On Wednesday 15 August 1945, World War II ended with the surrender of Japan. Over the weekend, the 75th anniversary of this event was remembered in Australia with events including a flyover of Parliament House (the image above is courtest of Mike Bowers/Guardian Australia).
The Parliament was not sitting on 15 August, but when the House of Representatives met again on 19 August, Prime Minister Ben Chiefly – who had been in office for just over a month, following the death in office of Prime Minister John Curtin – rose and informed the House of the end of hostilities.
After the House agreed to a congratulatory address to King George V, Prime Minister Chifley proposed the following motion, which was agreed upon by all Members present.
That the thanks of this House be accorded to the officers, warrant officers, petty officers and men of the Royal Australian Navy, for their heroic services in every theatre of war, for the guardianship of Australia from the attacks of our enemies, for the unceasing vigilance in the patrol of many seas, for their courage and skill in convoying their soldier comrades and supplies, to operational areas, and for the prestige they have won for their country wherever they have been.
That the thanks of this House be accorded to the officers, warrant officers,, non-commissioned officers and men of the Australian Military Forces in the field for their courage and efficiency, their endurance in circumstances of unexampled hardship, for their magnificent achievements and for their undaunted spirit which has carried them through years of toil and suffering to complete victory.
That the thanks of this House be accorded to the officers, warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the Royal Australian Air Force for their brilliant daring and conspicuous skill over land and sea, and for their calm courage and devotion to whatever dangerous and vital duties they have been allotted.
That the thanks of this House be offered to the men of the Merchant Navy, who carried out the vital task of keeping open the supply lines, always at great risk and imposing severe tests upon their endurance.
That the thanks of this House be accorded to the women of all the auxiliary services of the three arms of the lighting forces for their devotion and skill and solicitude for the sick and wounded of our sailors, soldiers and airmen.
That this House records its deep appreciation of the devotion and sacrifice of the fathers, mothers, wives and sisters of Australia's sailors, soldiers and airmen.
That this House records its deep appreciation of the efforts, money and gifts from the women, men and children of Australia to mitigate the hardships of Australian fighting men, to alleviate the lot of our prisoners of war and to make more comfortable the sick and wounded.
That the thanks of this House be offered to munitions and war workers generally in secondary and primary industries; to those men of 1914-18 who gave valuable home service in garrison and other work, and to the Volunteer Defence Corps.
That' this House acknowledges with deep submission and reverence the heroism of those who have fallen in the service of their country, and tenders its sympathy to their relatives in the hour of their sorrow and their pride.
More history in the making
Following discussion of the end of the war, the House moved to a pressing matter – acting to ensure such a war never happened again. Chifley announced that Australia would participate in the Council of Foreign Ministers, a body agreed to by the Allied Powers following the defeat of Germany. He informed the House that he had dispatched Australia’s Minister for External Affairs, H.V. (Doc) Evatt, to ‘undertake this important mission’.
The sitting day of 29 August 1945 contained one other moment of historic interest. Following the death of John Curtin, his seat of Fremantle went to a by-election on 18 August 1945. The winner of this by-election, sworn in on the 29th, was one Kim Edward Beazley – the father of future Opposition Leader, Ambassador and Governor of Western Australia, Kim Beazley.