivity, or other causes.
There are currently 102,704 men and women recorded on the roll. The following figures have been taken from the Australian War Memorial’s information sheet, Australian war casualties:
Note that updates to the Roll of Honour occur every year on Remembrance Day, and as a result the statistics above may not align with other sources of casualty figures.
||Number of deaths
|First World War
|Second World War
|Australia (North Queensland Coast, bomb and mine clearance)
|Japan (British Commonwealth Occupation Force)
|Papua and New Guinea
|Middle East (UNTSO; Operation Paladin)
|Kashmir (United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan)
|Korean War (Post-Armistice service—ceasefire monitoring)
|Southeast Asia (SEATO)
|Irian Jaya Operation Cenderawasih)
|Western Sahara (MINURSO)
|East Timor (Operation Astute)
|Solomon Island (RAMSI—Operation Anode)
|Indonesia (Operation Sumatra Assist)
Other lists can be found below.
First World War Nominal Roll—those who served overseas in the Australian Imperial Force,
Second World War Nominal Roll—an index of servicemen and women who served during the Second World War.
M Lumb, Commonwealth Members of Parliament who have served in war, Research brief, 10, 2006–07, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 2007.
A list of Australian Victoria Cross recipients can be found in the Parliamentary Library online publication, List of Victoria Cross recipients by electorate, or on the website of the Anzac Day Commemoration Committee of Queensland.
The most recent winners of the Victoria Cross for Australia are Corporal Daniel Keighran and Corporal Cameron Baird (who was killed during the action for which he won the VC). Both men were serving in Afghanistan.
Books on ‘Anzac’ held in the Parliamentary Library
Members, Senators and Parliamentary staff may arrange to borrow any of the following books:
A Staunton, Victoria Cross: Australia’s finest and the battles they fought, Hardie Grant Books, Prahran, Vic., 2005.
R Pelvin (ed.) ANZAC: an illustrated history 1914–1918, Hardie Grant, South Yarra, Vic., 2004.
J Robertson, Anzac and Empire: the tragedy & glory of Gallipoli, Hamlyn Australia, Port Melbourne, Vic., 1990.
Anzac Day: past and present, compiled by Georgina Fitzpatrick, Australian War Memorial, Education Service, Canberra, 1992.
S Braga, ANZAC doctor: the life of Sir Neville Howse, Australia’s first VC, Hale & Iremonger, Alexandria, NSW, 2000.
A Thompson, Anzac memories: living with the legend, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1994.
J Lack (ed.), Anzac remembered: selected writings by KS Inglis, Parkville, Department of History, University of Melbourne, Vic., 1998.
J Williams ANZACS, the media and the Great War, UNSW Press, Sydney, 1999.
J Moses and G Munro, Australia and the ‘Kaiser’s war’ 1914–1918: on understanding the ANZAC tradition: argument & theses. Broughton Press, St. Lucia, Qld, 1993.
R Reid, A ‘duty clear before us’: North Beach and the Sari Bair Range, Gallipoli Peninsula: 25 April–20 December 1915, Canberra, Department of Veterans’ Affairs, 2000.
G Seal (ed.), Echoes of ANZAC: the voice of Australians at war, South Melbourne, Lothian Books, 2005.
G Seal, Inventing ANZAC: the Digger and national mythology, St Lucia, Qld, University of Queensland Press, 2004.
T Stephens, The last Anzacs: lest we forget, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, Fremantle, WA, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2003.
P Stanley, Quinn’s Post, Anzac, Allen & Unwin, Gallipoli, 2005.
T Frame, The shores of Gallipoli: naval aspects of the Anzac campaign, Hale & Iremonger, Alexandria, NSW, 2000.
A Hill, Soldier boy: the true story of Jim Martin the youngest Anzac, Penguin, Ringwood, Vic., 2001.
M Tracey, The spirit of ANZAC, AGPS, Canberra, 1990.
A Thompson, Stragglers or shirkers: an ANZAC Imperial controversy, Sir Robert Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, London, 1991.
P Thompson, Anzac fury, Random House Australia, North Sydney, 2011.
J Hopkins-Weise, Blood brothers: the Anzac genesis, Wakefield Press, Kent Town, 2009.
D Cameron, 25 April 1915: the day the Anzac legend was born, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, 2007.
J Taylor, Last out: 4RAR/NZ (ANZAC) Battalion’s second tour in Vietnam, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, 2007.
R Prior, Gallipoli : the end of the myth, UNSW Press, Sydney, 2009.
DW Cameron, ‘Sorry, lads, but the order is to go’: the August offensive, Gallipoli 1915, University of New South Wales Press, 2009.
M McKernan, Gallipoli: a short history, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 2010.
P Hart, Gallipoli, Profile Books, London, 2011.
I Sumner, Anzac infantrymen 1914–15: from New Guinea to Gallipoli, Osprey, Oxford, 2011.
P Cochrane, Simpson and his donkey (new updated and revised edition), Melbourne University Publishing, Carlton, 2013.
M Dapin (ed.), From the trenches : the best ANZAC writing of World War One, Viking, Melbourne, 2013
C Roberts, The landing at Anzac : 1915, Big Sky Publishing, Sydney, 2013
R Pelvin, ANZAC : an illustrated history 1914–1918, Hardie Grant, South Yarra, 2014
P Stanley, Lost boys of Anzac, New South Publishing, Coogee, NSW, 2014
For copyright reasons some linked items are only available to members of Parliament.
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